Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Tetra Tech EC, Inc.
Agency: Department of the Army
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Protest that the agency improperly evaluated the awardee’s proposal is denied where the record shows that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation.
General Counsel PC:
Tetra Tech EC, Inc. protested the award to Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc. of a contract for environmental cleanup services at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Commerce City, Colorado. Award was to be made on a best value basis considering management, technical, cost/price, and performance risk evaluation factors, with management being more important than any other area. The SSEB initially recommended Tetra Tech for award. However, when the SSEB and SSAC were requested to identify those distinguishing characteristics of Tetra Tech’s proposal that would provide such benefit as to offset its higher cost, they were unable to identify tangible benefits warranting the higher cost.
The GAO found no basis to question the agency’s evaluation of Navarro’s most probable cost. It agreed with the agency that, given Navarro’s commitment in its revised proposal that it would not apply G&A to subcontractor and other reimbursable costs, there was no basis for concluding that the government in fact would incur any such G&A costs. The GAO disagreed that the agency had failed to consider the effect on Navarro’s probable costs resulting from Navarro reducing the level of direct productive labor hours from its original proposal to its final proposal. The GAO then found that the protestor’s argument regarding Navarro’s alleged failure to comply with the solicitation provision requiring calculation of a “certified fixed burden rate” was based on an unreasonable interpretation of the solicitation. It agreed instead with the agency’s interpretation that the parenthetical phrase “subject to audit” simply advised offerors that their calculated rates should be supportable according to government contracting standards.
In conducting cost/technical tradeoff analyses, the agency has discretion in determining the manner and extent to which they make use of technical and cost evaluation results. The GAO is unlikely to disagree with the agency’s decision so long as it is rational and consistent with the evaluation criteria. Disappointed offerors should request a debriefing so as to better understand the process by which the agency conducted its tradeoff. If the agency did not make a meaningful qualitative assessment of the technical differences between proposals before making award to a higher priced offeror, there may be sustainable grounds to protest. However, the agency may reasonably determine that a higher-priced offer does not offer sufficient technical superiority to justify the higher cost.