Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Defense
Disposition: Protest denied.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: The fact that an agency labels its discussion questions as “discussions items” or “items for negotiation” does not mean that the agency is not identifying deficiencies or weaknesses in an offeror’s proposal.
CASE, LLC protests the elimination of its proposal from the competitive range under a request for proposals (RFP), issued by the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization (DITCO) on behalf of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) for information technology (IT) support services in support of the integrated information management system.
The RFP, issued to all contract holders under the General Services Administration’s multiple award, Alliant small business government-wide contract, contemplates the issuance of a cost reimbursement and labor hours task order for a base year and six one-year options to perform various IT support services. Technical proposal were to be limited to 25 pages. Firms were advised that award would be made on a “best value” basis, considering past performance, technical/management considerations and cost, with the non-cost considerations together being significantly more important than cost.
After evaluating the protester’s proposal, the agency sent CASE a total of 14 discussion questions, one relating to its cost proposal and 13 relating to its technical proposal. CASE responded to the discussion questions by submitting a revised proposal. The agency evaluated CASE’s revised proposal and found that it was acceptable under the first subfactor, but found its proposal unacceptable under a second subfactor. On the basis of these evaluation findings, the agency eliminated CASE’s proposal from the competitive range.
CASE asserts that the agency failed to engage in meaningful discussions with it. According to the protester, it was never apprised by the agency’s discussion questions that the agency viewed CASE’s proposal as including deficiencies or weaknesses, and CASE was advised only that the discussion questions contained “items for negotiation.” GAO states that when an agency affords a firm discussions, it must, at a minimum, advise the offeror of deficiencies, significant weaknesses and adverse past performance information to which the offeror has not yet had an opportunity to respond.
The fact that the agency may have labeled its discussion questions as “discussions items” or “items for negotiation” does not mean that the agency was not identifying deficiencies or weaknesses in CASE’s proposal, and a reading of the discussion questions themselves demonstrates that the agency was, in fact, identifying deficiencies or weaknesses in the CASE proposal. In the final analysis, CASE does not take issue with the substance of the discussion questions, but only with the fact that the agency did not expressly advise it that it was identifying weaknesses or deficiencies in its proposal. This, without more, provides no basis for GAO to find that the agency failed to engage in meaningful discussions with CASE. The protest is denied.