Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Air Force
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Evaluation Criteria
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Agencies are required to identify evaluation factors and significant subfactors, but they are not required to identify all areas of each which might be taken into account, provided that any unidentified areas are reasonably related to or encompassed by the stated criteria.
Lawrence Battelle, Inc. protests the elimination of its proposal from the competitive range, by the Department of the Air Force, under a request for proposals (RFP) for a broad range of cost estimating/analysis/research technical services.
The RFP anticipated multiple awards of indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contracts, for an ordering period of five years from the date of award. The RFP provided for a best value source selection decision that permitted a performance/price tradeoff. The solicitation stated that proposals would be evaluated on the basis of three factors: technical acceptability, cost/price, and performance confidence assessment. The technical acceptability factor was divided into two subfactors– the program and personnel management subfactor and the technical capability subfactor. The RFP stated that in order to be considered acceptable under the program and personnel management subfactor, an offeror’s proposal must furnish a transition plan, among other things, which included an approach for staffing resources “in order for transition.” The RFP also provided that all technical standards must be met for a proposal to be considered acceptable.
The Air Force found Lawrence Battelle’s proposal unacceptable under both subfactors. Under subfactor 1, program and personnel management, the agency assigned deficiencies for the following: (1) the proposal failed to adequately address and substantiate the approach for staffing resources in order to transition ; (2) the proposal stated that subcontractor resources could assist in maintaining continuity of services, but it was not evident that Lawrence Battelle (the prime contractor) would incur at least 50% of the cost as required by relevant regulations; (3) the proposal failed to demonstrate a plan for training personnel to acquisition professional development program (APDP)-like certification levels; and (4) the proposal failed to provide staffing for Cyber/Netcentric programs. Under subfactor 2, technical capability, the agency assigned deficiencies for the following: (1) the proposal failed to demonstrate a clear understanding of all Cyber/Netcentric requirements and the ability to fulfill requirements other than integrated baseline review and earned value management; (2) the proposal failed to propose APDP-like certified personnel within the Cyber/Netcentric directorate or provide a plan for personnel to achieve APDP-like certification; and (3) the proposal failed to propose personnel that possess the necessary security clearances within the Cyber/Netcentric directorate, or provide a plan for personnel to obtain security clearances coinciding with the start of the Cyber/Netcentric task order.
Lawrence Battelle challenges various aspects of the agency’s technical evaluation, performance confidence assessment, and price evaluation, and alleges that the agency’s decision to exclude Lawrence Battelle’s proposal from the competitive range was unreasonable.
Under the program and personnel management subfactor, Lawrence Battelle challenges the agency’s assignment of a deficiency because the proposal did not adequately address staffing for transition. As set forth above, the RFP stated that in order to be considered acceptable under the program and personnel management subfactor, an offeror’s proposal must furnish a transition plan that demonstrates the offeror’s ability to be fully operational and capable of fulfilling the Cyber/Netcentric objectives within 30 days after the effective start date. In addressing this requirement, Lawrence Battelle’s proposal stated that it currently had five senior cost estimators on staff, but it would maintain continuity of service by implementing a transition strategy that started with interviewing customers to determine program priorities, then beginning the recruitment process. GAO finds that the protester’s proposal did not adequately address and substantiate its approach for staffing resources in the transition.
Lawrence Battelle also challenges the agency’s conclusion under the program and personnel management subfactor that it was not clear that Lawrence Battelle–rather than its subcontractors–would incur at least 50% of the cost of the contract. With regard to the use of subcontractors, the firm stated in its proposal that the fourth step in ensuring continuity of services included relying on its subcontractor team members for providing on-site resources, reach-back support, and surge capabilities, if needed; the proposal also stated that the Lawrence Battelle team, including subcontractor team members, had a resource pool of approximately 65 people. The firm’s proposal further stated that, should a vacancy exist at the time of starting the task order, members of the key management team would divide the workload or call on the subcontractor team members to provide support from their existing pool of resources. Based on these statements and the fact that only five of 34 positions were currently staffed, GAO finds that Lawrence Battelle’s proposal did not make clear whether Lawrence Battelle (the prime contractor) would still incur at least 50% of the personnel costs for contract performance as required by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) in the event that its extensive recruiting efforts were unsuccessful
Finally, the protester contends that the agency applied unstated evaluation criteria in evaluating several portions of the firm’s proposal. Specifically, the protester contends that the agency’s observation that the protester had not provided any historical data to support its claims represented an unstated evaluation criterion because the RFP did not require that offerors provide historical data in support of the assertions in their proposals. GAO states that agencies are required to identify evaluation factors and significant subfactors, but they are not required to identify all areas of each which might be taken into account, provided that any unidentified areas are reasonably related to or encompassed by the stated criteria. Here, the requirement to provide data supporting the protester’s claims that it had the ability to recruit incumbent analysts is reasonably related to the evaluation criteria identified under the program and personnel management subfactor that requires contractors to maintain continuity of services, minimize potential disruptions, and offer an approach for staffing resources in order to transition. GAO finds the agency’s requirement that the protester support its claims with data, including historical data, to be reasonably related to or encompassed by the stated evaluation criteria. GAO finds that the agency’s decision to exclude Lawrence Battelle’s proposal from the competitive range was reasonable. The protest is denied.