Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Homeland Security
Disposition: Protest denied.
- Agency reasonably determined that indication in quotation that successful vendor would hire incumbent personnel and that it and team member had corporate resources and qualified personnel to meet requirements satisfied solicitation requirement that vendors confirm ability to have requisite personnel at time of issuance of task order.
- Agency’s evaluation of successful vendor’s proposed project manager (PM) and alternate was unobjectionable where agency based evaluation primarily on resume detailing proposed PM’s qualifications, and also gave credit for alternate candidate based on information from outside quotation.
- Agency reasonably evaluated successful vendor’s and team member’s experience and past performance as superior where quotation and past performance reference response demonstrated relevant experience and overall superior past performance.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
Sharp asserts that UNITECH failed to meet the RFQ’s requirement to have all necessary personnel available at the time of the selection because it proposed to hire incumbent (Sharp) personnel, none of whom was employed by UNITECH at the time of the selection.
The RFQ did not require identification of specific employees as of the date of the selection; rather it required vendors to “confirm their ability to have all necessary personnel in place” at the time of selection. In addition to proposing to hire incumbent personnel, UNITECH’s quotation identified its own and its team member’s (ABS Consulting) personnel. In this regard, under the heading “technical capability”–the factor under which available personnel was to be evaluated–UNITECH’s quotation stated that both team members had the “corporate resources and qualified personnel in their DC Metropolitan Area facilities” to meet the agency’s requirements. In evaluating UNITECH’s quotation, the TET noted the vendor’s plan to hire incumbent personnel and recognized that no letters of commitment had been submitted in the quotation. However, the TET found that UNITECH’s teaming with ABS–“well known ship classification society . . . involved with the U.S. maritime industry for over 100 years”–represented an “asset” and “immediate resource” that UNITECH could use to “supplement qualified personnel” in the event that UNITECH was unsuccessful in retaining the incumbent personnel. While Sharp observes that UNITECH’s quotation did not specifically present this as its “back up plan” considering that UNITECH’s quotation was based on providing 11 personnel (in addition to its named project manager (PM)) to perform the work, GAO thinks the agency reasonably determined that, taken as a whole, the information in UNITECH’s quotation was sufficient to “confirm its ability” to provide the necessary personnel at the time of the selection.
Sharp asserts that the agency improperly gave UNITECH evaluation credit for the qualifications of the incumbent PM, who is a Sharp employee, even though it had no commitment from him and failed to submit his resume.
UNITECH’s quotation proposed a specific PM candidate other than the incumbent PM, and included her detailed resume; stated that, if USCG wished to retain the incumbent PM, UNITECH “would be happy to [so] designate him”; and noted that it had spoken with the incumbent PM about the possibility, and that he had “agreed in principle to remain on as the PM.” Contrary to Sharp’s assertions, the TET based its evaluation and assessment of a strength primarily on UNITECH’s proposed candidate for PM. In this regard, it discussed the proposed PM’s qualifications in detail, considering them a strength based on her current work with USCG (2 years) and her previous work with the incumbent PM for approximately 3 years. The TET also found that the RFQ requirements would be “well met” through the proposed PM, since her background would allow her to provide guidance to personnel unfamiliar with VSP reviews, and would thereby reduce the learning curve for a new contractor. While the TET did also refer to the quotation’s mention of the incumbent PM, it is clear that the incumbent PM alternative was given no weight in the source selection; the “award” recommendation document relied only on the strength associated with the proposed PM. Further, although UNITECH’s quotation did not include a firm commitment or resume from the incumbent PM, the agency considered the incumbent’s qualifications based on available information. In this regard, an agency is not bound by the “four corners” of an offeror’s quotation and may use other information of which it is aware. GAO concludes that the evaluation in this area was reasonable.
The RFQ required quotations to include sufficient and detailed related experience of comparable scope that clearly demonstrated the contractor’s capability to perform all of the performance work statement requirements. With regard to past performance, vendors were required to provide recent (within the past 3 years) information on services directly related and relevant to the services covered by the performance work statement. Sharp asserts that the TET should not have rated UNITECH’s quotation equal to Sharp’s–exceeding requirements under the technical capability factor and superior under the past performance factor–because UNITECH’s experience was inferior to Sharp’s. Specifically, Sharp notes that its experience and past performance cover two prime contracts–including work under the current contract for the requirement–and one contract on which it served as a subcontractor. In contrast, UNITECH’s past performance and experience encompassed two subcontracts and one contract performed by its team member, ABS. GAO states that where a solicitation calls for the evaluation of experience and past performance, it will examine the record to ensure that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria and procurement statutes and regulations.
The evaluation of experience and past performance was reasonable. UNITECH’s quotation included information showing its relevant experience as a subcontractor to ABS under multiple task orders issued by USCG that involved technical, program, and administrative support services–including TWIC, security and VSP issues–and as a subcontractor to ABS under a contract with Harris County, Texas, which involved conducting a full and comprehensive vulnerability assessment, including maritime security issues at the Galveston Bay Complex. UNITECH also provided information showing ABS’s relevant experience on a DHS task order to develop and implement a new regulatory scheme at high-risk chemical facilities. In evaluating UNITECH’s quotation as exceeding requirements, the TET found that the quotation evidenced UNITECH’s relevant past performance and experience in working with projects for, and providing information to, appropriate USCG units regarding the arrival of high interest vessels, liquefied natural gas carriers, and boarding matrix information used by USCG to determine boarding priorities of foreign vessels arriving in U.S. ports. The TET also noted the proposed PM’s experience with USCG projects dealing with port and facility security arrangements, the TWIC program, and VSPs. With regard to past performance, the contract specialist rated UNITECH’s quotation superior under three USCG task orders based on superior ratings in six areas–conforming to contract requirements/standards of good workmanship, ability to provide qualified personnel, compliance with Privacy Act/security requirements, adherence to schedule, timeliness of status reports, and implementing program requirements–and satisfactory ratings in three areas–responding to and correcting issues, effective problem resolution, and meeting of interim milestones. Since nothing in the RFQ prohibited vendors from submitting, or the agency from evaluating, experience and past performance information based on a vendor’s status as a subcontractor, the agency properly gave full consideration to such experience in the evaluation. Likewise, in evaluating a firm’s experience and past performance, it is proper for an agency to consider the experience of proposed key personnel. There thus was nothing objectionable in the agency’s considering the experience of UNITECH’s proposed PM. Further, since the RFQ requirements involve technical reviews of VSPs and TWICs, the agency could reasonably conclude that UNITECH’s experience in these and other maritime security matters with USCG, DHS, and a state agency was directly relevant and applicable, supporting the exceeds requirements rating under the technical capability factor. UNITECH’s relevant and superior past performance under the three USCG task orders likewise supports the agency’s past performance evaluation. GAO concludes that this aspect of the evaluation was unobjectionable. The protest is denied.