The protest season is officially open for GSA’s OASIS contract. Ten companies so far have filed protests because they were not included in the pool of 123 contracts that went to small businesses.
OASIS is GSA’s 10-year, $60 billion contract for high-end professional services. So far GSA has only awarded contracts for the small-business portion of the contract.
Awards to large businesses are expected by the end of the month or very early in April.
It’s no surprise that protests have been filed. They are a familiar part of the landscape these days, particularly with these large, governmentwide task order contracts.
The ten protestors so far are:
- North Star Group LLC: Filed Feb. 28. Decision due June 9.
- ADNET Systems Inc.: Filed Feb. 28. Decision due June 9.
- Futron Inc.: Filed March 4. Decision due June 12.
- OST Inc.: Filed March 4. Decision due June 12.
- Planned Systems International: Filed March 5. Decision due June 13.
- Gauss Management Research & Engineering Inc.: Filed March 5. Decision due June 13.
- Enterprise Information Systems: Filed March 6. Decision due June 16.
- Technical Professional Services: Filed March 6. Decision due June 16.
- Innovim LLC: Filed March 6. Decision due June 16.
- Unified Business Technologies: Filed March 6. Decision due June 16.
- Integral Consulting Services: Filed March 6. Decision due June 16.
Generally, these kinds of protests include an automatic stay, which would stop GSA from proceeding with task orders under the contract.
What happens from here will depend on GSA. The agency can decide to fight the protests, which means the soonest the resolution can come is June after GAO makes its decision. But a June resolution in this case would mean that GAO ruled in favor of GSA.
GSA also has the choice to withdraw its awards and re-evaluate the bids, which would also add several months to the contract getting off the ground. And unless the re-evaluation results in awards to all bidders, GSA would still be open to protests.
If GAO rules against GSA, the delays could be even longer, depending on what GAO wants GSA to do.
So, the best-case scenario is that the protests are resolved by June, and the worst case is that it’ll be late summer or the fall before everything is resolved.
We’ll know more in about 30 days, which is the deadline for GSA to file its response. If GSA decides to pull back awards and re-evaluate bids, GAO will dismiss the protests.
"GSA is confident that the OASIS [small business] award protests filed with GAO and GSA will be dismissed or resolved in a timely fashion," a spokeswoman said in a statement. "And that the agency will be able to issue notices to proceed for the pools affected by protests as soon as is possible."
We should also expect protests of the large business awards once they come out.
The merry-go-round just keeps on turning.
Posted on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:42 PM0 comments
The Government Accountability Office decision that supported FDA’s award to Lockheed Martin of a task order for database and application work offers some good pointers on what to include in your response to a solicitation.
In reading the decision, it appears the two protesters Booz Allen Hamilton and SRA International, each neglected to include information that formed the basis for FDA decision and GAO’s backing of that decision.
Lockheed won a task order to modernize FDA’s databases and applications for the Office of Regulatory Affairs Mission Accomplishment and Regulatory Compliance Services system, known as MARCS.
Lockheed bid $137.7 million for the project, compared to Booz Allen’s $127.3 million bid and SRA’s $81.8 million bid, according to GAO.
With SRA, GAO in essence dismissed their protest because they said the labor categories the company bid were not included as part of Enterprise System Life Cycle Management Support contract, under which the task order was award.
In a footnote in its decision, GAO wrote: “We note in this regard that SRA’s ELMS contract was awarded to, and signed by, SRA more than four years ago, apparently without any objection to the fact that labor categories that SRA proposed were not included in the ID/IQ contract.”
So, SRA has never had the right labor categories under the contract and therefore can’t protest task order decisions because GAO says they aren’t qualified to bid.
The company argued that the labor categories and rates were inexplicably or mistakenly omitted, and that didn’t fly with GAO.
“SRA’s price proposal was not compliant with the terms of the solicitation and cannot form the basis for the issuance of a task order. Accordingly, SRA would not be in line for an award, even were we to sustain its protest, and therefore it is not an interested party to challenge the evaluation of its or Lockheed’s proposals,” GAO wrote.
In the case of Booz Allen, GAO agreed with FDA’s conclusion that while the company demonstrated an understanding of the requirements, it didn’t clearly enough describe some of its solutions or approaches.
One area where Booz Allen was vague was in describing how it would support end-users during off hours. “The evaluators found that the protester simply asserted in its proposal that the goals for response and resolution would be met, and had not provided a sound plan to meet the requirement for around-the-clock (“24/7”) support for end-user requests,” GAO wrote.
Booz Allen talked about its experience providing around the clock support but wasn’t specific enough and did “not actually state that the MARCS staff would be available 24/7,” GAO wrote.
