Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: United States Coast Guard
Disposition: Protest denied.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
GAO denied the protest of Phoenix Group of Virginia, Inc., regarding the establishment of a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) with the McHenry Management Group, under a request for quotations (RFQ), issued by the United States Coast Guard for marine engineering and naval architecture support services.
The RFQ was set-aside for small business vendors holding contracts under General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule 871, professional engineering services, and provided for the establishment of a BPA for a base year and four option years for services supporting the Coast Guard’s Asset Project Office. The RFQ advised vendors that the Coast Guard would issue fixed-price BPA calls (that is, task orders) for the services. Vendors were informed that the BPA would be established on a best-value basis, considering the following factors, listed in descending order of importance: technical capability, past performance, and price. The non-price factors, when combined, were stated to be significantly more important than price.
Phoenix protests the Coast Guard’s selection of McHenry’s lower-rated, lower-priced quotation, arguing that the agency’s best value decision placed too much emphasis on price, and was therefore inconsistent with the RFQ’s weighting of non-price evaluation factors as significantly more important than price. Phoenix argued that the contracting officer “sought to minimize” the weaknesses that were identified in McHenry’s quotation in the technical evaluation report, and to ignore the strengths found in Phoenix’s quotation, in order to justify selecting McHenry; and that she considered “extraneous information” that was not part of McHenry’s quotation or that was irrelevant to this procurement, inconsistent with the terms of the RFQ. GAO stated that although Phoenix argued that the contracting officer improperly “relaxe[d] the requirements for [McHenry] in her effort to erase [McHenry’s] weaknesses,” the four weaknesses identified in McHenry’s quotation do not reflect RFQ requirements that were waived. The contracting officer’s best value analysis acknowledged that the evaluators found McHenry’s more reactive approach in this area to be a weakness, but concluded that the weakness did not raise concerns because McHenry “is currently successfully performing over 12 tasks for the [Asset Project Office] with this same approach.” Phoenix did not show the analysis to be unreasonable. Given that the TET found, as a strength in McHenry’s quotation, that the vendor “clearly articulated a plan to manage, monitor cost, schedule and performance,” Phoenix did not show that the weight given to the weakness by the contracting officer in the overall assessment of McHenry’s quotation was unreasonable.
GAO also concluded that Phoenix’s similar complaints with respect to the contracting officer’s consideration of the other identified weaknesses also failed to show that the best value determination was improper. Briefly stated, the contracting officer found that McHenry’s lack of experience outside of the Coast Guard was mitigated by its exceptional performance as the incumbent; that the lack of information in McHenry’s quotation about how it would interact with subcontractors was overcome by its past performance ratings, which evinced no deficiency in this regard; and that any failure to demonstrate McHenry’s cataloguing experience and capabilities was overcome by the firm’s recent successful performance of this task (which task was not expected to be a significant requirement in any event). Because the record showed that the source selection official considered the evaluators’ specific comments and weighed them in the context of additional knowledge of the vendor’s performance as the incumbent contractor, to arrive at a reasonable conclusion regarding the quotation’s overall relative value, the protester provided no basis to object to the contracting officer’s judgment concerning the impact of these weaknesses.