Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Disposition: Protest sustained in part, denied in part.
Protest challenging an order under a Federal Supply Schedule contract for faceted search capability software pursuant to a competition conducted under Federal Acquisition Regulation subpart 8.4 is sustained where the agency unreasonably issued an order on the basis of a quotation that failed to meet one of the minimum technical specifications of the solicitation.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
Carahsoft alleges that MicroLink’s quotation failed to meet three of the minimum technical specifications of the RFQ and therefore should have been found to be technically unacceptable. GAO states that where, as here, an agency issues an RFQ to FSS contractors under FAR subpart 8.4 and conducts a competition, GAO will review the record to ensure that the agency’s evaluation is reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation. In reviewing a protest challenging an agency’s technical evaluation, GAO will not reevaluate the quotations; rather, it will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s evaluation conclusions were reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation and applicable procurement laws and regulations.
While MicroLink may have the capacity to scale up to the required half a billion records as NGA says, nowhere in its quotation does it agree to do so at any time after implementation as required by the RFQ’s minimum technical specifications. The quoted language referenced by the agency describes the performance capability of the software and the means of implementing this capability, and does not address when this capability will be fully available. To the contrary, MicroLink’s quotation only promised [REDACTED]. Clearly stated solicitation technical requirements are considered material to the needs of the government, and a quotation that fails to conform to such material terms is technically unacceptable and may not form the basis for award. A vendor is responsible for affirmatively demonstrating the merits of its quotation and risks the rejection of its quotation if it fails to do so. Thus, GAO finds unreasonable the agency’s finding that Microlink’s quotation satisfied the minimum requirement that the scalability be available any time after implementation. GAO sustains the protest on this basis.
Carahsoft also contends that MicroLink’s quotation failed to meet technical specification B-18 that the system “shall provide a wide variety of analytics for the visualization of faceted results.” Carahsoft argues that this requirement mandated the use of “deterministic aggregate calculations” and that MicroLink’s software does not offer this capability. GAO states that where a dispute exists as to the actual meaning of a solicitation requirement, GAO will resolve the issue by reading the solicitation as a whole. To be reasonable, an interpretation must be consistent with the solicitation when read as a whole and in a manner that gives effect to all provisions of the solicitation.
The RFQ requirement that a vendor “shall provide a wide variety of analytics for the visualization of faceted results” conveyed that an array of analytics should be offered; it did not limit the type of calculations to one type. Furthermore, NGA’s answer provided in modification No. 4 did not, as the protester argues, restrict this requirement to deterministic aggregate calculations. In fact, NGA’s answer only reinforces that a “wide variety” of analytics were required. Thus, when read as a whole, it is apparent that the solicitation sought to maximize competition by soliciting commercial off-the-shelf faceted search software available on the FSS and did not restrict competition to only those vendors who offered deterministic aggregate calculations for the visualization of faceted results. The protester’s contrary interpretation of the solicitation’s B-18 specification is overly restrictive and unreasonable. GAO sustains the protest because the record shows that MicroLink’s quotation did not comply with technical specification B-8. GAO denies the remainder of Carahsoft’s protest.