Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Defense
Disposition: Protest denied.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
GAO denied the protest of Pragmatics Inc., based on the issuance of a task order to Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., by the Department of Defense, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) under a request for proposals (RFP) for National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) programs system engineering and technical assistance (SETA) support work.
The RFP to all ENCORE II contract holders, sought task order proposals to provide SETA support for NGIC programs. The RFP anticipated the issuance of a cost plus fixed-fee task order with a one-year base period and two one-year options. The RFP advised that the task order would be issued to the best value offeror based upon the evaluation of three factors: (1) technical/management approach, (2) past performance, and (3) cost. The biometric programs technical oversight and system support task required the SETA contractor to provide oversight and support for the production operation of the NGIC biometric applications and IT infrastructure. This work required the SETA contractor to provide software engineering and systems engineering oversight to support NGIC’s biometric identity intelligence resource (BI2R) program. The SETA software engineering oversight support for the BI2R program will involve monitoring the software development contractor and providing technical information exchange between the Government and the software development contractor to ensure Government objectives are understood and implemented. The SETA systems engineering oversight support for the BI2R program would include support for the BI2R software development contractor’s testing, which involved reviewing and approving the software development contractor’s test plans, monitoring testing activities, and documenting and assigning priorities to defects. There was also a requirement under the enterprise programs technical oversight and system support task for the SETA contractor to provide indirect enterprise support to the NGIC programs, which included information assurance support.
Pragmatics argued that Booz Allen had an actual or potential impaired objectivity OCI that could be adequately mitigated to prevent Booz Allen’s conflicting roles from biasing its judgment in performing the SETA work contemplated by the solicitation. Pragmatics asserted that the OCI investigation and analysis unreasonably concluded that Booz Allen–in its role as SETA contractor–would not be in a position to evaluate the software and systems development work it completed as a subcontractor on the BIR program. GAO found that DISA reasonably found that there was no significant OCI as a result of Booz Allen’s previous work that could not be adequately mitigated or avoided. As the CO’s analysis explained, Booz Allen’s work on the BIR program ceased with version 3.11, which is now integrated into the overall BI2R system. SETA oversight of each software release is a distinct and independent effort. In preparation for release of a new BIR version, the Government, with SETA support, approves the software changes to add new requirements and resolve defects. For each new release, new code is written for additions and defects, and there is never a requirement for review or rework of previously existing software code. SETA oversight of each new release assesses the software updates and/or changes made to determine if these additions met the new requirements and resolved the defects. Significantly, with regard to Pragmatic’s arguments, the SETA contractor is not required to identify when a defect was introduced or which contractor is responsible for the defect.
DISA also explained that while the SETA contractor may look at the system in its entirety when identifying defects in new software releases, such a review does not require the contractor to reanalyze the code of a completed version of the software that has been accepted by the government. In the agency’s view, the discovery of a defect in a new software version had no impact whatsoever on the acceptability of code released in a previously accepted software version. The record, therefore, showed that the CO conducted a thorough investigation of Pragmatics’ OCI allegations. The CO reviewed Booz Allen’s performance on the BIR program, which included questions to the NGIC and BIR CO representatives regarding this work and also reviewed the SETA requirements and reviewed Booz Allen’s OCI plan submitted with its proposal. After reviewing all of the information, the CO concluded, and GAO agreed, that no significant potential OCI exists that could not be adequately mitigated or avoided