Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Air Force
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Past Performance;
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Disagreement with an agency’s evaluation of past performance without more to show unreasonableness on the part of the agency is not enough for GAO to disturb an agency decision.
GAO denies the protest of Vital Link, Inc. under a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of the Air Force for the relocation, and repair/refurbishment of two A/F32T-9 (T-9) noise suppressors and the fabrication and installation of thrust frames and testing systems within each T-9.
Vital Link challenges the Air Force’s evaluation of the awardee’s past performance specifically arguing that the agency’s determination that the awardee’s prior contracts were relevant did not comport with the terms of the solicitation. According to Vital Link, the RFP established two definitions of relevant contracts. First, the solicitation required relevant past performance for relocation (disassembly, remanufacturing/repair, shipping and reassembly) of T-9 noise suppressors or similar jet engine test cells. Second, the solicitation required relevant past performance for the fabrication and installation of thrust frames, monorails, and hoists, specifically for T-9 noise suppressors. GAO states that where a solicitation calls for the evaluation of past performance, it will examine the record to ensure that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation and procurement statutes and regulations. Additionally, where, as here, a protester and agency disagree over the meaning of solicitation language, GAO will resolve the matter by reading the solicitation as a whole and in a manner that reasonably gives effect to all its provisions. GAO will not read a provision restrictively where it is not clear from the solicitation that such a restrictive interpretation was intended by the agency.
While the RFP did include the language referenced by the protester in support of its position, it also included other provisions that make it clear the agency intended to assess the degree of relevancy of an offeror’s past performance. As noted, the RFP included provisions defining the degree of relevance of an offeror’s past performance ranging from “very relevant” to “not relevant.” If, as asserted by the protester, the agency intended to confine its consideration of an offeror’s past performance exclusively to those contracts that included the specific attributes identified in the language relied on by the protester, these definitions of relevancy would be superfluous. Further, the RFP specified that the agency would consider not only contracts that were the same as the requirements of the RFP, but also those that included work that was similar to the requirements of the RFP. Finally, even the language relied on by the protester is not exclusive; rather, it identifies relevant past performance as “including” the performance attributes listed in the provision, but does not exclude consideration of other performance attributes as relevant. The record also shows that the agency’s evaluators gave careful consideration to the contracts included by the awardee in its proposal for both it and its subcontractor, and specifically compared the relevance of the performance attributes in those contracts to the requirements of the RFP. In sum, the record shows that the agency’s evaluators gave careful consideration to the specific performance attributes reflected in the past performance examples included by the awardee in its proposal, and made reasonable judgments concerning the comparative relevance of those performance attributes to the work required under the RFP. Vital Link has not demonstrated that these judgments were unreasonable, but simply disagrees with the agency’s conclusions by relying on an unreasonably narrow definition of relevance. Such disagreement, without more, is inadequate to show that the agency’s evaluation was unreasonable. The protest is denied.