Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of State
Disposition: Protest denied.
Protest challenging the issuance of a task order to a higher technically rated, higher-priced offeror is denied where the task order request provided that technical merit was more important than price and the evaluation record provides a reasonable basis for the selection decision.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
GAO denies the protest of Trusted Base, LLC regarding the issuance of a task order to AGTech, LLC, by the Department of State (DOS), Bureau of Information Resource Management, for consolidated technical operations and maintenance (O&M) support services in DOS’s Enterprise Server Operations Center (ESOC). The task order was issued pursuant to a multiple award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract known as the Hybrid Information Technology Services for State (HITSS) contract.
Trusted Base complains that DOS misevaluated its proposal under every evaluation factor. GAO states that in reviewing protests of alleged improper evaluations, it is not GAO’s role to reevaluate proposals. Rather, GAO will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and in accord with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement laws and regulations. A protester’s mere disagreement with the agency’s judgment does not establish that an evaluation was unreasonable. GAO has reviewed all of Trusted Base’s arguments and finds that none have merit.
Trusted Base first asserts that its proposal was impermissibly downgraded under the understanding of the requirements and technical approach evaluation factor. The protester complains that it was penalized for failing to adequately address the approach/knowledge of office administrative support evaluation subfactor, even though this subfactor had been deleted from the evaluation scheme. Although DOS agrees that this evaluation subfactor was deleted and acknowledges that despite its deletion the subfactor remained on the previously-prepared evaluation materials, it explains that its concern was that the protester, unlike the awardee, did not propose any full time equivalents (FTEs) for the [deleted] position, a staffing requirement set forth in the task order requests (TOR) Service Offering Estimate. Thus, in the agency’s view, it was not Trusted Base’s failure to discuss its general approach to, or knowledge of, office administrative support that resulted in the assessment of a weakness in Trusted Base’s proposal. Rather, it was the omission of an important position. The agency notes in this regard that this omission raised concerns about the firm’s understanding of the comprehensive TOR staffing requirements. While the record shows that Trusted Base’s proposal explained that its [deleted] support, GAO does not think it was unreasonable for the agency to be concerned about the proposal’s failure to address the requirement for a [deleted]. In addition, this position was specifically identified as a requirement in the TOR, and in other areas the agency found that other aspects of Trusted Base’s proposed staffing indicated a lack of understanding of the TOR’s comprehensive requirements. To the extent the protester believes that the information in its proposal explaining how it would use its [deleted] (a position not usually associated with [deleted]) should have addressed the agency’s concerns, the protester is simply disagreeing with the agency’s judgment; the protester’s disagreement does not make the agency’s concerns unreasonable.
Next, Trusted Base asserts that its proposal should have received higher point scores under the second and third evaluation factors, knowledge of the customer organization and past performance. In GAO’s view, the protester’s arguments are unconvincing. The number of strengths, deficiencies, or weaknesses identified in an offeror’s proposal does not dictate what overall point score a proposal receives. The contemporaneous evaluation record shows that the agency appropriately and qualitatively, rather than mechanically, evaluated the firms’ proposals under each evaluation factor and, based upon that evaluation, identified differing strengths, weaknesses and deficiencies. Thus, the agency’s evaluation went beyond the assigned numerical scores to consider the specifics of each proposal to determine that the awardee’s proposal was qualitatively superior to the proposal submitted by Trusted Base.
Finally, Trusted Base alleges that the consensus evaluation ratings were inadequate, given the inconsistent individual narratives and scores. Specifically, the protester argues that the consensus ratings are not supported by any narrative to explain the basis for these ratings; they are simply the result of averaging the individual evaluator’s scores. While the protester correctly notes that the consensus scores here are, in fact, averages of the scores assigned by each of the individual evaluators, the fact remains that each of the evaluators signed the consensus report that was prepared for the CO. Specifically, despite the mathematical nature of arriving at a consensus rating, there is no evidence in the record to suggest that the report reflects anything other than their consensus. More importantly, since point scores are merely a guide to intelligent decision-making, the CO’s cost/technical tradeoff and award justification here adequately details the strengths and weaknesses that formed the basis for the selection decision. As a result, GAO sees nothing unreasonable about this evaluation. The protest is denied.