Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Integrated Science Solutions, Inc.
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Protest that an agency misevaluated the protester’s and awardee’s proposals is denied where the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation criteria.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Integrated Science Solutions, Inc. (ISSi) protested the award to Earth Resources Technology (ERT) of a contract for safety, environmental, and medical support services to all organizations and employees at the NASA Ames Research Center, California. The RFP, issued as a small business set-aside, provided for the consolidation of services being performed under two separate contracts, including one for which ISSi was the incumbent. Award was to be made on a best value basis, considering mission suitability, past performance, and cost/price evaluation factors. Although several offerors, including ISSi, had lower evaluated costs/prices than ERT, the SSA concluded that those firms’ lower costs/prices were outweighed by ERT’s evaluated technical superiority under the mission suitability factor.
ISSi first complained that the agency misevaluated its proposal under the technical approach subfactor, because the agency did not identify ISSi’s response to case study A as a strength. The GAO found reasonable the agency’s conclusion that ISSi’s approach, although appropriate and effective based on ISSi’s incumbent experience, did not propose anything unique or innovative that warranted finding a strength. The GAO also rejected ISSi’s protests regarding its evaluation under the management approach subfactor, finding reasonable the agency’s determination that ISSi’s proposed program manager warranted a strength but not a significant strength. The GAO disagreed that ISSi’s response to case study B warranted a significant strength, agreeing with the agency that the evaluation conclusions were consistent with a strength and nothing more.
Finally, the GAO denied ISSi’s protest of its cost/price evaluation, rejecting the protestor’s argument that the agency’s concerns with ISSi’s “realized profit” rate were based upon a flawed analysis. The price analyst had reported to the SEB that ISSi’s actual profit rate was likely to be significantly lower than the rate it stated in its FRP, if it hired incumbent staff and paid them at their current rates. The agency pointed out that concerns regarding the profit rate were not found to be a proposal weakness, and had no bearing on the SSA’s source selection decision.
Although incumbency can provide a significant advantage in competing in government procurements, incumbent firms should not rely on their incumbency in preparing their proposals. While current practices on the contract may be appropriate and sufficient to satisfy the needs of the government. failing to propose innovations or new and unique approaches to the requirement may be the difference between being assessed a strength versus a significant strength. In preparing a proposal for a follow-on or a consolidated requirement, incumbent firms should thoroughly assess their current performance and identify areas for improvement or innovation.