The Navy’s lucrative half a billion dollar recruiting advertising contract is still in limbo and it could be months before it’s resolved. 

The service picked a new ad firm for its lucrative advertising contract, signaling a new direction. But the new firm, Young & Rubicam, has yet to join the Navy team because the old ad firm has appealed the decision for the contract, valued at $84 million for one-year. This has suspended the development of a new recruiting slogan.that decision has been Navy announced May 27 that it will award its lucrative advertising contract to a new ad firm, signaling a change in direction after 15 years with the same ad agency.

Winning the bid was New York-based firm Young & Rubicam Inc. netting the initially valued at $84.4 million for a one-year fixed-price contract.

The contract’s real value comes with the included four, one-year, optional extensions. That brings the total value of the award to as much as $457.4 million by the contract's 2020 expiration date, if all options are exercised.

Four months have now passed since the Navy's contracting decision, but Young & Rubicam have yet to join the Navy team.

That's because Lowe Campbell Ewald, the Detroit-based ad agency that has held the recruiting business since 2000, has appealed the decision not once, but three times now.

And While the appeals go on, ad agency Campbell Ewald continues to do the Navy’s "day to day" advertising work. When the contract came up for bid in May of 2014, Campbell Ewald was given an $84 million "bridge contract" that would get them through the new contracting process. 

"The current bridge contract was scheduled to end May 19, 2015, but it has been extended on a short-term, month-to-month basis during the contract protest review by the [Government Accountability Office]," said Lt. Cmdr. Natehan Christensen, spokesman for the chief of naval personnel, under which has responsibility for Navy recruiting falls

"During this protest period, LCE has been conducting business as usual — managing the website, its social properties, the Navy Advertising Lead Tracking System as well as supporting conventions, diversity events and [science, technology, engineering and math] displays."

But sources say though The appeals aren’t hindering the day-to-day recruiting advertising work, but the uncertainty is hindering all work on long-term strategy as the service tries to boost its appeal during a recovering economy. work being done on any long-term strategy. Sources tell Navy Times that with the economy on the mend, recruiting the best and brightest for the military is expected to get harder and harder for all the services. 

In May, the U.S. Army failed to meet its monthly recruiting goal for the first time in six years — having only failed to do that two times in two decades. and has only failed to meet it’s goals two times in the past 20 years. The service is struggling this year also to meet its annual goal, but says it’s made improvement in closing the gap since May.

Just last month, Navy Recruiting went over 100 consecutive months of meeting their monthly goals and The active-duty Navy recruiting hasn’t failed to make its annual recruiting goals since 1998 when the service fell 6,892 short of it’s stated 55,321 goal. Navy Reserve Recruiting, however, missed its annual goals last in 2005 and 2006 and during 2007 had a run of five consecutive months failing to meet recruiting goals.

The Navy dumped its unpopular tagline, "A Global force for good," in advertisements a year ago in favor of the more general branding, "America's Navy" and officials said they were looking to develop a few recruiting slogans for different audiences. Navy Times launched a contest this year, where readers offered up their best slogan ideas to go with the branding. The most popular of the original ideas was, "America's Navy: We've got the watch."

Next steps

The loss of the Navy’s business is seen in the industry as devastating to for Campbell Ewald, which in recent years has lost advertising contracts from Cadillac and the U.S. Postal Service. The agencycompany could be forced to layoff hundreds of workers if they can’t force the government to award them the business.  

The latest appeal will be heard by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, starting with a with the first hearing scheduled for Sept. 28 hearing. The appeal to the claims court comes on the heels of a GAO ruling that denied their appeal to retain by the Government Accountability Office on Sept. 14 denying Campbell Ewald's appeal to retain the Navy’s advertising business. Sources tell Navy Times that Campbell Ewald's continued protest could take until sometime in calendar year 2016 to be resolved.

Sources at the GAO said that researching the case, they found nothing out of the ordinary in the Navy's decision to hire Young & Rubicam and that all the proper procedures were followed in the procurement process.

Though they have input in the process, Contracts are always let by contracting agency. In this case, the details were hammered out by Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk, whose contracting department is in Philadelphia. They evaluated two bids during the open competition.

The contract had initially been in question since May 2014, when the current contract expired. A month-to-month extension was given to Campbell Ewald while the bids for the new contract were being evaluated.

Details of Campbell Ewald’s appeal are being close-held by the agency and its lawyers, though the GAO has made a decision, sources confirmed to Navy Times. The details of the ruling made a decision and confirmed that fact to Navy Times Sept. 24, the details of GAO’s ruling have yet to be released publicly.

Sources in the GAO, speaking on background says that There are an average of 2,500 bids each year, but that only about 100 appeals ever end up in U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Navy Times reached out to David Ralston, an attorney with a partner in the Washington, D.C. Law firm of Foley and Lardner who represented Campbell Ewald for the GAO case, did not respond to phone messages and emails seeking comment by Sept. 30.asking for details of their appeal and why they feel they are due the contract award. Neither calls or emails were returned as of the filing of this report.  

Navy sources say they expect Campbell Ewald to appeal the Navy's decision, as is their right under current contracting rules. Such an appeal, sources say, would slow any transition.

Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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