Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Navy
Disposition: Protest denied.
Protest challenging agency’s acceptance of a letter of commitment from the owner of a cargo vessel as evidence that the awardee had secured a commitment for the vessel is denied where the solicitation did not specify the evidence required, and the record shows that the contracting officer’s determination was reasonable.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
This single issue is whether the Navy reasonably concluded that Sealift’s letter of commitment satisfied the solicitation requirement that asked for proof, acceptable to the Contracting Officer (CO), that the true owner commits that the vessel will be provided, if the offeror is awarded the contract. GAO states that in reviewing a protest of an agency’s evaluation of proposals, GAO 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 evaluation of offerors’ proposals does not establish that the evaluation was unreasonable.
TransAtlantic argues that Sealift’s letter of commitment did not meet the requirements of the solicitation because it merely stated that the awardee had the “exclusive right to offer” the vessel. The agency reasonably concluded that Sealift’s letter met the solicitation’s requirements. The RFP simply stated that offerors must provide proof acceptable to the CO that the offeror has the right to tender the proposed vessel, which gave the CO broad discretion to accept an offeror’s representation that it had the required commitment. Additionally, the CO reasonably concluded that Sealift’s letter granting it an “exclusive right to offer” the vessel met the requirements of the RFP.
TransAtlantic argues that certain documents it obtained during this protest indicate that Sealift did not have a firm commitment to provide the vessel, because the vessel was simultaneously being offered for sale. GAO notes that these matters were not before the CO during the procurement, and there is no evidence the CO was aware of them prior to award. Thus, the issue is whether, in light of this information, Sealift’s proposal misrepresented the commitment by the owners of the vessel. In GAO’s view, the offer for sale of the vessel was not inconsistent with Sealift’s letter of commitment. This decision continues to show the requirement for offerors is only to meet the letter of the solicitation, nothing more is required.