Agency: Department of the Air Force
Disposition: Protest Denied
Decided: August 5, 2020
Keywords: Proposal Standards; Adequately Written Proposal; Proposals; Proposal Detail
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
An offeror is responsible for submitting an adequately written proposal, and supplementation submitted during the course of a protest to bolster an inadequate proposal fails to provide a basis to question the reasonableness of the agency’s evaluation of the protester’s proposal as it was submitted.
Summary of Facts
Patriot Defense Group, LLC, a small business, protests its non-selection for a multiple-award indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract under RFP No. H92400-19-R-0003, which was issued by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), for subject matter expertise and knowledge-based services in support of USSOCOM’s enterprise requirements for U.S.-
based and globally-aligned Special Operations Forces missions. The RFP was issued as a total small business set-aside on June 14, 2019.
Offerors were required to submit a minimum of three past performance information
sheets for contracts which were relevant to demonstrating the offeror’s ability to perform
the work set forth in the solicitation. The RFP instructed offerors to include rationale supporting the assertion of relevance and describe in detail how the past performance on each contract applies to the stated relevancy criteria.
Patriot submitted three past performance references and self-assessed each of its references as very relevant. However, the Source Selection Evaluation Board (SSEB) found that it could not substantiate Patriot’s self-assessment and rated the references less favorably than Patriot’s self-assessment. The SSEB assigned an unknown confidence rating for one of the references submitted, because there were no contractor performance assessment reports available and the designated points of contact did not return any questionnaires. Based on the assessed relevancy and quality of Patriot’s past performance, the SSEB evaluated Patriot’s past performance as warranting a limited confidence assessment overall. Award was made to 46 qualifying offerors, but not Patriot. Patriot filed this protest with GAO.
Basis of Protest
Patriot challenges the Air Force’s evaluation of the relevancy of its past performance references, arguing that if the agency properly found both references to be very relevant, then Patriot would have received an award. Patriot further argues that its proposal was sufficiently detailed to support its self-assessment of the relevancy of its references, and the agency failed to reasonably evaluate the information in the proposal. The Air Force argues that notwithstanding the RFP’s clear instructions to offerors to substantiate their relevancy assertions, Patriot’s proposal failed to provide any meaningful support for its assessments.
GAO explained that “in reviewing protests challenging the evaluation of an offeror’s proposal, it is not our role to reevaluate proposals; rather, our Office examines the record to determine
whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable, and in accordance with solicitation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations.” GAO further noted that in a negotiated procurement, it is an offeror’s responsibility “to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency.”
GAO explained that Patriot’s self-assigned ratings in its proposal do not identify the actual number of contracted personnel for either reference. The RFP specifies in numerous places that offerors must provide sufficient substantiation in their proposals. Patriot argues that certain excerpts from its proposal were sufficient for the agency to assess the number of contracted personnel for each reference. GAO noted that this position is effectively that the agency should have inferred the number of contracted personnel from various general statements in the proposal. However, GAO determined that “Patriot’s arguments are neither consistent with the RFP’s specific requirements for offerors to include supporting rationales and descriptions, nor our established line of decisions affirming an offeror’s responsibility to prepare an adequately written proposal.”
GAO further determined that even if it were to impose on the agency the burden to decipher the contents of this proposal, there is no basis to conclude that the agency reasonably could
have deduced the number of contracted personnel involved in Patriot’s prior efforts. Patriot’s passing references to the personnel involved in performing the requirement raise more questions. GAO concluded that absent reasonable specificity in the protester’s proposal substantiating the number of contracted personnel on each reference, the agency’s evaluation that Patriot failed to substantiate its claims was reasonable.
GAO also noted that “to the extent Patriot’s protest submissions attempt to more clearly articulate the relevancy of its past performance references,” its review is limited to Patriot’s
proposal, as submitted. Patriot’s inclusion of clarifying information in its protest “provides no basis to question the agency’s contemporaneous evaluation of the protester’s proposal as submitted.”
The GAO denied the protest on this basis.