Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: CH2M Hill Antarctic Support, Inc.
Agency: National Science Foundation
Disposition: Protest Denied.
- Protest challenging the assignment of an evaluation rating for the protester’s technical proposal is denied where the rating was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation.
- Exchanges with the awardee were clarifications, and not discussions, where the agency requested that the awardee confirm a mistake that was apparent from the face of the proposal.
- Protest challenging the agency’s conclusion that the advantages in the awardee’s technical proposal merited selection of its higher-cost proposal is denied where the award decision was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
CH2M Hill Antarctic Support, Inc. protested the award to Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions, Inc. of a contract for support of the United States Antarctic Program (USAP). After evaluating the seven proposals received, the agency established a competitive range consisting of CH2M Hill, Lockheed, and a third offeror. The agency conducted three rounds of discussions and accepted final revised proposals. Following receipt of the final revised proposals, the agency asked Lockheed to clarify what the agency characterized as a mistake in Lockheed’s cost proposal; Lockheed responded with a confirmation that the agency’s understanding of the proposed cost was correct. Based on “significant technical advantages” under all three technical sub-factors, Lockheed was awarded the contract despite its higher proposed cost.
The GAO first found the evaluation of CH2M Hill’s proposal under the management approach and transition subfactors of the technical factor to be reasonable. The GAO pointed out that the RFP did not mandate an “excellent” rating under the management approach subfactor when CH2M Hill had three strengths and two significant strengths, with no weaknesses or deficiencies. The source selection authority (SSA) exercised its discretion in determining that the proposal offered no features leading the SSA to conclude that the proposal was exceptionally meritorious. The GAO also found no reason to question the agency’s assignment of medium risk to CH2M Hill’s proposal under the transition subfactor. It pointed out that the agency had concerns about CH2M Hill’s proposed migration of the USAP data center to a new facility, and that the SSA had determined that CH2M Hill had not appropriately mitigated the risks or provided sufficient contingencies.
The GAO then agreed with the agency that the exchanges with Lockheed after the submission of final revised proposal constituted clarifications and not discussions. The GAO noted that the agency merely asked Lockheed to confirm that the combined labor costs for the prime contractor and proposed subcontractors, which appeared to double-count certain hours, was correct; Lockheed was not permitted to revise its cost proposal. The GAO then dismissed as untimely numerous arguments raised in CH2M Hill’s comments to the agency report, noting that the arguments were raised in response to documents released to the protestor prior to the agency report but were filed more than ten days after receipt of those earlier documents.
Disappointed offerors protesting the selection decision must strictly adhere to the deadlines for raising arguments throughout the protest period. While a protestor may not learn of a ground for protest until it receives the agency report or other supporting documents, the protestor must respond within ten days of receipt of the documents which put the protestor on notice of the additional grounds for protest. Where, as in this case, the protestor receives some documents prior to the agency report, the ten day timeframe begins running immediately, and waiting until the deadline for responding to the agency report to respond to the earlier documents will prove fatal.