Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Air Force
Disposition: Protests denied.
- Protest asserting that agency improperly failed to reconcile disparity between awardee’s technical proposal staffing and staffing level used in the cost evaluation, with agency assuming lower staffing for awardee in cost evaluation than level proposed in awardee’s technical proposal, resulting in a downward adjustment in awardee’s evaluated cost/price, is denied where there is no indication that awardee’s proposal received a higher technical evaluation rating as a result of the higher staffing level in its technical proposal.
- Protest that agency improperly failed to credit protester’s proposal in final technical evaluation with proposal (first set forth in discussions response) to exceed minimum performance standards set forth in performance work statement (PWS) in solicitation is denied where request for final proposal revisions (FPR) provided that FPR “must include any revisions to the PWS, so that any negotiated changes will be considered,” but protester’s PWS included in its FPR model contract did not specifically incorporate previously proposed enhancements.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
SBSS asserts that the technical evaluation of IST’s proposal was inconsistent with the cost/price evaluation, in that the technical proposal was not reevaluated in light of the staffing adjustments made for purposes of the most probable cost adjustment. According to the protester, an offeror could propose a technical approach which included staffing well in excess of the Government’s optimal staffing levels (and thus receive a higher technical rating) and not be penalized in the technical evaluation even where the agency assumed a lower staffing level in evaluating cost. GAO states that where the cost and technical evaluation of a proposal reach contradictory conclusions, the agency generally is required to reconcile the evaluations.
Here, there was an ultimate disparity between the technical proposal staffing and the staffing level used in the cost evaluation–based on its estimate of required FSA staffing, the Air Force assumed lower FSA staffing for IST in the cost evaluation than the level proposed in IST’s technical proposal, resulting in a downward adjustment in IST’s cost/price. While, on its face, this appears to present an evaluation inconsistency, in fact, there is no indication that IST’s proposal received a higher evaluation rating as a result of the higher staffing level in its technical proposal; the record indicates that IST’s proposal in fact received only an acceptable rating, without any evaluated strengths, under the technical approach/support subfactor of the mission capability factor. Since IST received no evaluation benefit from its higher proposed staffing level–there is no argument that IST’s staffing should have been found less than acceptable–there is no basis for us to object to this aspect of the evaluation of IST’s proposal.
CLF asserts that the Air Force conducted misleading discussions regarding its proposed staffing. In this regard, in its initial, clarification evaluation notice (EN) to CLF in this area, the agency noted that CLF’s initial proposal indicated that there would be periods when only [REDACTED] would staff the service desk. The agency requested CLF to furnish an analysis showing that the proposed staffing of the service desk would meet the PWS requirements, including the requirements for calls to be answered by a service desk agent within three minutes and for specified first call resolution rates to be met. In its response, CLF explained that, when the service desk was staffed by only [REDACTED]. GAO states that discussions, when conducted, must be meaningful, that is, they may not be misleading and must identify proposal deficiencies and significant weaknesses that could reasonably be addressed in a manner to materially enhance the offeror’s potential for receiving award. However, this requirement does not mean that agencies must discuss every element of an offeror’s proposal that receives less than the maximum rating when such elements are reasonably subsumed within a more general area of the proposal that has been identified as requiring amplification or correction. Consistent with this principle, an agency is not required to describe how the offeror should revise its proposal to cure an existing weakness or defect. Rather, agencies need only lead offerors into the areas of their proposals that require correction or amplification.
The Air Force’s discussions with CLF were unobjectionable. CLF was advised of the agency’s specific concerns–that its initially proposed number of CSAs was considered inadequate both in comparison to the mean number of CSAs proposed by the offerors, that CLF proposed staffing the service desk with only [REDACTED], and that CLF failed to account for demand during peak duty hours. While the agency also could have specified the periods of the contract during which CLF’s proposed CSA staffing fell below 10% of the mean of the proposed staffing among offerors, there was no requirement for such higher level of specificity; the information provided clearly was sufficient to lead the protester into the area of concern. Further, as for the protester’s suggestion that the agency should have advised it of the time periods for which its CSA staffing was acceptable but not optimal, there is no requirement for an agency to advise an offeror of areas of its proposal that are viewed as adequately staffed. In any case, it is not apparent that any lack of further detail in connection with EN-08-R-0005-Croop-0008 was prejudicial. CLF specifically justified the initial addition of [REDACTED] CSAs as –eliminat[ing] the Government’s perceived risk of [REDACTED] manning the service desk negatively impacting performance delivery, — that is, on the basis of the concern raised in EN-08-R-0005-Croop-0005, not on the basis of any lack of detail in EN-08-R-0005-Croop-0008. Likewise, CLF justified the subsequent addition of [REDACTED] additional CSAs as an acknowledgment of the historical workload at WPAFB, as set forth in the solicitation, and of the agency’s desire for a superior service level and need to minimize risk during the contemplated IT transformation, rather than on the basis comparison with the mean of the proposed staffing among offerors referenced in EN-08-R-0005-Croop-0008. We will not sustain a protest absent a showing of competitive prejudice. The protests are denied.