Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Air Force
Disposition: Protest denied.
Agency’s determination that awardee was entitled to a “confidence” past performance rating was based on a reasonable consideration of the relevance of the awardee’s past performance information, which included a comparative assessment of the size, scope, and complexity of the awardee’s contracts with the solicitation requirements.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
JSW challenges AMG’s satisfactory confidence past performance rating. According to JSW, the rating was unreasonable because, as a newly formed company, AMG had no past performance record itself and the past performance record of its key personnel involved contracts that were, in JSW’s view, significantly smaller in size, magnitude, and complexity, as compared to the Robins AFB requirements. GAO examines an agency’s evaluation of past performance to ensure that it was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable statutes and regulations; however, the necessary determinations regarding the relative merits of offerors’ proposals are primarily matters within the contracting agency’s discretion. In this regard, GAO will not question an agency’s determinations absent evidence that those determinations are unreasonable or contrary to the stated evaluation criteria. Moreover, a protester’s mere disagreement with the agency’s judgment does not establish that an evaluation was unreasonable.
Initially, GAO finds that JSW’s suggestion that AMG was not entitled to a satisfactory confidence rating because AMG was a newly formed company is misplaced. While the record reflects that AMG was in fact a newly formed company, and therefore did not have a past performance record itself, the Air Force based its assessment of AMG’s past performance on information submitted for AMG’s key personnel. Given that the RFP expressly authorized the Air Force to consider past performance information regarding any critical subcontractors and key personnel, there is no basis for challenging the agency’s evaluation in this regard.
JSW’s arguments regarding the relevance of AMG’s past performance record are also without merit. The record reflects that the Air Force considered past performance information submitted by AMG with respect to four contracts performed by AMG’s key personnel. These included: (1) a base-wide grounds maintenance contract for Cannon AFB, New Mexico, which the Air Force considered to be relevant; (2) a grounds maintenance services contract for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), Glynco, Georgia, which the Air Force also evaluated as relevant; (3) a base-wide grounds maintenance services contract, for the Naval Support Activity in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, which the Air Force, evaluated as somewhat relevant; and (4) a post-wide grounds maintenance services contract at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, which the Air Force considered to be somewhat relevant. In challenging the agency’s assessments regarding the relevance of AMG’s contracts, JSW highlights the fact that AMG’s contracts were for lower dollar values and did not involve some of the requirements of the Robins contract. In addition, JSW argues that the Cannon AFB contract is dissimilar because the air base is located in a desert climate, which presents fewer grounds maintenance challenges than Robins AFB, and because the contract did not involve composting operations. According to JSW, the FLETC contract should not have been considered relevant because, in addition to being smaller in dollar amount than the Robins AFB contract, it did not require composting operations or airfield maintenance. JSW also takes issue with the Air Force’s assessment of the Navy contract in Mechanicsburg and the Fort Jackson contract as somewhat relevant. JSW contends that, unlike the Robins AFB contract, these contracts are for smaller values and do not involve many of the Robins contract requirements.
GAO finds the Air Force’s assessments of the relevance of AMG’s past performance references to be reasonable and consistent with the evaluation scheme set forth in the solicitation. As noted above, the RFP defined the various degrees of relevance principally in terms of the type and extent of the work effort in comparison to the work required at Robins AFB, as opposed to particular dollar values. Thus, the fact that the dollar values of AMG’s contracts were lower than the Robins AFB contract is not determinative of the reasonableness of the agency’s evaluation. In this regard, the definition of very relevant past performance included benchmark examples of the types of grounds maintenance activities and numbers of maintained acres. These examples provided a guide to the various relevancy ratings, since the ratings were defined by reference to these activities and the amounts, and kinds, of acreage specified.
In assessing AMG under the past performance factor, the record reflects that the Air Force compared the types of activities performed and the number of acres involved under AMG’s referenced contracts, with the activities and acres identified in the RFP’s definitions of relevance. Specifically, the Air Force concluded that the Cannon AFB contract, which was a performance-based contract, was relevant based on the fact that it required similar grounds maintenance activities, such as maintaining 63 acres of enhanced grounds, 346.6 acres of improved grounds, 1,584 acres of semi-improved grounds, and 18.4 miles of perimeter fence grounds. The Air Force indicated that the Cannon AFB contract was not considered very relevant because it lacked composting operations. Similarly, the FLETC contract was considered relevant where it involved maintaining 17 acres of enhanced grounds, 680.54 acres of improved grounds, and 456.35 acres of semi-improved grounds, amounts and kinds of acreage which were comparable to those required at Robins AFB. In rating this contract as relevant, as opposed to very relevant, the Air Force specifically considered the fact that the contract did not include airfield maintenance and composting operations. The Navy Mechanicsburg and Fort Jackson contracts were considered only somewhat relevant, which, as indicated above, was defined as involving some of the magnitude of effort and complexities required under the RFP. The Air Force’s evaluation of these contracts as only somewhat relevant was based in part on the fact that they did not involve airfield maintenance or composting operations. In addition, the number of acres maintained under the Navy Mechanicsburg contract was considered to be significantly less than what is required by the solicitation, and, while the acres maintained under the Fort Jackson contract were comparable to the Robins AFB contract, the effort did not include maintenance around runways, maintenance of irrigation systems, or perimeter fencing. Based on this record, which reflects the Air Force’s consideration of the activities, scope, and complexity of AMG’s past performance information, GAO has no basis to conclude that the Air Force’s evaluations regarding the relevance of AMG’s past performance references was unreasonable.