Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Air Force
Disposition: Protest denied
Keywords: Past Performance
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: The evaluation of past performance, including the agency’s determination of the relevance and scope of an offeror’s performance history, is a matter of agency discretion, which GAO will not find improper unless unreasonable or inconsistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria. A protester’s mere disagreement with the agency’s evaluation conclusions does not establish that an evaluation was unreasonable.
CAE USA, Inc. (CAE) protests the award of a contract under a request for proposals (RFP), issued by the Department of the Air Force, for training support for the C-17 aircraft.
The RFP contemplated the award of a fixed?price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contact for a five-year base period with an option to extend the contract for two additional one-year terms. The RFP provided that award would be made to the offeror whose proposal represented the best value to the government using a technically acceptable, performance/price tradeoff procedure.
The solicitation advised that the evaluation of past performance would be based on information provided by the offeror in its proposal, as well as information contained in the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS), and data obtained by the government from other sources. The RFP advised that if the lowest-price, technically acceptable offer received a performance confidence assessment rating of substantial confidence, and then that offeror would receive the award. If the lowest-priced, technically acceptable offer did not receive a performance confidence assessment rating of substantial, then the RFP contemplated that the agency would perform a tradeoff between past performance and price to make a best value determination.
Past performance was evaluated by a performance confidence assessment group (PCAG). The PCAG determined that the relevant contracts identified by CAE did not demonstrate a good representation of the company as a prime contractor on efforts of similar magnitude. As a result, the PCAG reviewed five additional contracts with relevance to training systems where CAE was the prime contractor. In addition, the PCAG considered information obtained from CPARS, as well as questionnaires and interviews with government program managers, the administrative contracting officer, procurement contracting officers, and contractors. Based on this information, the PCAG assessed relevancy and quality ratings for each of the identified past performance contracts under each of the technical acceptability subfactors and cost/price factor, and used these ratings to assess an overall performance confidence assessment rating for CAE’s proposal of satisfactory confidence.
During two rounds of discussions, the agency twice provided CAE with detailed analysis of the agency’s past performance evaluation in the form of briefing slides and evaluation charts. The evaluation charts provided to CAE identified each of the contracts for CAE and its major subcontractors that the PCAG evaluated, including the five additional contracts not identified by CAE in its proposal. The charts also included the relevancy and quality ratings assigned to each contract under each of the technical acceptability subfactors and cost/price factor, the performance confidence assessment ratings assigned to those subfactors and factor, and the resulting performance confidence assessment rating for the overall proposal. The charts show that a number of the contracts were determined to be only somewhat relevant or not relevant to the technical acceptability factors.
Narrative information accompanying the charts informed CAE that its proposal received an overall performance confidence assessment rating of satisfactory confidence. CAE was further advised that this overall satisfactory confidence rating was based on the proposal’s receipt of only satisfactory confidence ratings for three of the five technical acceptability factors and an unknown confidence rating for the cost/price factor. CAE also was informed that, although the firm proposed to perform a certain percent of the effort here as the prime contractor, the agency was unable to find evidence that CAE had performed as a prime on efforts of similar magnitude. In response to discussions, CAE did not challenge any of the evaluation ratings (other than to question the unknown confidence rating for cost/price), or make any revisions in its final proposal submission to address the agency’s concerns. At the conclusion of discussions, CAE’s proposal was found to be technically acceptable. As noted above, CAE’s proposal received a rating of satisfactory confidence for past performance, and the firm proposed the lowest price of $206 million. The source selection authority (SSA) reviewed the evaluation results and, because the lowest-priced offer did not receive a substantial confidence rating, he performed a past performance/price tradeoff. The SSA noted that CAE’s satisfactory confidence rating was due to the fact that many of its contracts were only somewhat relevant, CAE’s experience as a subcontractor was on contracts of a smaller magnitude than required here, and the firm had only limited experience as a prime contractor in the relevant areas. In contrast, the awardee’s substantial confidence rating was based on the firm’s successful performance as a prime contractor on very similar efforts to the RFP here. The SSA determined that the awardee’s superior past performance was worth the additional $17 million, and he selected the awardee for award.
CAE challenges various aspects of the agency’s past performance evaluation, and alleges that the performance/price tradeoff and award determination was unreasonable. GAO states that the evaluation of past performance, including the agency’s determination of the relevance and scope of an offeror’s performance history to be considered, is a matter of agency discretion, which it will not find improper unless unreasonable or inconsistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria. A protester’s mere disagreement with the agency’s evaluation conclusions does not establish that an evaluation was unreasonable.
CAE’s protest predominantly attacks the agency’s relevancy determinations of the firm’s past performance. For example, CAE complains that the agency discounted CAE’s subcontractor performance which led to lower relevancy ratings, considered contracts that were not identified by CAE in its proposal and then found some of them to be only somewhat relevant, and made other errors in evaluating relevant past performance. CAE then complains that these erroneous relevancy determinations were the determining factor for award. Based upon GAO’s review of the record, GAO finds that each of CAE’s challenges lack merit.
CAE contends that the agency unreasonably discounted two of its contacts because CAE performed the work as a subcontractor, and that the agency further distorted the evaluation results by considering five less relevant contracts where CAE was the prime contractor even though CAE did not identify these contracts in its proposal. However, the record shows that the agency reasonably evaluated CAE’s past performance in light of the role it was proposed to perform here. To the extent the protester now disputes the agency’s findings as to the relevancy of these contracts, GAO is unpersuaded by its arguments, especially given that CAE failed to dispute any of the agency’s relevancy findings during discussions.
CAE also argues that the agency’s past performance evaluation “completely ignore[d]” the program management experience of one of CAE’s proposed subcontractors. CAE contends that the subcontractor’s “very high ratings” in this area should have resulted in CAE receiving a higher performance confidence assessment rating in this area.As recognized by the agency, CAE did not propose to use any subcontractors in the program management role; rather, that role was reserved to CAE. GAO finds the agency’s decision not to give weight to the subcontractor’s past performance in program management to be unobjectionable. In sum, based on GAO’s review of the record and considering all of the protester’s arguments, GAO finds the agency’s evaluation of past performance, including the relevancy determinations, to be reasonable and consistent with the RFP. The protest is denied.