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Lockheed Propulsion Company, Thiokol Corporation, B-173677, June 24, 1974 - Part 2: I Arrive in Huntsville



My road to Huntsville was simple enough, drive through Tennessee, pass into Alabama, and find the Tourway Inn on Memorial Parkway.  Those were the exact directions given to me.  "Find the Tourway on Memorial Parkway."  I had a paper fold-up map to find Memorial Parkway.  So it was drive up and down Memorial Parkway to find the Tourway.  There, I would meet our staff from the Atlanta Regional Office and they would fill me in on our work.  This was my first trip into the deep south, and with my Philadelphia accent, it was as if I had an arrow pointing at me with the words "yankee here" as soon as I opened my mouth.

We met outside of the Tourway at 7 AM and drove to Marshall Space Flight Center's Building 4200.  Inside the cafeteria, we picked a large table for the 5 or 6 of us.  I was told, we were there to audit the Source Evaluation Board's (SEB) evaluation of the Lockheed Propulsion Company's and Thiokol Corporation's proposals for the Solid Rocket Motors that would be developed and used to send the Space Shuttle into orbit. Thiokol Corporation had been awarded the contract and the Lockheed Propulsion Company had protested it to the General Accounting Office (GAO).  Remember, this was 1974, ten years before the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the Competition in Contracting Act.  The Federal Procurement Regulation was in effect for Civilian agencies and the Armed Servies Procurement Regulation (ASPR) was in effect for DoD agencies.

Specifically, a GAO audit team was there because a powerful contingent of Senators and Congressmen asked (told) GAO to evaluate NASA's decision to award the contract to Thiokol. The Space Program had come to a standstill waiting for us to get done.  NASA didn't want us there and I didn't want to be there.  There I was, a 25 year-old auditor, away from home, working with strangers as part of a team, who were holding up the Space Program. It was early February and we would hold up the Space Program until the end of June. Wifcon.com was more than 20 years in my future.

After watching my new colleagues slurp up their grits while I ate my chocolate covered donut, we walked to the Source Evaluation Board (SEB) Building.  There had been over 200 members of the SEB so they needed a building and several of them were still working in the building.  Then I was shown the Proposal Room where the proposals were stored.  It was a large room with rows of 3-prong thick binders.  The Proposal Room held the proposals from the four competitors:  Thiokol Corporation, Lockheed Propulsion Corporation, Aerojet Solid Propulsion Company and United Technology Center.  Fortunately, we only looked at the proposals from Thiokol and Lockheed.

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Gosh, just saw this tonight! I’d better check the Blogs more frequently. I was still in the Air Force in 1974 but spent 10 years in Huntsville with USACE from 1997-2007 and have several NASA friends there. Your story is fascinating, Bob! Thanks for sharing it.

And yes, I remember meeting you at the GAO building - (Also the USACE HDQTRS) actually it was across the street at the Architecture Museum. It was nice meeting you.

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