Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Homeland Security
Disposition: Protest denied.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
GAO denied the protest of PAE Government Services, Inc., based on the award of a contract to Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc. (KBR), under a request for proposals (RFP), issued by the Department of the Navy for base operating services at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and Manda Bay, Kenya.
The RFP contemplated the award of a fixed price contract for a base year and up to three option years to provide comprehensive base operating services at the above-referenced locations. Firms were advised that the agency would award a contract to the offeror submitting the proposal deemed to offer the best value to the government, considering price and several non-price factors. The RFP identified four non-price factors: corporate experience, technical approach/management approach, safety, and past performance.
PAE argues that the agency’s discussions relating to its proposed staffing level were not meaningful and were misleading. PAE maintains that the agency simply asked it to “reconcile” the different staffing figures included in its proposal, without ever elaborating on its request by advising PAE that the lower staffing figures it proposed would be considered to pose a risk to successful performance. PAE contends that it was not provided enough information to meaningfully respond to the agency’s concern, and that it was misled into believing that the agency essentially had no concerns with any of its three proposed staffing figures. However, GAO found that there was no merit to this aspect of PAE’s protest. The record showed that the agency did not become concerned with the adequacy of PAE’s proposed level of effort until after discussions. During its initial evaluation, the agency’s technical evaluators considered the figure set forth in PAE’s FTE worksheet in evaluating its initial proposal and concluded that this proposed level of effort was adequate to perform the requirements. The technical evaluators did observe, however, that PAE’s technical proposal was ambiguous because it included two different figures for its proposed level of effort, and recommended that the ambiguity be raised with PAE. Similarly, the price evaluators observed that there were three different proposed levels of effort included in the initial PAE offer. Without making a judgment concerning which of the three figures PAE intended to propose, the price evaluators simply recommended that PAE be required to correct the ambiguity in its proposal. It wasn’t until the ambiguity was corrected in the final proposal, after discussions were completed, that the agency recognized the deficiency in the proposed level of effort.
Regarding the lack of a common cutoff date for the submission of FPRs, there was no showing that PAE was prejudiced by the lack of a common cutoff date. First, the other offeror did not obtain a competitive advantage from its discussions having occurred subsequent to those conducted with PAE because the offeror was not awarded a contract. Second, the record showed that all of the offerors were provided approximately the same amount of time to respond to the agency’s discussions (six days in the case of PAE and KBR; seven days in the case of the offeror because the sixth day fell on a weekend), and the interval between the two sets of discussions was brief.
Finally, regarding the protester’s challenge to the evaluation of its proposal, GAO found that the record showed that the agency followed essentially the same process in evaluating PAE’s FPR. PAE is correct that the evaluators observed that the firm had reduced–without explanation–its proposed level of effort by FTEs compared to what had been offered in its initial proposal. Nonetheless, the agency compared the adequacy of PAE’s proposed level of effort to that used in the government estimate, and concluded that its proposed level of effort was below the government estimate by approximately [deleted] FTEs. The record also showed that the agency’s comparison was made on an annex-by-annex basis; the agency concluded that PAE’s staffing was significantly low in eight separate annexes. The record therefore demonstrated that, in making these comparisons of PAE’s proposed level of effort to the level of effort the agency thought necessary to meet the RFP requirements (i.e., the government estimate), the agency was evaluating PAE’s proposal against the solicitation’s requirements.