Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Air Force
Disposition: Protest sustained.
Keywords: Experience Requirement
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: When a protester challenges an RFP specification as unduly restrictive, the procuring agency has the responsibility of establishing that the specification is reasonably necessary to meet its needs. GAO will examine the adequacy of the agency’s justification for a restrictive solicitation provision to ensure that it is rational and can withstand logical scrutiny.
Total Health Resources protests the terms of a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of the Air Force for family advocacy program (FAP) services.
The RFP, issued as a commercial item acquisition set aside for section 8(a) small business firms, provided for the award of a fixed-price contract for family and community health services at 21 Air Force bases across the western and southwestern United States. Award would be made on a best value basis, considering technical capability and price. The RFP stated that offerors must show two years of experience providing FAP services to be technically acceptable. The agency subsequently amended the solicitation to require that, where an offeror proposes a prime/subcontractor teaming arrangement, the prime contractor itself must have two years of FAP experience. Total Health protests that the RFP’s requirement for two years of experience providing FAP services at the prime contractor level unduly restricts competition, particularly among section 8(a) firms.
GAO states that in preparing a solicitation, a contracting agency is required to specify its needs in a manner designed to achieve full and open competition, and may include restrictive requirements only to the extent necessary to satisfy the agency’s legitimate needs. The experience of a technically qualified subcontractor may be used to satisfy experience requirements for a prospective prime contractor. However, consistent with its solicitation, an agency may consider only the offeror’s experience if the agency has legitimate reasons for concluding that the successful offeror itself must possess the relevant experience in order to ensure successful performance of the contract.
Additionally, where a protester challenges a specification as unduly restrictive, the procuring agency has the responsibility of establishing that the specification is reasonably necessary to meet its needs. GAO will examine the adequacy of the agency’s justification for a restrictive solicitation provision to ensure that it is rational and can withstand logical scrutiny.
Here, despite specific inquiry from GAO, the agency does not address why the two-year, FAP experience requirement cannot be satisfied by proposing a subcontractor or other teaming member. The agency’s arguments and explanation address only the importance of the FAP program and the need for an experience requirement. Given the agency’s failure to explain why its experience requirements cannot be satisfied by a subcontractor or other teaming partner, GAO finds that the RFP’s requirement that the prime contractor have two years of FAP experience is unduly restrictive of competition. The protest is sustained.