Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Unisys Corporation
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Disposition: Protest Denied.
- Agency’s discussions were not misleading where the agency advised the protester that it believed the protester’s proposed staffing was insufficient, further advised the protester that it had provided no justification for the staffing level it proposed, and finally noted that protester had not proposed any automation tools that might lead to staffing efficiencies.
- Agency’s discussions were not unequal where the agency tailored the discussions to each offeror’s proposal and, similar to the questions presented to the protester, the agency identified various aspects of the awardee’s proposal that appeared to be inadequately staffed.
- Protester’s complaints regarding the agency’s evaluation of both protester’s and awardee’s technical proposals reflect mere disagreement with the agency’s various judgments and provide no basis for sustaining the protest.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Unisys Corporation protested the award to HP Enterprise Services, LLC of a task order to provide information technology (IT) services for the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The request for task order proposals (RFTOP) sought to combine services that were currently being provided separately by three teams working with CDC’s legacy IT systems. Four offers were received, with Unisys and HP both proposing staffing levels below the government’s estimate. The agency specifically questioned aspects of both Unisys and HP’s staffing approaches during discussions. In response, Unisys increased its total proposed labor hours and increased its price; HP defended its proposed staffing approach, with its revised proposal differing little from its original proposal.
The GAO first disagreed with Unisys that the agency had “induced” it to “needlessly” increase its proposed staffing levels. The GAO noted that the weaknesses assigned to Unisys’s initial proposal detailed concerns regarding Unisys’s proposed reduction in FTEs over the life of the contract and the failure of Unisys to explain how it intended to fulfill the contract requirements with its lower staffing levels. The GAO further disagreed that the agency treated offerors unequally with regard to discussions, pointing out that the agency did in fact question HP’s proposed staffing levels as well. The GAO found nothing unreasonable in the agency’s identification of various weaknesses in Unisys’s technical approach, finding the record adequately supported the agency’s conclusion that Unisys failed to show the requisite level of understanding of the PWS requirements. Finally, the GAO declined to sustain the argument that the agency’s evaluation of HP’s proposal and best value determination were unreasonable, finding that Unisys’s assertions were merely disagreements with the agency’s judgment.
Offerors bear the burden of submitting adequately written proposals that comply with all requirements in the RFTOP. Where the RFTOP seeks to combine multiple services into a single contract, offerors must ensure that they address each needed service fully. Incumbents currently performing one of the services being combined must be careful to address each service, rather than focus on the service with which they are familiar. If an offeror chooses to focus more on a particular service, it must thoroughly explain why that focused approach will satisfy the needs of the agency. Failure to provide sufficient detail may lead to the assessment of weaknesses or deficiencies to that firm’s proposal.