Link: GAO Decision
Agency: U.S. Army Material Command
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Protest challenging evaluation of proposals and price/technical tradeoff decision is denied where the record shows that both were reasonable, consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria, and adequately documented.
General Counsel PC:
General Dynamics Information Technology, Inc. (GDIT) protested the award to Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) of a task order for information technology support services for the G-2 Army Military Intelligence Enterprise (GAME) requirement. The RFP was issued to holders of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Solution for the Information Technology Enterprise (SITE) contract, and contemplated award on a best value basis considering technical capability, management approach, past performance, and price. The agency conducted two rounds of discussions with GDIT and SAIC, and then accepted FPRs. The SSA determined that SAIC had the superior technical capability proposal, while GDIT’s management approach proposal was only “slightly better” than that of SAIC. She concluded that GDIT’s “slightly better” management approach did not warrant paying a premium of 10.03% over SAIC’s superior technical capability proposal.
GDIT argued that the SSA minimized the risk presented by SAIC’s proposed staffing approach while inflating the risk of GDIT’s approach. Although GDIT received an overall rating under the management approach of “good,” while SAIC received an “acceptable,” the SSA conducted her own comparative analysis and concluded that the risks identified by the evaluation team did not constitute a significant difference between the proposals considered in their entirety. The GAO disagreed that the SSA improperly understood SAIC to have proposed more staff than it did, pointing out that the SSA was referring to her view that the performance risk represented by SAIC’s staffing approach was reduced because SAIC had experience in resourcing multiple contracts worldwide that would enable it to respond quickly to augment staffing if necessary. The GAO also did not find that discussions regarding staffing were unequal, noting that the agency had more concerns regarding SAIC’s staffing approach and tailored the discussions accordingly.
The GAO disagreed that SAIC’s proposal conditioned the commencement of its performance in locations requiring TESA approval on the granting of TESA approval for its candidates, thus failing to meet a material requirement, finding instead that SAIC viewed the approval as a “given” and would begin performance upon final approval. It also found no reason to question the agency’s evaluation of SAIC’s transition plan with respect to the need for TESA approvals. The GAO rejected GDIT’s objections to the past performance evaluation, noting that the agency conducted an integrated assessment in which it placed the quality of the offerors’ performance in the context of the relevance of its efforts. Finally, the GAO found reasonable the price/technical tradeoff decision, which looked beyond adjectival ratings to identify qualitative differences existing between the proposals.
When reviewing the reports prepared by evaluation teams, the SSA may adopt the ratings of the SSEB, but conducts his or her own comparative analysis of the proposals being considered. The SSA’s conclusions may differ from the SSEB’s recommendations, and the existence of conflicting conclusions is not an automatic ground for protest. The SSA has broad discretion in determining the manner and extent to which they will make use of the adjectival ratings and point scores provided by the SSEB, as well as the written narrative justification underlying the technical results. So long as the evaluation is reasonable and consistent with the terms of the RFP and not just adopting the rating without looking past the rating, the GAO is unlikely to sustain a protest objecting to the results.