Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: General Services Administration
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Corrective Action
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Agencies have broad discretion to take corrective action where the agency has determined that such action is necessary to ensure fair and impartial competition. The details of implementing the corrective action are within the sound discretion and judgment of the contracting agency, and GAO will not object to any particular corrective action, so long as it is appropriate to remedy the concern that caused the agency to take corrective action.
Northrop Grumman Information Technology, Inc. protests the corrective action taken in connection with a task order request (TOR), issued by the General Services Administration (GSA), to acquire, on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), information technology support services.
The solicitation, which was issued to all contract holders under GSA’s Alliant Government-Wide Acquisition Contract, sought the services of a single contractor to design, procure, configure/install, test, and maintain a seamless, integrated transport infrastructure. The TOR provided for the issuance of a task order for an initial five-year base period, followed by a two-year option period and a second, three-year, option period.
The agency evaluated proposals and, on the basis of initial offers, selected Northrop for the issuance of a task order. After being advised of the agency’s selection decision and receiving debriefings, four unsuccessful contractors filed protests alleging various improprieties in connection with the agency’s conduct of the acquisition. In response to those protests, GSA advised that it intended to take corrective action. Specifically, GSA advised that it was terminating the task order issued to Northrop and preparing a revised solicitation that would include any updates to the agency’s requirements. After learning of the agency’s corrective action and our dismissal of the protests, Northrop filed the instant protest.
Northrop asserts that the agency’s corrective action is overly broad and unreasonable given the prior protest allegations and the fact that its price has been exposed. The earlier protests challenged the adequacy of the agency’s evaluation of proposals and its failure to conduct discussions. Northrop further asserts that there has been no showing that the agency’s requirements have changed so significantly that cancellation of the earlier solicitation and issuance of a new solicitation is warranted. Northrop requests that we recommend that the agency reinstate the task order previously issued to it.
GAO states that as a general rule, agencies have broad discretion to take corrective action where the agency has determined that such action is necessary to ensure fair and impartial competition. The details of implementing the corrective action are within the sound discretion and judgment of the contracting agency, and GAO will not object to any particular corrective action, so long as it is appropriate to remedy the concern that caused the agency to take corrective action.
GAO finds that it has no basis to object to GSA’s proposed corrective action. The agency explains that it determined from the results of the original competition that its requirements may not have been adequately defined. In this regard, after it issued the original TOR, the agency amended the solicitation to add a significant requirement for optional operations and maintenance (O&M) work to be performed. Specifically, section B of the solicitation was amended to add optional CLINs 004B, 1004B and 2004B (each of these CLINS has several sub-CLINs representing annual requirements for each year of the multi-year periods of performance). While the CLINs included ceiling dollar value amounts (totaling $1,080,000,000), there was no further narrative description of the requirement in this section of the TOR.
The lack of detail in the TOR resulted in two bidder questions and answers, but the agency’s answers did not provide any further specific elaboration concerning the agency’s substantive requirements. The record also shows that the offerors diverged widely in their responses to the O&M requirement. GAO finds the agency’s decision to take corrective action in these circumstances reasonable. Given the wide divergence in proposed levels of effort for the O&M requirement, as well as the relative lack of detail in the solicitation regarding this work, the agency reasonably concluded that it had failed adequately to convey its requirements to the offerors in a manner that would allow them to compete intelligently and on a relatively equal basis. The protest is denied.