KIHEI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The federal government has dismissed the University of Hawaii's protest in its losing bid to continue managing a Maui supercomputer facility, the largest contract in the university's history. But UH officials said they are "optimistic" the school may still win the contract back from a mainland defense contractor.
The Maui High Performance Computing Center is one of six supercomputer centers in the country run by the Department of Defense for high-tech research. It's located at the Maui Research and Technology Park in Kihei.
Since October of 2001, the UH has operated and managed the facility under a contract worth as much as $181 million over the last decade, which was the largest contract in UH's history, according to a news release at the time.
UH was one of four bidders for the new contract. On Aug. 1, the Air Force announced it had awarded the new contract to Virginia-based contractor SAIC, instead of UH.
UH has questioned the process and filed a bid protest with the federal government.
"Our performance has consistently been rated as excellent. UH requested and received a debriefing from the Air Force on the basis of its decision," David Lassner, UH vice president for information and technology, said in a statement Wednesday.
Based on that debriefing, UH filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, he said.
"After repeated rounds of legal submittals to GAO over several months, and before GAO rendered a decision, late last week the Air Force agreed to take corrective action to ensure the integrity of the procurement," Lassner said. "In light of the Air Force commitment to take corrective action, the protest is now considered moot and has been dismissed by GAO."
"The University of Hawaii is optimistic that our remarkable team of local and mainland partners will be selected to continue to manage (the facility) through a corrected procurement process," Lassner said. A UH spokeswoman said UH could not elaborate on that statement to explain what action was required to assure integrity of the procurement and to detail the scenario under which UH could win back the contract.
In its losing bid, UH partnered with defense contractor Lockheed Martin, which operates four other Defense Department supercomputer centers on the mainland. Hawaii-based defense contractors Pacific Defense Solutions and Referentia Systems, Inc. were also part of UH's bid team.
SAIC is based in McLean, Virginia with 41,000 employees who work on contracts with the Department of Defense, U.S. Homeland Security department and other government agencies. The company had revenues of $11 billion in fiscal year 2011, according to its web site.
The new management contract awarded to SAIC by the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico is for up to ten years; a four-year initial term with two three-year options, UH officials said.
The Maui center is staffed with a combination of military, UH and subcontractor employees. It's unclear how many UH jobs would be lost if UH ends up losing the contract.