Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: General Services Administration
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Technical Evaluation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: An agency may properly downgrade an offeror’s technical proposal more than once for a the same deficiency as long as the deficiency reasonably relates to more than one evaluation criterion.
SelectTech Services Corporation (SelectTech) protests the award of a contract by the General Services Administration (GSA) on behalf of the Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Vehicles Directorate, Structures Division (AFRL/RBS), pursuant to a request for proposals (RFP), for research and development structural test services for the AFRL/RBS.
The RFP was issued as a small business set-aside, and contemplated the award of a hybrid firm fixed-price labor and optional time and material labor hour contract for a base year with four one-year options. The RFP stated that the award would be made on a best value basis, considering price and the following evaluation factors: technical expertise/staffing plan; past performance/capabilities; and technical approach. Under the technical expertise/staffing plan factor, the RFP required offerors to provide a complete staffing approach that identified the personnel resources and skill sets available to fulfill the RFP Performance Work Statement (PWS) requirements. Under the past performance/capabilities factor, the RFP required offerors to describe three past projects with sufficient detail “to determine the relevance of the reference to the subject requirement.” Under the technical approach factor, there was a methodology subfactor for which offerors were required to “include a description of how the technical approach and analytical techniques will be applied to accomplish each of the requirements identified in the PWS.” The agency found that the awardee’s highly acceptable proposal represented superior value to SelectTech’s minimally acceptable proposal, and that this outweighed SelectTech’s 12% lower price.
SelectTech challenges the agency’s evaluation. GAO states that the evaluation of an offeror’s proposal is a matter largely within the agency’s discretion. In reviewing a protest that challenges an agency’s evaluation of proposal, GAO will not reevaluate the proposals, but rather 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. 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.
SelectTech challenges the agency’s conclusion that its proposal was significantly deficient under the technical expertise/staffing plan factor because it did not adequately demonstrate how the company intended to provide increased labor on short notice. While SelectTech did name “industry partners” in its proposal, the record shows that it failed to provide any information regarding formal partnering arrangements, and that its proposal lacked detail about the “working relationship” with industry partners that would ensure the provision of necessary labor at short notice. Based on a review of the record, GAO finds that the agency’s evaluation conclusions here were reasonably based.
The protester also contests its minimally acceptable rating under the technical approach factor. This rating was primarily based upon the agency’s conclusion that SelectTech provided insufficient details in its proposal regarding its technical approach. Based on GAO’s review of the record, GAO found that the agency could reasonably reach this conclusion. Under this factor, the agency also downgraded SelectTech’s proposal because it failed to identify reach-back capability within its own company’s pool of resources and did not formally align itself with an industry partner. GAO states that an agency may properly downgrade an offeror more than once for a single deficiency so long as the deficiency reasonably relate to more than one evaluation criterion. In this case, the identified weakness reasonably relates to the technical expertise/staffing plan factor as well as the technical approach factor. The protest is denied.