Evergreen JV protested the evaluation and non-selection of its statement of qualifications for negotiation issued by the Department of the Air Force for architect/engineering (A/E) services. Evergreen asserted the Air Force’s evaluation was unreasonable and was not supported by the record.
A/E procurements are conducted pursuant to procedures established by the Selection of Architects and Engineers Statute. These procedures are implemented by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Under these procedures, an agency issues a synopsis that functions as a traditional solicitation. An evaluation board conducts discussions with the three most highly qualified firms regarding “the anticipated concepts and relative utility of alternative methods of furnishing the required services." After discussions, the evaluation board recommends at least three firms. The selection authority makes the final section decision.
In July 2019, the Air Force issued a synopsis for A/E services for the support of “military construction; sustainment, restoration, and modernization; and foreign military sales programs.” The synopsis was for the award of indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts, each with a 5-year base period and 5-year option period, and with a total program ceiling of $2 billion.
Evergreen filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) after it was not selected. In response, The Air Force filed a notice of corrective action stating it would reevaluate the statements of qualifications. After reevaluation, Evergreen was not selected for the second time.
The Air Forced asserted it properly found Evergreen was not one of the most highly qualified firms and stated the evaluation of the qualification statements was conducted according to FAR and the evaluation method described in the synopsis. The GAO noted it would not substitute its judgment for that of the agency evaluators, and instead would question the agency’s conclusions that are inconsistent with the synopsis criteria or applicable procurement statutes and regulations.
Specialized Experience and Technical Qualifications
Evergreen asserted there was no indication the agency considered the elements of the firm’s statement of qualifications. It argued the Air Force failed to perform a qualitative assessment and only performed a quantitative and mechanical comparison of qualification statements. The Air Force disagreed. It argued that it performed a “subjective, thorough and comprehensive evaluation of Evergreen’s statement of qualifications in accordance with the Synopsis and FAR 36.6.”
The evaluation report states Evergreen provided six project examples and documents crediting it with meeting 13 elements for greater consideration across all relevant projects submitted.
The synopsis stated greater consideration may be given to offerors showing “a greater extent and breadth of experience in a variety of relevant projects.” It noted the Air Force considered this experience, by counting the number of occurrences for an element in the projects provided by the offeror. The GAO found the counting of instances was not of “greater extent and breadth” of each offeror’s experience in each of the projects. It agreed with Evergreen’s argument there was nothing in the record that showed the Air Force “considered the quality or strength of the instances where the firm demonstrated experience with a project. It concluded the mechanical comparison, without a qualitative comparison of offerors, is not reasonably based.
Evergreen asserted the Air Force’s evaluation of the firm’s statement of qualifications was unreasonable. It argued that rather than evaluating its compliance with elements of the professional qualifications criterion, the agency evaluated it based on a “pass/fail” basis. It only considered whether Evergreen met the respective element’s minimum requirements. It argued that had the agency evaluated the extent to which Evergreen exceeded the minimum requirements, it would have had a greater chance of being rated as one of the most highly qualified firms.
The GAO stated that where a solicitation showed the agency would evaluate the “extent” a proposal meets a requirement, offerors could expect that a proposal exceeding the agency’s minimum requirements would gain a more favorable evaluation than one that met the minimum requirements. It noted the synopsis did not state the agency would consider relevant experience, professional licenses/certifications; education/training, and longevity with their firm, for each person. The GAO concluded the synopsis required the agency to make a qualitative assessment under the professional qualifications criterion and found the agency failed to do so.
The synopsis stated the agency would consider “the extent and breadth of relevant experience.” According to the synopsis, all key personnel were required to have at least 10 years of experience in their respective disciplines. Evergreen argued the experience of its key personnel exceeded the minimum requirements but was only credited with meeting the minimum requirements. It stated its program manager had 39 years of experience, the lead project manager had 21 years of experience, and all of the other key personnel exceeded the minimum 10-years requirement. The Air Force argued the synopsis did not state additional consideration would be given to offerors with experience beyond the 10-year requirement. The GAO found this contrary to the terms of the synopsis and unreasonable.
The GAO sustained Evergreen’s protest. It concluded the Air Force’s evaluation of Evergreen’s statement of qualifications was inconsistent with the evaluation criteria in the synopsis. It recommended the Air Force reevaluate statements of qualification consistent with the synopsis and make a new selection of offerors for negotiation.
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