Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Homeland Security
Disposition: Protest denied.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: In responding to an issue raised in discussions, it is not enough to list proposed techniques for accomplishing a goal, but an offeror must explain in detail how the techniques are expected to achieve the goal.
Hurricane Consulting, Inc. (HCI), a small business, protests the issuance of a task order by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), under a task order request for proposals (RFP) for records management services at service centers.
USCIS issued the RFP seeking proposals from PACTS vendors to provide services for the agency’s service centers. The RFP provided that award would be made to the vendor whose proposal represented the best value, considering technical capability, price, and past performance. The technical capability factor consisted of three subfactors: operational approach, management approach, and corporate capability. The most important subfactor, operational approach, contemplated the evaluation of each vendor’s concept of operations, their management of work flow and work prioritization, whether proposed staffing is sufficient and appropriate for the requirements of the performance work statement, and the vendor’s approach to maintaining quality standards.
The proposal submitted by HCI proposed Stanley Associates, Inc., the incumbent, as a subcontractor. But, in its final proposal, HCI proposed a reduction from the staffing level from the incumbent contract level. The evaluators explained that HCI’s proposal rating under the operational approach subfactor was being lowered from good to acceptable based on a lack of an acceptable explanation of the reduction following discussions in which the agency raised a concern over the reduction. HCI failed to receive the contract award.
HCI challenges the agency’s evaluation of its staffing under the operational approach subfactor of the technical capability factor and inadequate and unfair discussions. When discussions are held, they must be fair and not misleading.
Here, the discussion question posed by USCIS adequately informed HCI of the agency’s concern over the firm’s proposed reduction in staff. In this regard, the agency specifically identified HCI’s reduced staffing as an issue for discussion and requested that the firm “explain how the reduction in FTE staffing will be sufficient to successfully perform the contract requirements.” The record shows that USCIS downgraded HCI’s final proposal revision because it provided inadequate support to justify HCI’s operational approach using lower staffing.
The record reflects that the evaluators were concerned that the explanations submitted by HCI, in response to discussions on its reduced staffing, were inadequate. HCI merely listed, but did not provide details concerning proposed techniques for increasing efficiency, or explain how the techniques would achieve the reductions in work force proposed. Based on GAO’s review, the record provides a reasonable basis for the agency’s evaluation judgments, and thus there is no basis to question them. The protest is denied.