Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Army
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Cost/Technical Trade Off
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Mere disagreement with the agency’s determinations as to the relative merit of competing proposals and its judgment as to which proposal offer the best value, does not establish that the valuation or source selection was unreasonable.
The Department of the Army (Army) issues a request for proposals (RFP) for event production services. The RFP sought proposals for a contractor to furnish all non-military personnel, equipment, tools, materials, and supervision to perform pre-production, production, and event production services for the Spirit of America 2010 program. The RFP contemplated award of a fixed-price contract to the offeror whose proposal was determined to represent the best value to the government based of technical capability, past performance, relevant experience, personnel skill/experience, and price. The non-price factors, combined, were significantly more important than price. The RFP also advised that award would be made without engaging in discussions.
Eggs & Bacon, Inc. (EBI) submitted its proposal in response to the RFP. Both EBI and the awardee were rated equally on each non-price factor. But EBI did not receive the award because, with non-price factor scores equal to the awardee, EBI was higher priced than the awardee’s. After receiving a debriefing, EBI protested the award to GAO and, in response, the agency took corrective action to re-evaluate the proposals.
The proposals were re-evaluated and the source selection authority lowered the overall evaluation rating for the awardee’s proposal under the technical capability factor, but still determined that the price offered by the awardee was fair and reasonable and that the cost savings associated with View One’s proposal outweighed the technical advantages associated with EBI’s proposal. The awardee’s proposal was again selected for award.
GAO reviews challenges to an agency’s evaluation of proposals only to determine whether the agency acted reasonably and in accord with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. An agency may properly select a lower-rated, lower-priced proposal, even where price is less important, where it reasonably concludes that the price premium involved in selecting the higher-rated proposal is not justified. The Army provided a detailed record of its evaluation of proposals, the selection decision, and the proposal submitted by both offerors.
GAO’s review of the record shows nothing to lead it to conclude that the agency’s findings and conclusions for each proposal were unreasonable. For example, under the personnel skill/experience factor, the record shows that both proposed project managers were judged to have most, but not all, the required experience and therefore, each offeror’s proposal was assigned a rating of marginal under that factor. Mere disagreement with the agency’s determinations as to the relative merit of competing proposals and its judgment as to which proposal offer the best value, does not establish that the valuation or source selection was unreasonable.
As to the best value determination, the record shows that the agency was aware of the relative merits and comparative prices when it performed the tradeoff. The tradeoff was made comparing the relative merits of the EBI proposal with those of the awardee’s proposal, and considering as well, the price difference. It is clear that the agency understood the difference between the two proposals and reasonably decided to award the contract to the other offeror because of what the agency views as the price premium associated with EBI’s higher-rated proposal. GAO states that there is no basis to object to the agency’s source selection decision. The protest is denied.