Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: General Services Administration
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Protest of terms of the solicitation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: In preparing a solicitation, a contracting agency is required to specify its needs in a manner designed to achieve full and open competition, and may include restrictive requirements only to the extent they are necessary to satisfy its legitimate needs.
JLT Group, Inc. (JLT) protests the terms of solicitation for offers (SFO), issued by the General Services Administration (GSA), for leased office space in Minnesota. JLT asserts that the SFO improperly restricts competition.
GSA originally published an advertisement on FedBizOpps regarding the need for 233,000 square feet of office space and a request for expressions of interest. After receiving 16 expressions of interest, GSA issued the SFO to three potential offerors, not including JLT, whose buildings were identified as being within the delineated area and as meeting or having the capability of meeting the minimum requirements of the SFO. After filing its protest, JLT received a copy of the SFO from the GSA and the protest was dismissed. JLT then filed this protest, challenging certain SFO requirements as unduly restrictive of competition, specifically, the requirements for indoor parking and a nine foot minimum ceiling height.
GAO states that a contracting agency has the discretion to determine its needs and the best method to accommodate them. In preparing a solicitation, a contracting agency is required to specify its needs in a manner designed to achieve full and open competition, and may include restrictive requirements only to the extent they are necessary to satisfy its legitimate needs. GAO will review a challenge to restrictive requirements to determine whether the restrictions are reasonably necessary to meet the agency’s needs.
In its review of the record, GAO finds no basis for objecting to either requirement. While indoor parking may not be available in all federal buildings, it is a common feature and given the climate in Minnesota, indoor parking is manifest. As for the minimum ceiling height, GAO finds that the agency justified the height, based on the fact that it is a standard requirement contained in the Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service, which are intended to establish “design standards and criteria for new buildings, major and minor alterations, and work in historic structures.” The protest is denied.