The CH2M Hill Cos.-led team that was short-listed, but not chosen, for an estimated $2-billion contract to support U.S. Antarctica research has protested the National Science Foundation's selection process. Agency officials did not respond to requests to determine how or whether the protest to the U.S. Government Accountability Office will delay the execution and transition of the contract by April 1 to the apparent winner, Lockheed Martin Corp. GAO has until April 18 to rule on the protest merits, says an agency official.

In a statement, CH2M Hill Antarctic Support Inc. says the protest is "based on information received from NSF during our debrief on Jan. 5, and careful subsequent consideration of that information." The firm says it is "disappointed" with the selection-process result, announced on Dec. 28. Procurement for the contract, which could extend to 12.5 years, took nearly three years, with some observers indicating that NSF officials were overwhelmed by its execution.

A spokeswoman for Houston-based KBR Inc., which led another team that was short-listed but not selected, declined to comment on details of its team and proposal or whether it plans to protest. During a selection process that began in 1999, teams led by AECOM and Fluor Corp. also had pursued the contract. A joint venture of Computer Sciences Corp. and EG&G Inc., a unit of URS Corp., and a team led by ITT, which had Parsons Corp. as a key subcontractor, also had vied for the work.

CH2M Hill did not reveal information as to the merits of its protest but says the contract was a "top priority, and we assembled a highly qualified and committed leadership team … who remain dedicated to serving NSF." The firm recently won an extension of its NSF support contract for Arctic polar research.

Lockheed Martin was set to take over from the incumbent contractor, Raytheon Corp., which has been in the role since 1999. Raytheon's contract, originally set to expire in 2009, had been extended though March 2012.