Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Six3 Systems, Inc.
Agency: Defense Intelligence Agency
Disposition: Protest Denied.
- Protest that agency unreasonably and unequally evaluated proposals is denied where record reflects that evaluation was reasonable and consistent with solicitation’s evaluation criteria and that differences in evaluation did not result from unequal treatment.
- Agency decision not to include protester’s lower-priced, marginal-rated proposal in best value tradeoff is unobjectionable where solicitation adequately advised offerors that marginal rating may render proposal ineligible for award.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Six3 Systems, Inc. protested the non-selection of its proposal under an RFP for intelligence analysis support and related services. The RFP had contemplated award of multiple ID/IQ contracts on a best value basis considering multiple factors and subfactors, with the corporate security factor being evaluated on a pass/fail basis. The SSAC determined that all offerors with a rating of marginal for any non-cost/price factor or subfactor did not demonstrate an adequate approach and understanding of the solicitation’s requirements and/or did not meet the minimum requirements of the SOW. After conducting a tradeoff analysis which did not include any offerors receiving a marginal rating, the SSAC recommended making award to eleven offerors. Six3 offered a price lower than six of the awardees, but had received a marginal rating under the PMP and personnel security subfactors.
The GAO found no reason to question the agency’s assessment of weaknesses to Six3’s proposal for lack of detail regarding quality control and management plans, pointing out that the agency informed offerors through Q&As that such plans could be attached as appendices to the proposal. It noted that Six3 clearly understood it could attach supporting documentation as appendices without exceeding the thirty page limit on the technical/management capability volume, as Six3 had attached key personnel resumes as an appendix. The GAO disagreed with Six3 that the agency’s assignment of marginal ratings under subfactors for which Six3 did not receive any significant weaknesses deviated from the solicitation’s evaluation rating definitions. It found nothing unreasonable about the agency’s conclusions that the weaknesses in Six3’s proposal, and the absence of any offsetting strengths, warranted ratings of marginal.
Six3 then alleged that the agency evaluated its proposal unequally relative to several of the awardees’ proposals under the PMP and personnel security subfactors, pointing out that, although Six3 included some of the same features as the awardees’ proposals, yet only the awardees received strengths for those features. The GAO disagreed, finding that the record showed that the proposals to which the strengths were assigned included a very high level of detail and, in some cases, additional features that Six3 did not allege were included in its own proposal. The GAO rejected the argument that the agency unreasonably determined to make award without holding discussions. Finally, the GAO found reasonable the agency’s tradeoff analysis, noting that the agency documented its determination to eliminate from consideration for award proposals receiving a rating of marginal, and that the solicitation effectively informed offerors that ratings of acceptable or higher may be necessary for a proposal to be considered for award.
Offerors should always monitor any answers received from the agency in response to questions asked by other offerors. The agency may provide essential guidance regarding proposal format that will allow offerors to better prepare their response to the solicitation. If offerors are given the opportunity to expand on certain aspects of their proposal through the inclusion of appendices, they should carefully consider whether appendices will allow them to provide greater detail about quality control plans that they would otherwise only be able to describe in partial detail in the proposal.