Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Defense
Disposition: Protests denied.
Keywords: OCI; Organizational Conflicts of Interest
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Contracting officials must avoid, neutralize or mitigate potential significant OCIs so as to prevent unfair competitive advantage or the existence of conflicting roles that might impair a contractor’s objectivity and an unequal access to information OCI exists where a firm has access to nonpublic information as part of its performance of a government contract and where that information may provide the firm a competitive advantage in a later competition for a government contract.
CapRock Government Solutions, Inc. (CapRock), ARTEL, Inc. (ARTEL), and Segovia, Inc. (Segovia) protest the award of a contract to Intelsat General Corporation, under request for proposals (RFP), issued by the Department of Defense (DoD), for performance of the Navy’s Commercial Broadband Satellite Program (CBSP).
The RFP sought proposals to support the Navy’s CBSP and anticipated award of a single indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract for a base year and four option years. Proposals would be evaluated on the basis of price, technical approach, and past performance. Five proposals were received and were evaluated by the agency’s source selection evaluation board (SSEB). The source selection authority (SSA) also reviewed the assessments and concluded that Intelsat’s advantages under two of the subfactors, and its higher-rated past performance, merited award over CapRock’s higher ratings for a different subfactor and its lower price.
CapRock, ARTEL, and Segovia assert that the agency improperly evaluated Intelsat’s past performance, and CapRock and ARTEL each argue that their own past performance should have been rated higher. The evaluation of an offeror’s technical proposal, and its past performance, is a matter within the agency’s discretion. GAO will not reevaluate proposals but instead will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations.
The record shows that the agency credited both Intelsat and its partners for performance under the highly relevant contracts and that these references were the basis for a green overall rating, as well as the agency’s judgment that Intelsat had the best overall past performance. GAO thinks these judgments were reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation. The record showed no evidence that CapRock or ARTEL’s past performance should be rated higher.
GAO states that the SSA is required to exercise independent judgment in making a reasonable and adequately-documented source selection decision and the SSA has broad discretion in determining the manner and extent to which technical and cost evaluation results are used, is permitted to make an independent evaluation of offerors’ proposals, and may disagree with or expand upon the findings of lower-level evaluators provided the basis for the evaluation is reasonable and documented in the record. Therefore, CapRock’s assertion that the agency’s evaluation of its technical proposal was unreasonable under several subfactors is without merit where the record shows that the SSA viewed Intelsat’s proposal as superior to CapRock’s proposal with regard to technical approach and although CapRock disagrees with the judgment of the SSA, it has not shown it to be irrational or inconsistent with the solicitation criteria.
ARTEL argues that the award to Intelsat was tainted by an organization conflict of interest (OCI) arising from the awardee’s knowledge of the other offeror’s costs for certain satellite resources. GAO finds that the allegations, even if true, would not constitute an OCI. Contracting officials must avoid, neutralize or mitigate potential significant OCIs so as to prevent unfair competitive advantage or the existence of conflicting roles that might impair a contractor’s objectivity and an unequal access to information OCI exists where a firm has access to nonpublic information as part of its performance of a government contract and where that information may provide the firm a competitive advantage in a later competition for a government contract. ARTEL complains that the awardee had access to certain cost information arising from ARTEL’s negotiations with Intelsat for the use of satellite resources that were under Intelsat’s exclusive control. GAO states that these types of negotiations between competitors do not give rise to an OCI. GAO denies the protests.