A government watchdog just rejected Jeff Bezos’ protest of NASA awarding a lunar lander contract to SpaceX alone

Jeff Bezos Elon Musk
Jeff Bezos (left) and Elon Musk.

  • Jeff Bezos has been dealt a loss in his protest of NASA’s awarding SpaceX a lunar lander contract.
  • Blue Origin had said it was unfair of NASA to award the $2.9 billion contract to just one company.
  • SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded to the news on Twitter with a flexing bicep emoji.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jeff Bezos has just been dealt a blow in his effort to challenge a big victory for SpaceX.

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Friday denied a protest that Bezos’ Blue Origin had filed that contested NASA’s decision to award a lunar lander contract to SpaceX alone.

“GAO first concluded that NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award,” the office said in a statement.

Elon Musk’s spaceflight company SpaceX was chosen to receive the $2.9 billion contract in April, edging out defense contractor Dynetics and Blue Origin. The contract is part of NASA’s goal to return astronauts to the Moon as early as 2024 through the agency’s Artemis program. NASA’s decision came as a shock since the agency had been expected to choose two of the three companies, not just one.

Shortly after, Blue Origin and Dynetics filed protests challenging the decision. Blue Origin said NASA was required to award contracts to multiple companies in accordance with its initial stated preference.

When announcing it had picked SpaceX, NASA said it only chose one company because of limited funding from Congress for the program.

Blue Origin says NASA never initiated talks with the company to try to negotiate the price of its human landing system, which NASA expected would cost the agency $6 billion, roughly twice as much as SpaceX’s price. Blue Origin says that NASA did, however, allow SpaceX to negotiate.

“The announcement reserved the right to make multiple awards, a single award, or no award at all,” GAO’s statement continued. “In reaching its award decision, NASA concluded that it only had sufficient funding for one contract award. GAO further concluded there was no requirement for NASA to engage in discussions, amend, or cancel the announcement as a result of the amount of funding available for the program.”

Read more: Companies’ mad rush to cloud giants like Amazon and Microsoft might finally be about to slow down, according to a Morgan Stanley survey

The office added that “the evaluation of all three proposals was reasonable, and consistent with applicable procurement law, regulation, and the announcement’s terms.”

A Blue Origin spokesperson told Insider the company will “continue to advocate for two immediate providers as we believe it is the right solution.”

“We stand firm in our belief that there were fundamental issues with NASA’s decision, but the GAO wasn’t able to address them due to their limited jurisdiction,” the spokesperson said. “The Human Landing System program needs to have competition now instead of later – that’s the best solution for NASA and the best solution for our country.”

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded to GAO’s decision on Twitter, simply writing “GAO” and adding the flexing bicep emoji.

Just days ago, Bezos offered to cover up to $2 billion dollars in costs if NASA were to give Blue Origin another shot at the lunar lander contract.

Dynetics did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Trump-era stimulus let corporations claim $14 billion in tax refunds, watchdog says

IRS office
  • Tax breaks included in the CARES Act let corporations receive $14 billion in refunds, the GAO said.
  • Roughly 1,200 firms received refunds worth more than $1 million, according to the Wednesday report.
  • The CARES Act won bipartisan support, but Democrats have since slammed the breaks as poorly targeted.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will dole out $14 billion in tax refunds to corporations thanks to controversial provisions included in last year’s CARES Act, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Wednesday.

The $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump in the early stages of the pandemic included a swath of measures aimed at reducing tax burdens for struggling businesses. Tenets included carrybacks for business losses and refunds linked to the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The IRS has already received more than 41,000 cases from businesses looking to access refunds through either, or both, of the two tax breaks, according to a GAO report. Roughly $14 billion in related refunds were approved by the end of last year. Of that, about $11 billion has already been distributed.

Yet while the tax breaks included in the CARES Act were touted as ways to keep small businesses afloat, many of the companies filing for relief are winning massive refunds. Nearly 3,000 companies filing for refunds received between $100,000 and $999,000, according to the report. And roughly 1,200 firms got refunds worth more than $1 million.

Bloomberg first reported on the tax break.

US tax law allows businesses to use net operating losses from unprofitable years to cancel out future tax bills in a carryover process. The CARES Act widened this provision to allow operating losses to be carried back as far as five years, effectively letting companies hit by the pandemic dodge some tax burdens.

The CARES Act passed in March 2020 on a nearly unanimous basis, but Democrats have since criticized some of its tax breaks for issuing relief to wealthy companies and Americans. Some lawmakers have even called for the measures to be repealed.

Republicans, however, have pointed out that Democrats backed the bill’s passage and that similar policies have been used in past downturns.

The GAO’s report suggests the $14 billion in approved refunds are the tip of the iceberg for CARES-related tax breaks. IRS officials said in late January they received more than 12,000 more applications for carrybacks and credit refunds, but that they aren’t yet sure how many are related to the CARES Act. A backlog of revised tax returns could also add to the total amount refunded to corporations, the GAO said.

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