FDA was also concerned that Booz Allen too deeply discounted its labor rates bid under the Enterprise System Life Cycle Management Support contract.
Booz Allen had argued that it explained what it would do as well as Lockheed Martin explained its approach, but GAO didn’t buy that, saying that Lockheed described the staff that would support outside of normal business hours. The company also went into detail that Booz Allen didn’t include.
I found it interested that GAO dismissed Booz Allen’s complaint that Lockheed’s bid included a fired Booz Allen employee who was banned from FDA’s campus. GAO said that background checks of employees are only performed by the agency after award. If FDA didn’t want to accept that person, then Lockheed would have to replace the person with someone with similar qualifications.
Some quick takeaways:
- Make sure your labor categories and rates match what’s in the solicitation.
- Be specific. Don’t just say you have a plan. Describe the plan.
- Small dings add up. Although individually, the areas where Booz Allen was rated lower didn’t raise risk concerns by themselves, the cumulative effect put Booz Allen’s bid into a riskier category, according to GAO.
- Read the footnotes in GAO’s decision. There’s a wealth of knowledge there.
Posted on Mar 10, 2014 at 12:58 PM0 comments
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence started her Army career as a stenographer in 1972, and she likes to joke that the greatest technological breakthrough she saw was the White Out tape that made it easier for her to correct mistakes.
When she retired last year, she was the Army’s CIO/G6 and was ultimately responsible for the service’s IT operations in theater and at bases around the world.
She saw a lot of changes over that career and over her current one as senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton’s defense business.
It was a message of change and transition that she and the man she replaced as the Army CIO, retired Lt. Gen. Jeff Sorenson, brought to a media lunch put together by Cisco Systems.
The pace of technological change is torrid, so the question for IT leaders inside and outside of government is, “Are we going to be predictive or responsive?” she said. “Who is working in their garage right now on the next breakthrough and how do we react to that?”
The Defense Department is going through a significant transition as it pulls out of Afghanistan and brings the troops home. “We’re moving from an operational environment to an institutional environment,” she said.
That means the emphasis has to be on training and modeling and simulation so that soldiers, sailors and marines stay engaged and sharp and are ready for the next crisis.
The defense budget also is contracting, so “how can technology be the gap filler?” Lawrence said.
The changes also mean that industry has to look at the market differently.
“At Booz Allen, we are looking at new approaches to contracts and relationships with small businesses differently,” she said. “We’re looking at building strategic relationships that we wouldn’t have done before.”
The question is: Do you “sell to or sell with or sell through,” she said.
Sorenson’s take on the market was similar; he retired in 2010 and now leads A.T. Kearney’s government practice.
“Everything is an ‘as’,” he said, referring to the push of selling and buying software, infrastructure and platforms as a service. “The next thing is going to be security as a service.”
Another disruptive technology is the concept of the Internet of Things, which is particularly important to the military. It’s a powerful tool for battle space awareness, logistics and supply chain management.
He used the example of how important it is to understand and have visibility into all of the pieces of equipment and supplies coming back from Afghanistan. Where are they? Where are they going? What has happened to them? All are critical questions that the Internet of Things can help answer, he said.
Mobile technologies, the cloud and big data also are transformative.
“We have to figure out how to leverage all the technologies that are out there,” he said.
Industry needs to play a critical role in helping the government learn to create contracts for these new kinds of technology and new approaches to buying and implementing technology.
“They just don’t know how,” Sorenson said.
He pointed back to the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet as the first example of when the government tried to buy IT as a service. The troubles that program ran into in its early years are legendary.
“We didn’t have the right SLAs (service-level agreements). We didn’t have the right oversight,” he said.
Beyond education, industry also has to demonstrate that these new approaches can work, Lawrence said.
“People are server huggers,” she said. They want to know where the data is. They want to touch it.
“We have to change that mindset and build a culture of trust that the data will be there when they need it,” she said.
In the private sector, the “as a service” approach is commonplace. “Cisco does these things with its commercial clients like it’s falling out of bed in the morning,” Sorenson said.
The government has made a lot of strides, particularly with the use of enterprise licenses for software, he said.
Sorenson shared how the enterprise licenses with companies such as Microsoft, McAfee and Cisco paid major dividends when soldiers in the field began to connect with company engineers.
“When you put a soldier together with a corporate engineer magic happens,” he said.
The potential for “magic” was one of the big takeaways for me from the lunch because both Lawrence and Sorenson emphasized the importance of collaboration between industry and government.
It might be a challenge in today’s climate, but the payoff can be great.
Posted on Mar 07, 2014 at 1:37 PM0 comments