More than two years after the Department of Homeland Security originally decided to award their Development, Operations, and Maintenance (DOMino) contract to Raytheon, GAO has denied Northrup Grumman’s third protest of the contract award, allowing Raytheon and DHS to begin work under the contract.

The $1 billion, five-year contract, originally announced in July 2014, sought support for DHS’s mission of protecting the .gov web domain from cyberattacks. The contracted company would support cybersecurity system design, development, deployment and operations and maintenance for the National Cybersecurity Protection System (NCPS), also known as EINSTEIN.

The EINSTEIN system protects more than 100 federal networks from known threat vectors, and serves as one of DHS’s major cybersecurity initiatives.

DHS received proposals from five offerors and awarded the contract to Raytheon in September 2015.

“Today’s cyber threats are increasingly pervasive and serious, and our government and private sector institutions require the best protection possible,” said Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services when the original contract was awarded. “Raytheon has invested over $3.5 billion in recent years to build our cybersecurity capabilities, and we’re looking forward to bringing the very best and most innovative solutions to the Department of Homeland Security.”

From October 2015 to June 2017, Northrop Grumman filed two protests of the award. For each, DHS took corrective action, withdrawing the award before reaffirmed it with Raytheon. GAO then dismissed the protests as “academic.” Following GAO’s June 22, 2017 debriefing with Northrum Grumman on DHS’s decision to reaffirm their award to Raytheon, Northrup Grumman issued a third protest.

This time, DHS stood their ground on the contract, leading GAO to conduct a 100-day review of the case. The decision to deny the bid protest was made on Oct. 4, and, under the Competition and Contracting Act of 1984, Raytheon was under an automatic stay of work until that date.

“The protester argues that the award to Raytheon was improper because the awardee had an unfair competitive advantage arising from the hiring of former DHS employees, the agency failed to revise the RFP to reflect its changed requirements, the agency unreasonably evaluated offerors’ past performance, and the agency conducted unequal discussions with the awardee,” the GAO decision said. “We deny the protest.”

The GAO decision found that the “agency reasonably concluded that any information to which the former employees may have had access was not competitively useful,” and that Northrup Grumman could not prove that DHS either unfairly evaluated their past performance or used later meetings with Raytheon to fulfill the contract’s requirements.

Though Northrup Grumman has no further protest options through GAO, the company could conceivably file within the Federal Claims court. However, only a small number of GAO’s denied protests make it to that court every year.

Raytheon confirmed to Fifth Domain that they had begun work on the contract on Oct. 6, 2017.