Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Ceradyne, Inc.
Agency: Defense Logistics Agency
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Protest is denied where protester fails to demonstrate that agency’s statistical testing methodology unreasonably restricts competition.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Ceradyne, Inc. protested the terms of an RFP for lightweight advanced combat helmets. The RFP contemplated the award of 3 ID/IQ contracts to the 3 lowest-priced offerors of technically acceptable proposals. The only factor that would be considered in determining the technical acceptability is whether the offeror has furnished passing ballistics test reports. The solicitation gave offerors the alternative of submitting with their proposals the results of ballistics testing on a limited quantity of helmets (one helmet per size) in lieu of the full quantity required for first article testing (FAT) (three helmets per size). Helmets were to be evaluated for resistance to penetration (RTP) and ballistic transient deformation (BTD).
The GAO first rejected Ceradyne’s complaint that the agency should be required to use different sized headforms during testing, pointing out that helmets are critical safety items and finding that the agency should not be required to delay the procurement in order to develop varying sized headforms (which were not currently available). The GAO then found reasonable the agency’s methodology in calculating upper tolerance limits (UTL) for each section of the helmet, concluding it was a reasonable means of ensuring that there was limited variability in testing between helmets of different sizes. The GAO found that Ceradyne was not prejudiced by the agency’s failure to calculate a separate UTL for each size of helmet. Finally, the GAO thought it reasonable that the agency implemented randomized shot sequencing (which led to increased variability of results) to overcome the problem of manufacturers attempting to game the system by designing with shot sequencing in mind.
The GAO will generally not object to the imposition of certain terms in an RFP unless they are shown to be without a reasonable basis. The establishment of testing or qualification procedures or standards is a matter within the technical expertise of the procuring activity. While potential offerors may protest the terms of a solicitation prior to the date and time set for the receipt of proposals, they must show that the agency’s imposition of testing requirements are unreasonable.