Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Pacific Blue Innovations
Agency: Department of the Army
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Protest challenging agency’s decision not to fund the protester’s proposal under phase II of the Department of Defense Small Business Innovation Research program is denied where there is no basis in the record to question the reasonableness of the agency’s evaluation.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Pacific Blue Innovations (PBI) protested the agency’s determination not to award it phase II funding for a project PBI proposed under the DoD’s SBIR program. PBI had received a phase I award for a dual purpose hand grenade, and was invited to participate in the phase II proposal process. PBI’s first proposal was not selected. Its second proposal was selected for potential award, subject to the results of a Pre-Award Survey on Safety, Security and Accounting system; the pre-award survey recommended no award. The CO referred PBI to SBA for a certificate of competency, which the SBA denied. PBI requested to submit a third offer, which ranked last and was not selected for award.
The GAO found no basis on which to conclude that the agency’s evaluation of PBI’s proposal was unreasonable, noting that the agency documented numerous concerns regarding the overall design of the grenade as simply modifying the size, shape and venting of current designs. If found nothing unreasonable in the agency’s determination that PBI’s proposal failed to document that its proposed testing facility had been validated by a DoD organization. Concerns regarding PBI’s insufficient “proof of principle” also reasonably pertained to the soundness of PBI’s proposed concept, a matter expressly identified as a basis for evaluation under the first criteria.
The GAO also found reasonable the agency’s evaluation of PBI under the second and third criteria for phase II award. The agency had concerns about PBI’s lack of experience in hand grade design or any test data to support the design proposed, as well as to how PBI would organize and direct its various proposed subcontractors in order to mature and prove out the final design. With regards to the potential for commercialization, the agency saw risk in PBI’s design reliance on variations on known approaches, viewing the probability of success as not very high.
Agencies have broad discretion to determine which proposals will be funded under the SBIR program. So long as the agency’s determinations are consistent with the terms of the solicitation and in good faith, the GAO will not question their decision, subject to the test of reasonableness.