Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: J5 Systems, Inc.
Agency: Department of the Navy
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Protest that contracting agency improperly evaluated offeror’s oral presentation is denied where the record shows that the agency reasonably determined that the protester did not adequately address all required topics in the context of the assigned sample task.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
J5 Systems, Inc. protested the decision not to award it a contract under an RFP for systems engineering, analysis, and technical support services. The RFP contemplated the award of up to five ID/IQ contracts on a best value basis, considering five evaluation factors: past performance, organizational experience, oral presentation, participation of small business, and cost. Evaluations were to be completed in multiple steps. In Step 1, organizational experience and past performance were to be evaluated; offerors found unacceptable under past performance would not be considered further for award. In Step 2, an offeror’s key personnel were to give an oral presentation, during which they would be given a sample task to discuss. Steps 3 and 4 involved the evaluation of offerors’ proposals under the small business participation and cost factors, and in Step 5, the agency determined which proposal represented the best value to the government.
The GAO first dismissed as untimely J5’s objections to its evaluation under the organizational experience factor, on the grounds that this was raised as a separate, supplemental protest ground after the filing of its initial protest, and more than 10 days after J5 knew the basis for protest. The GAO then declined to sustain J5’s protest of the agency’s evaluation of its oral presentation. The GAO found the evaluated weaknesses attributed to J5’s oral presentation to be reasonable, pointing out that J5 organized its oral presentation along the lines of the overall PWS requirements rather than the specific sample task topics that were required to be addressed. It noted that J5 did not discuss knowledge management in the context of the provided sample task, only indirectly addressing the requirement and failing to describe its understanding of that term of art. J5’s oral presentation also failed to discuss how classification levels would affect its prototype design and implementation process; the mere mention of classification levels at various points in its presentation was not a substitute for systematically addressing the topic in the context of the assigned sample task.
Where offerors are required to respond to a sample task, they must ensure that they adequately address each of the topics listed in the task. While offerors can choose how to organize their presentation, structuring it according to required topics ensures that an offeror addresses all topics. Failure to address each of the topics in a clear and thorough manner may result in the assessment of weaknesses to a proposal.