Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Army
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Terms of the Solicitation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Specifications must be sufficiently definite and free from ambiguity so as to permit competition on an equal basis. An ambiguity exists if a solicitation requirement is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation when read in the context of the solicitation as a whole.
The Department of the Army (Army) issued a request for proposals (RFP), for postal operations services at multiple locations in Afghanistan under a fixed-price performance-based contract. The RFP sought proposals to perform mail handling services at Army Post Offices at Baghram Air Field and Kandahar Air Field for a base year and four option years. The performance work statement (PWS) in the RFP set forth a base requirement, that is, the volume of mail. The RFP also provided for offerors to submit prices for increased volumes of mail, referred to as surge levels. The Army also issued an amendment, which provided an explanation of surge pricing.
International Management Services, Inc. (IMSI) alleges that the terms of the RFP are improperly ambiguous because it is not clear when the contractor will be entitled to additional compensation under a surge request due to increased mail volume. GAO states that specifications must be sufficiently definite and free from ambiguity so as to permit competition on an equal basis. An ambiguity exists if a solicitation requirement is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation when read in the context of the solicitation as a whole.
GAO agrees with the Army that the RFP, as amended, provided that the Army will give advance notice to the contractor before activating the surge request, and states that the contractor will be entitled to surge pricing on the first day of surge service execution. IMSI does not show that the RFP is defective just because it does not address, to its satisfaction, the particular situation.
Regarding the difference between the mail volume in the pricing matrix and the historical figures in the RFP, IMSI provides no basis to question the Army’s position that this data is accurate historical information, and that offerors can reasonably prepare their proposals for the higher volume in the pricing matrix by considering the overall volume requirements at each airfield. IMSI argues that mail volume at individual post offices has fluctuated and the need to adjust to fluctuations is a risk that offerors may be required to bear. GAO states that it is within the discretion of an agency to impose substantial risk on the contractor and minimal administrative burden on the agency. IMSI fails to provide persuasive support for its claim that the risk of mail volume fluctuations imposes an undue risk. The protest is denied.