Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Coastal Seal Services, LLC
Agency: Department of the Navy
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Navy decision to limit procurement to brand name, original equipment manufacturer part was unobjectionable where the part was component of critical ship equipment, the failure of which could have serious consequences for deployed military forces; the agency lacked technical data rights to overall system; and the agency reasonably determined, based on its review of data submitted by protester, that it lacked adequate data to conduct a competitive procurement for the part.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
Coastal Seal Services, LLC (CSS) protested the agency’s intent to issue purchase orders on a sole source basis to Wartsila Defense, Inc. for replacement stern tube shaft seal repair kits. The RFQs included a class justification for using other than full and open competition to procure on a brand name basis from the original manufacturer. CSS responded to the RFQs, quoting repair kits using a different brand of seals and including letters explaining why the agency should consider the other brand.
The GAO found that CSS had not demonstrated that the agency’s brand name justification was unreasonable. It noted that the agency lacked the data to determine whether non-brand name components are equivalent to the brand name components, and whether non-brand name components will compromise the required reliability and effectiveness of the stern tube seal system as a whole.
An agency may make sole-source, brand name awards where it lacks the technical data to determine whether non-brand name equivalents are truly compatible with the agency’s needs. Although a potential offeror of non-brand name components may be unhappy at its inability to compete for the award, so long as the agency provides a reasonable J&A supporting its sole-source decision, there may be no grounds to protest.