Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Ocean Services, LLC
Agency: Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Protester’s proposal was reasonably excluded from the competitive range where the agency found that the proposal was technically unacceptable and would require major revisions to be made acceptable.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
Ocean Services, LLC protested the elimination of its proposal from the competitive range under an RFP to provide for the transportation and berthing of technicians and other personnel to perform scheduled maintenance and discrepancy repairs of weather buoys world-wide. The RFP, issued as a small business set-aside, identified five contract line items (CLIN) for vessels of differing type or size, and required offerors to identify specific vessels under each CLIN. Ocean proposed multiple vessels under each CLIN, but the evaluators found that each proposed vessel failed to satisfy at least one requirement specified in the RFP. The evaluators’ conclusions that Ocean’s proposed vessels were unsatisfactory was in large part due to the failure of its proposal to contain the necessary technical information to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the RFP.
The GAO first rejected Ocean’s argument that its proposal should have been considered because it was not technically unacceptable, but merely unsatisfactory. The GAO noted that failure to satisfy a material solicitation requirement makes a proposal technically unacceptable, and that NOAA could therefore properly exclude Ocean’s proposal without consideration of its price. The GAO then rejected Ocean’s argument that NOAA should have surmised from its submitted drawings and charts that the vessels satisfied the requirements or were readily correctible.
Where equipment would need to be modified to satisfy particular requirements of the RFP, the proposal should clearly indicate any shortcomings and how they will be corrected to satisfy the requirements. Contractors cannot rely on the agency to construe any shortcomings or ambiguities in a proposal in favor of the contractor.