Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Defense
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Technical Evaluation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: The establishment of testing procedures is matter within the technical expertise of the procuring activity, and GAO will not object to the imposition of such a requirement unless it is shown to be without a reasonable basis.
Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC protests the award of a contract to Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. (BAH) under a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of Defense for advisory and assistant support services for the agency’s cooperative threat reduction (CTR) program. SAIC challenges the DTRA’s evaluation of its technical proposal and the evaluation of BAH’s past performance.
The RFP anticipated award of a cost?reimbursement, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract, with a five-year period of performance. The maximum value of the contract is $300 million with a minimum guaranteed value of $1 million. The solicitation advised offerors that proposals would be evaluated based on the following three factors: mission capability, past and present performance, and cost. The mission capability factor had five subfactors: management approach, technical approach, transition plan, sample scenario, and initial task order.The mission capability factor was more important than the past and present performance factor.
SAIC challenges the DTRA’s evaluation of every weakness and significant weakness assessed for its proposal under the management approach and transition plan subfactors of the mission capability factor. SAIC also argues that the agency’s evaluation of BAH’s past performance was unreasonable.
GAO states that the evaluation of an offeror’s proposal is a matter within the agency’s discretion. A protester’s mere disagreement with the agency’s judgment in its determination of the relative merit of competing proposals does not establish that the evaluation was unreasonable. In reviewing a protest against an agency’s evaluation of proposals, GAO will not reevaluate proposals but instead will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. In reviewing an agency’s evaluation of offerors’ proposals, GAO does not limit its consideration to contemporaneously documented evidence, but instead considers all the information provided, including the parties’ arguments, explanations, and any hearing testimony. During a hearing conducted by GAO, each witness provided detailed and credible testimony that either amplified the contemporaneous record, or reasonably explained why the contemporaneous record did not reflect the facts described.
SAIC challenges the agency’s evaluation of its proposal as marginal under the management approach and transition plan subfactors. SAIC argues that the agency unreasonably assigned its proposal a two-star/significant weakness under the management plan subfactor regarding the protester’s plan for the oversight of its overseas offices.
The management approach subfactor required offerors to “describe a thorough, complete, and effective approach to accomplish the overall program and contract objectives as stated in the SOO with an acceptable level of risk.”The agency described the significant weakness under this factor as follows: “Failed to effectively demonstrate ability to oversee overseas staff and offices.” For example: Communications plan with overseas offices does not mention communications with Defense Threat Reduction Office (DTRO) chiefs. DTROs are government overseas offices that are responsible for CTR efforts in nations receiving assistance. The agency found that that SAIC’s proposal did not provide a plan to communicate with the overseas offices that will perform the requirements of the SOO in target countries for the CTR program.
GAO states that the agency reasonably concluded that an individual or team responsible for a particular subject matter might not be effective in supervising or facilitating communication for all of the subject matters and tasks of the overseas offices. To the extent that the agency viewed this approach to be part of SAIC’s approach for oversight of its overseas offices, we think the agency reasonably viewed this as an element of the overall significant weakness.
SAIC next asserts that the DTRA unreasonably assigned its proposal a two?star/significant weakness under the transition plan subfactor, based on the protester’s proposed approach to the staffing of its overseas offices. The agency found that the protester did not adequately address its approach to retaining or replacing the current overseas staff during transition.
GAO held a hearing to take testimony on the merits of the evaluation. The testimony showed that the agency found that SAIC’s proposal had not addressed the risks arising from a significant degree of turnover in its subcontractors. In this regard, the agency noted that the subcontractors proposed by SAIC would be new to the contract. The agency also found that, under the incumbent contract, BAH provided 23 of 25 overseas staff positions and that SAIC’s proposal did not adequately address how these personnel would be retained or replaced in light of the fact that BAH was not proposed by SAIC as a subcontractor. GAO finds these conclusions reasonable.
Next, SAIC argues that the DTRA unreasonably assigned its proposal a one?star/minor weakness under the management approach subfactor, based on the agency’s conclusion that the protester did not demonstrate an adequate commitment to meet the socioeconomic subcontracting goals identified in the solicitation.
The RFP required offerors to “demonstrate a commitment to meeting the socioeconomic goals” set forth in the solicitation. Section L of the solicitation stated that offerors will be evaluated on their commitment to meeting the goal of subcontracting at least 15% of the total contract value to small businesses and/or historically black colleges/minority institutions, with 33% of that 15% goal being subcontracted to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB).
The agency found that three of the subcontractors identified by SAIC as small businesses did not qualify as small businesses under NAICS code 541990. The agency recalculated the subcontracting percentages for SAIC, and found that the protester’s proposal reflected a lesser percent than required. GAO thinks that the RFP clearly stated the basis upon which offerors would be evaluated regarding their approach to small business subcontracting goals. On this record, GAO concludes that the agency reasonably evaluated SAIC’s proposed subcontractors by evaluating them under the NAICS code set forth in the solicitation and reasonably assigned a weakness here to the protester’s proposal.
Next, SAIC argues that the DTRA unreasonably assigned its proposal a one?star/minor weakness under the management approach subfactor regarding performance metrics. The agency found that SAIC’s proposal did not clearly explain how the identified metrics would be used to improve contract performance.
The RFP required offerors to demonstrate “the ability to effectively measure and evaluate [their] execution of the SOO; to plan, track and forecast success in [their] mission, and in anticipation of contractor’s future work needs as outlined in the SOO.” The solicitation further required offerors to “clearly define the types and nature of the metrics to be used, the nature of the inferential data to be collected and processed, and the plan for utilizing these for continual process improvement.”
After reviewing the record, GAO thinks that the agency reasonably concluded that the metrics described in SAIC’s proposal were not accompanied by a sufficiently detailed plan demonstrating how the data collected will be utilized to improve contract performance.
Finally, SAIC argues that the DTRA unreasonably ignored negative information concerning BAH’s performance as a subcontractor to SAIC under the incumbent contract in its evaluation of the BAH’s past and present performance. The agency responds that it considered this information, but concluded that it was not relevant to the evaluation of BAH’s performance. GAO concludes that the agency’s evaluation of BAH’s past and present performance was reasonable. The protest is denied.