testified, a normal procurement involves thorough and time consuming design development, engineering studies, and testing to work out design difficulties that can be expected with a new craft. For the WPB procurement at issue, the Coast Guard determined that use of the "Parent Craft" concept would result in much faster procurement and construction of a tested, reliable boat which greatly reduced risk to the Coast Guard. The "Parent Craft" concept was very simple -- each offeror was required to designate a "Parent Craft" from among existing, fully proven patrol boats, and the "daughter craft" proposed to be constructed would be required to be identical or similar to the Parent Craft in critical areas set forth in the COR. By making use of this concept, the Coast Guard believed it could avoid the need for the normally required extensive engineering studies and testing, and could obtain proven WPB's quickly and with minimal risk that they would fail to perform as required. In a Coast Guard announcement in the March, 1983, Commerce Business Daily, it was emphasized that the proven Parent Craft concept was being utilized "to minimize Coast Guard technical risk."
3. The requirements for the Parent Craft and the WPB (the "daughter craft" to be constructed) were set out in some detail in the COR for this procurement. In July, 1983, approximately eleven proposals were received. Throughout the procurement process, the "Parent Craft" concept was stressed, and when bidders requested clarification on critical issues such as Parent Craft/WPB similarity requirements, the Coast Guard routinely replied that the COR was clear, and referred bidders to specific provisions in the COR without comment. Through a gradual process of eliminating bidders who could not correct disqualifying deficiencies, the field was narrowed to two -- MPE and plaintiff Bollinger Machine Shop. A third bidder, Eastern Marine, Inc., challenged the Coast Guard's decision to eliminate it for proposing a WPB that was "dissimilar" from its Parent Craft, but the Coast Guard's decision was upheld by the United States Court of Claims in Eastern Marine, Inc. v. United States, 5 Cl. Ct. 34 (1984). In that action, plaintiff Bollinger intervened along with MPE to defend the Coast Guard's decision to eliminate Eastern Marine from the competition.
4. Plaintiff submitted its "best and final offer," and MPE submitted at least two "best and final offers," one with WPB's containing 12-cylinder engines and another with 16-cylinder engines. On May 11, 1984, the Coast Guard awarded the contract to MPE for production of up to 16 WPB's with 12-cylinder engines, for an approximate price of $ 76 million. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff initiated this lawsuit, alleging that the Coast Guard's selection of MPE's 12-cylinder craft was not permissible under the COR, primarily because the MPE Parent Craft was believed to contain a 20-cylinder engine, making substitution of the 12-cylinder engine "dissimilar" and inconsistent with the Parent Craft concept.
B. Specific Requirements of the COR
5. The Coast Guard's requirements for each competitor's Parent Craft and WPB's were set forth in the COR. Section 042b, " Parent Craft ", states that the "Parent Craft shall have been previously designed, built, and operated as a patrol craft." Among other requirements, § 042b states that
The Parent Craft shall meet the requirements of COR 100b (Structure), 200a (Propulsion Plant), and 200b (Propulsion Plant Rating).