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Pre and Post Award Bid Protest

DOJ Contracts for IT Support Protested by Multiple Contractors

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Qbase, LLC, Perspecta Enterprise Solutions, LLC, and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, protested the award of indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts under a request for proposal (RFP) by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for information technology support services.  They asserted the DOJ unequally and unreasonably evaluated proposals after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained a prior protest.  They argued the agency unequally and improperly conducted discussions and failed to properly consider price in the best-value tradeoff determination.

Background

In February 2017, DOJ issued an RFP seeking contractor assistance for its Information Technology Support Services-5 (ITSS-5) program.  The period of performance was to be from the date of award through September 2022 with a 5-year option.  The agency anticipated awarding 15 contracts: six contracts on an unrestricted basis and nine to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

In December 2019, DOJ awarded contracts to AceInfo, NTT, BAH, SRA, AND CACI.  This was followed by protests by MetroStar and Perspecta.  In April 2020, MetroStar’s protest was sustained while Perspecta’s protest was denied.  GAO concluded DOJ improperly credited SRA and BAH with meeting the ISO 9001 certifications requirement.  It found the agency unreasonably credited CACI with corporate experience and past performance of affiliated entities.  It also discovered the agency made several non-prejudicial errors in its evaluation fo the proposals of Perspecta, BAH, NTT, SRA, and CACI.  The DOJ reevaluated portions of the proposals and reviewed evaluation errors identified by GAO.  The agency awarded contracts to the seven highest-rated offerors: SRA, AceInfo, NTT, BAH, CACI, BAE, and MetroStar.

ISO 9001 Certification

The protesters challenged exchanges DOJ made between BAH and SRA with regards to the certifications included in their proposals.  GAO concluded the agency unreasonably determined both contractors provided the ISO 9001 certification required by the RFP.  It found no evidence either of their proposals had an ISO 9001 certification at the time of its proposal submission.

Corporate Experience and Past Performance

Perspecta and Northrop challenged DOJ’s reevaluation of CACI’s corporate experience and past performance.  They asserted DOJ should have disqualified CACI because it failed to meet material RFP requirements.  The RFP required the offeror to provide three “directly relevant past or present references” in the corporate experience section of its proposal.  The solicitation also required the agency receive fie past performance questionnaires for the prime offeror.  Perspecta and Northrop argued CACI’s proposal should have been disqualified for failure to meet these requirements.

GAO stated DOJ reasonably accounted for DOJ’s by downgrading CACI’s past performance rating.  It found this consistent with the solicitation.  The solicitation stated the failure of an offeror’s references to submit the past performance questionnaire “may result in the inability of the government to evaluate an offeror’s past performance and may affect the overall evaluation.”  GAO found the solicitation did not require the agency to disqualify the offeror for this failure.

GAO found the agency reasonably determined the incumbent ITSS contract met the functional areas of the statement of work and demonstrated high quality experience.  DOJ considered CACI’s risks by providing only one relevant reference, but concluded the strengths outweighed the risks and weaknesses and granted its corporate experience a very good rating.  GAO found this conclusion reasonable due to CACI’s depth and breadth of experience on “projects similar in size, scope, and complexity to the requirements specified in the RFP…”

Evaluation of Northrop

GAO found two of Northrop’s challenges had merit.  Northrop argued it should have received a major strength under the sample task order one subfactor for proposing personnel would be available on the first day of the contract.  It asserted DOJ’s failure to assign such a strength amount to disparate treatment because MetroStar and NTT received major strength for the same proposal.  DOJ disagreed, stating Northrop’s proposal pledged a 60-day transition period.  GAO found no evidence in the record to suggest this was reason was warranted.  It found the agency did not reasonably explain its disparate evaluation treatment.

Failure to Re-evaluate Protesters’ Proposals

Perspecta asserted that to implement GAO’s recommended action and make a reasonable revised best-value determination, DOJ was required to correct evaluation errors identified in Perspecta and MetroStar decisions.  Perspecta asserted the agency errors that were not found to prejudice Perspecta with the award decision were prejudicial to the revised award decision.  It argued DOJ should have reevaluated Perspecta’s proposal.  Qbase and Northrop argued DOJ’s failure to reevaluate their proposals rendered their best-value determination unreasonable.  GAO rejected the protesters’ argument.  It stated the details of implementing recommendations of its Office are within the discretion and judgment of the contracting agency. 

Best Value Determination

Protester’s argued the agency’s tradeoff analysis was unreasonable due to the agency’s failure to conduct a tradeoff between lower-priced, technically acceptable proposals and higher-priced, higher-rated technical proposals.  They asserted the DOJ failed to consider price in its tradeoff analysis.  GAO noted the record showed DOJ performed a mechanical tradeoff based on adjectival ratings, “excluded technically acceptable proposals without any consideration of the price of those proposals, and, in general, did not meaningfully consider price.”  GAO sustained the protesters challenges to the tradeoff analysis.

Conclusion

GAO concluded had the DOJ compared the technical strengths and weaknesses of the proposals and considered price in its best-value tradeoff decision, it may have selected one or more of the protesters’ proposals. It found DOJ’s phase two evaluation of Northrop’s proposal was unreasonable.  It found the agency’s best-value determination was unreasonable and prejudicial to Qbase, Perspecta, and Northrop.  GAO recommended DOJ reevaluate Northrop’s proposal, conduct and document a new best-value tradeoff analysis of the phase two proposals, and prepare a new source selection decision. 

About the AuthorRaymundo Ribota

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