Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Air Force
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Technical Evaluation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: In reviewing an agency’s evaluation, GAO will not reevaluate technical proposals; rather, it will examine the agency’s evaluation to ensure that it was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s stated evaluation criteria and procurement statutes and regulations.
Measurements International Inc. protests the award of a contract by the Department of the Air Force under a request for proposals (RFP), for the purchase of resistance measurement systems (RMS).
The RFP sought proposals to provide RMS to be used by the Air Force Metrology and Calibration Program facility. The RFP advised that a single fixed-price contract would be awarded to the offeror who submitted the lowest-priced, technically acceptable proposal. The RFP did not require contractors to submit past performance information and did not identify past performance as a factor to be considered in the agency’s award decision. With regard to technical acceptability, the RFP stated that each offeror’s technical proposal would be evaluated to determine if it provided a sound, compliant approach that met the requirements of the solicitation’s purchase description, and if it demonstrated a thorough knowledge and understanding of the requirements and their associated risks. Proposals were to identify risks associated with the proposed approach and actions the offeror would take to mitigate the identified risks. Offerors were permitted to submit proposals for new RMS or to upgrade the existing RMS.
The agency determined that both of Measurements’ proposals to provide new RMS presented a high level of risk. Among other things, the agency stated that Measurements proposed an unrealistic amount of time to rework software, and this increased the risk of errors, quality issues, and delayed delivery of the systems. However, despite the high level of risk associated with Measurements’ proposals, the agency found that the risk was not high enough to make Measurements’ proposals unacceptable. Measurements’ proposal was at a higher price and was rejected.
The protester argues that the awardee’s proposal to upgrade the existing RMS posed a high degree of risk, and therefore the agency’s determination that the proposal was technically acceptable was unreasonable. GAO states that in reviewing an agency’s evaluation, it will not reevaluate technical proposals; rather, it will examine the agency’s evaluation to ensure that it was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s stated evaluation criteria and procurement statutes and regulations.
The protester argues that the age and performance history of the current units pose risks that the agency ignored when evaluating the awardee’s proposal for technical acceptability. For example, the protester contends that the agency did not take into consideration that the units are more than 10 years old and are starting to fail. However, the record shows that the agency did consider whether the age and condition of the existing units would result in any risk associated with the proposal to upgrade the units. The record contains a memorandum to the file documenting a meeting of the evaluators to discuss the awardee’s proposal risk, including what effect upgrading the RMS would have on their lifecycle. The record also shows that, during discussions, the agency confirmed with the awardee that existing RMS with problems would be repaired prior to or in conjunction with being upgraded, at no cost to the agency. Finally, the evaluation shows that, in discussing the awardee’s upgraded approach, the agency concluded that “some risk” existed, but that the proposal was still considered technically acceptable. Although the protester disagrees with this assessment, it has not shown it to be unreasonable.
The protester next argues that the awardee’s proposal posed risk because repairs to existing RMS could potentially interfere with the awardee’s ability to meet the agency’s delivery schedule, and that the agency failed to consider this risk. The solicitation contains a detailed delivery schedule which specifies deadlines for the delivery of new or upgraded units. The awardee’s proposal did not take any exception to this requirement, and the protester has not cited any statement in the awardee’s proposal that it will not comply with the delivery deadlines. The statement in the awardee’s proposal requesting to upgrade repaired RMS in future years (as quoted by the protester above) is only a statement of preference and does not negate or take exception to the delivery schedule set forth in the RFP. GAO declines to find that the awardee’s statement of preference rendered its proposal unacceptable.
Finally, Measurements argues that the agency improperly failed to consider the fact that the awardee’s warranty would cover only the upgraded units, and would not cover the existing RMS prior to upgrade. What the protester seems to ignore, however, is that Measurements’ warranty would similarly not cover the risks associated with the existing units prior to upgrade, and all potential awardees would be held to the same delivery schedule. Therefore, if an existing unit were to malfunction prior to being replaced under the delivery schedule set forth in the solicitation, the unit would not be covered by the warranty offered by either offeror. Although the protester argues that upgrading RMS will take more time than replacing RMS, and therefore the agency will be forced to use the unrepaired existing units for a longer period of time under the awardee’s proposed approach, the protester has not shown that this risk is so high as to render the awardee’s proposal technically unacceptable. The protest is denied.