Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Navy
Disposition: Protest denied.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
GAO denies the protest of Wyle Laboratories, Inc., based on the issuance of a task order to Imagine One Technology & Management, Ltd., under a task order request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of the Navy, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, for program management and engineering services.
The RFP, issued on March 1, 2012, contemplated the issuance of a cost-plus-fixed-fee task order for a one-year base period together with two one-year options. The RFP established three evaluation factors in descending order of importance: technical; past performance; and cost.The technical factor in turn consisted of three subfactors, also in descending order of importance: understanding of the work; workforce; and management plan. Task order issuance was to be made to the offeror whose proposal represented the “best value” to the government, all factors considered.
Wyle’s protest raised numerous issues regarding the Navy’s evaluation of the offerors’ proposals. The protester alleges that the agency’s evaluation of Wyle’s technical proposal was improper. Wyle also argued that the Navy’s cost realism review of Imagine One’s proposal was unreasonable. The protester next contended that the Navy treated offerors disparately regarding a subcontractor’s organizational conflict of interest (OCI). Lastly, Wyle alleged that the Navy’s source selection determination was improper.
As to the first argument, GAO found the Navy’s evaluation of Wyle’s technical proposal to be reasonable. Wyle did not dispute any of the TET’s findings (i.e., strengths, weaknesses, deficiencies) regarding its proposal under the workforce and management plan subfactors. Based on the findings, the Navy evaluators reasonably concluded on each occasion that Wyle’s proposal indicated a thorough approach and understanding of the work, that the risk of unsuccessful performance was low, and that a rating of good was warranted. GAO found this to be consistent with the evaluation rating scheme set forth in the RFP. There is also no legal requirement, noted GAO, that an agency must award the highest possible rating, or the maximum point score, under an evaluation factor simply because the proposal contains strengths and/or is not evaluated as having any weaknesses. Moreover, the record demonstrated that the Navy’s evaluation of Wyle’s proposal regarding what constituted an outstanding proposal was not disparate, but consistent with its treatment of Imagine One’s proposal. In sum, Wyle’s belief that the few identified strengths associated with its proposal warranted an outstanding rating amounted to mere disagreement with the agency’s evaluation of proposals, which did not provide a basis on which to sustain the protest.
As for the cost realism argument, GAO found that the Navy’s cost realism evaluation of Imagine One’s proposal was reasonable. The record demonstrated that the Navy analyzed both the direct and indirect rates that Imagine One proposed as well as the sufficiency of the supporting information. Imagine One (and its subcontractors) provided certified payroll verification for each current employee proposed. The Navy generally determined that such certified payroll records established that Imagine One’s proposed labor rates were realistic. The Navy also assessed the realism of Imagine One’s proposed labor rates for prospective employees, and made adjustments in each instance where the labor rates were found to be unrealistically low. Given the soundness and reasonableness of the agency’s cost realism evaluation, GAO rejected Wyle’s contention that Imagine One’s costs were unrealistic simply because the firm’s proposed costs were lower than the IGCE and Wyle’s proposed costs.
GAO concluded that there was no merit in Wyle’s assertion of disparate treatment. In 2010, the Navy determined that, its subcontractor J.F. Taylor’s OCI prohibited its participation in other procurements, regardless of who proposed the company. In 2012, the Navy determined that J.F. Taylor’s previous OCI did not preclude its participation in the subject procurement, regardless of who proposed the company. The fact that Imagine One proposed J.F. Taylor as a subcontractor under the subject solicitation, but Wyle mistakenly assumed that it could not propose J.F. Taylor as a teammate, did not constitute disparate treatment on the part of the agency, GAO stated.
Wyle argued that the agency improperly converted the basis for issuing the task order here from best value to lowest-cost, technically acceptable. However, GAO found that the record demonstrated here, the SSA received an extensive preaward briefing describing the respective strengths and weaknesses of both offerors. In comparing the proposals, the SSA’s award determination summarized these strengths and weaknesses. In considering the features of the technical proposals, the SSA stated that she found the proposals to be relatively equal except for the workforce subfactor, where Wyle’s proposal was superior to that of Imagine One’s proposal. The SSA concluded, however, that the slight technical advantage of Wyle’s proposal did not outweigh the significant cost advantage of Imagine One’s proposal. From the discussion in source selection decision, it is clear the SSA made a qualitative assessment of the technical proposals as part of her award determination. There is no basis to conclude that this determination was inconsistent with the solicitation’s best value methodology.