With protests on the rise, the Government Accountability Office is proposing charging contractors a fee to challenge a contract award.

As first reported by Bloomberg Government, the charge could be a flat fee of $240 or a lower initial fee with extra costs for additional documents.

Ralph White, managing associate general counsel for procurement law at the GAO, said the fee would go to pay for an electronic docketing system to replace the agency’s manual process. The GAO in fiscal 2011 received more than 16,000 e-mail messages related to protests, all of which had to be reviewed and sorted by its administrative staff.

“We can see that the numbers have gone up, and GAO as an institution is not entirely elastic,” White said. “It’s an effort to highlight a problem for [Congress] and say, ‘Here’s a way to solve it that wouldn’t require you to spend money out of the Treasury.’ ”

The GAO estimates the electronic system would cost about $450,000. The number of protests filed hit nearly 2,500 in fiscal 2012.

Brocade acquires Vyatta

Networking solutions company Brocade, which has a federal office in Herndon, earlier this month announced it would acquire software networking firm Vyatta — which a Brocade official said would boost its federal offerings.

Anthony Robbins, vice president of Brocade’s federal business, said the deal should help it win work to improve the government’s network.

“The government’s network today is very complex and it’s old and ... [there are] all kinds of budget challenges,” he said. “The government has to figure out how to invest in its infrastructure.”

Brocade, with Vyatta as part of its portfolio, is hoping to help the government move to virtualization, which is meant to allow users to make better use of their network resources.

Robbins said Brocade plans to add staff to its federal business unit, which has 150 employees.

GAO shuts down SAIC protest

The Government Accountability Office last month denied a protest filed by McLean-based Science Applications International Corp. against an Army contract awarded to McLean-based Harding Security Associates.

In its protest, SAIC argued that Harding’s price for the work — which would support Army efforts to counter roadside bombs in Afghanistan and elsewhere — was unrealistically low.

According to the GAO report, Harding’s proposal priced the work at $176.5 million, while SAIC submitted a proposal for $270.1 million. Still, SAIC’s price was not the highest; another of the four offerers priced its submission at $277.7 million.

“SAIC maintains that the agency failed to consider whether Harding’s proposed compensation plan would allow it to realistically recruit and retain qualified personnel,” the GAO wrote.

The GAO denied SAIC’s complaint and backed the Army.

“[T]he Army concluded that Harding’s revised price proposal reflected a realistic approach to performing the work,” the report said. “Although SAIC disagrees with the agency’s judgment in this regard, it fails to show that the agency unreasonably found the awardee’s price realistic.”