Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Innovations; teaming agreement,
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Innovations that can be applied immediately along with strong teaming partners and experience will win most contracts.
Paragon first objects to the agency’s assignment of two significant strengths to the awardee’s proposal for its proposed innovations and its proposed teaming arrangement. Paragon also challenges the assignment of a strength to the awardee for its action tracking system. GAO states that where a protester challenges an agency’s technical evaluation, GAO will review the evaluation record to determine whether the agency’s judgments were reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. A protester’s mere disagreement with an agency’s judgments does not render the evaluation unreasonable.
GAO finds that the agency’s judgment regarding the strengths of the awardee’s proposal was reasonable and did not reflect disparate treatment. With regard to Paragon’s argument concerning the relative merits of the two firms’ proposed innovations, the agency explains that it considered all of Paragon’s proposed innovations, but found that many of them were already being performed and thus did not merit additional credit. In contrast, the agency found that the awardee offered realistic and operational innovations that could be used immediately after the start of the contract. GAO concludes that the protester merely disagrees with the agency’s judgment, which does not demonstrate that the agency’s evaluation was unreasonable. With regard to Paragon’s objection that both firms should have received similar strengths for their proposed teaming arrangements, NASA explains that the awardee was assigned a significant strength because a major subcontractor was the developer of the “Knowledge Now” management collaboration system, which NASA’s Safety Center (NSC) currently uses. Regarding the challenge to the agency’s assessment of a strength under the understanding the requirements subfactor for the awardee’s proposal of an action tracking system, NASA found that, although Paragon also proposed an integrated action tracking system, Paragon failed to provide any detail about its system and had not presented evidence that its system presently existed. In response, Paragon disagrees that it failed to detail its proposed system, but does not challenge the agency’s conclusion that its system does not currently exist. Given this, GAO finds reasonable the agency’s evaluation of the firms’ respective offers of an action tracking system.
Paragon next asserts that NASA improperly credited the awardee for the experience of its subcontractor where the RFP did not provide for the evaluation of the experience and past performance of firms that were not major subcontractors. GAO finds that, although the source evaluation committee considered the subcontractor’s experience and past performance in evaluating the awardee’s proposal, this consideration did not affect the source selection authority’s (SSA) judgment that the awardee’s experience and past performance was superior to Paragon’s. Specifically, the SSA’s contemporaneous selection decision shows that the SSA concluded that the awardee’s own experience and past performance was superior to Paragon’s, because the awardee itself had highly relevant past performance and experience, whereas Paragon’s own experience and past performance was of limited relevance. In making this determination, the SSA specifically credited Paragon for the highly relevant experience of its major subcontractor. Nevertheless, the SSA, concluded that “the directly relevant experience of [the awardee] and [Paragon’s] lack of the same is a meaningful discriminator between the offerors because they are the proposed prime contractors and will be responsible for the management of the overall contract work.” Under the circumstances, the record does not show any reasonable possibility that Paragon was prejudiced by the agency’s consideration of the subcontractor’s experience and past performance. Competitive prejudice is an essential element of a viable protest; where the protester fails to demonstrate that, but for the agency’s actions, it would have had a substantial chance of receiving the award, there is no basis for finding prejudice, and GAO will not sustain the protest. The protest is denied.