The Justice Department's Bureau of Prisons (BOP) recently committed $830,160 to purchase Protective Stab Vests for use by employees in federal prison facilities. The contract was awarded on a sole-source, no-bid basis because the need was determined to be of an "urgent and compelling nature." Documents accompanying the posting say that "thousands of vests ... are now considered to be End- of-Life" and need replacing, and vests are needed for new employees as well.
The new contract was awarded on Friday, October 31, the same day the old Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) expired. The new agreement covers only five months and is intended to give the Bureau of Prisons time to negotiate a new BPA with a broader bidding process. This bridge contract was awarded to Armor Express, the current provider of the Taurus Spike Level III stab resistant vests used in federal prisons. The documents say that the Taurus vest is the only vest that has been tested by the BOP that meets Bureau specifications, and Armor Express is the only vendor that can make a timely delivery.
Potential lawsuits are also cited as a reason for the urgency of the award. According to "Other Factors" section of the justification, the "agency and bargaining unit (Union) have agreed that all staff assigned to High Security facilities and other select positions throughout the agency will be required to wear stab resistant vests while on duty ." In another section, the documents assert that with the new vests, "legal recourse against the Bureau would be taken and would subject the Bureau to exorbitant administrative and litigation costs." Originally, the BOP had opposed the union demand for the vests, but dropped the objection in May 2011.
espite the urgent nature of the need and the sole-source, no-bid award, the contracting officer "determined the price to be fair and reasonable." The Bureau of Prisons did not respond to an email inquiring why the Bureau allowed the original Blanket Purchase Agreement to expire without preparing in advance for a new BPA given that the vests in question do not wear out overnight.