WT Business Beat

Battle continues for $165M State Department contract

ManTech International and URS Federal didn’t like it the first time the State Department awarded its $165 million Vanguard 2.2.3 contract to DynCorp, and they don’t like it the second time, either.

Both companies have lodged protests with the Government Accountability Office over State again awarding the contract to DynCorp.

The department wants to use the contract to modernize how it buys, receives and integrates IT equipment by installing a new supply chain management solution.

ManTech and URS Federal filed protests after State awarded the contract to DynCorp in July, which led to the department pulling back the award to DynCorp and reopening the bidding.

DynCorp prevailed the second time as well. State announced the award on March 7. On March 14, ManTech and URS Federal filed their protests. A decision is due back from GAO by June 23.

That’s almost a year after the original award and really points to a source of frustration for many over the delays caused by bid protests.

From a time perspective, the best case scenario is that State’s decision is upheld by GAO in June, and it can proceed with the contract. So, that’s roughly a year after the contract was originally awarded.

But if State pulls back the award for another corrective action, or if GAO rules in favor of ManTech and URS Federal, then the start will get pushed back even further.

It seems to me that because DynCorp has won the contract twice, there should be a limit to the protest rights of the losing bidders. The current system seems too wasteful of time and resources.

I guess you can argue that ManTech and URS Federal have not had their day in court, so to speak, because the first protests were dismissed without any ruling on their merits when State took its corrective action.

But their proposals have had two rounds of evaluation at State, so perhaps there is some other course of action other than a full-blown protest.

ManTech and URS Federal are well within their rights to protest, so I'm not criticizing their decisions. This is real money after all. But I think the evidence is mounting that there is a need for real reform of the bid protest process.

Posted on Mar 18, 2014 at 11:23 AM1 comments

More protests for Eagle II

Four more companies recently filed protests over the Homeland Security Department’s Eagle II contract, and it’s beginning to beg the question of why keep going?

The newest protests have pushed the total number to over 50. Most of them have been dismissed as DHS has informed the Government Accountability Office that it is taking a corrective action. The agency has prevailed on a handful, less than 5 by my count, but for the most part, DHS has had to back away from its award decisions.

Recently, DHS told bidders on its largest section of Eagle II (service delivery) that it was re-evaluating all bids, effectively admitting it got it wrong the first time or at least can’t defend its award decisions.

This latest batch of protests involves four small businesses and was filed between March 4 and March 12. The due dates for decisions from GAO range from June 12 to June 23. The protestors are:

  • Innovative Solutions Partnership JV
  • Oasis Systems LLC
  • Telesis Corp.
  • All Points Logistics Inc.

The fits and starts of Eagle II increasingly put the contract at risk of becoming irrelevant. The solicitation for Eagle II came out in November 2010, and bids were due February 2011. That’s over three years and counting.

Untold work that was awarded to Eagle I has been shifted to other contracts because Eagle II wasn’t ready yet for recompetes of Eagle I task orders. It still isn’t ready.

It seems like DHS has only two choices: Cancel the contract or give awards to all the bidders, and let the market sort it out.

The General Services Administration followed a similar tactic when it ran into trouble getting Alliant and Alliant Small Business through a blizzard of protests. It added nearly all the protesters to the contract. That seems to have worked out OK for that contract, which now seems to be humming along nicely.

DHS might be wise to follow GSA’s example and let Eagle II fly.

Posted on Mar 17, 2014 at 10:03 AM0 comments

Did GSA get OASIS right?

As the $60 billion OASIS contract has wound its way from concept to solicitation to award, the General Services Administration has been vocal about how it has worked with industry and how much collaboration has gone into developing the contract.

The agency is expanding the use of the GSA Interact site that it used to collaborate with industry as it developed OASIS. Now, it is using it to develop Alliant II and Alliant Small Business II.

When I reached out to GSA for comment after 10 small businesses filed protests of the OASIS awards made in February, they referenced the collaboration again and implied that, because of those efforts, it would weather the protests.

“GSA has made it a top priority to work closely with both our industry and federal partners throughout the OASIS Small Business (OASIS SB) solicitation and award process,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

This might be premature because the large business awards haven’t been made yet, but I’m beginning to think that GSA got it right with OASIS.

I point to two pieces of evidence:

One, there have been no more protests filed with the Government Accountability Office in the last week. One protest has been dismissed, so GSA is likely taking some sort of corrective action. Others might also be dismissed.

But the fact there are only 10 protests speaks volumes about the process so far.

My second bit of evidence comes from one of the losing bidders. They are not protesting the loss, though I know they are disappointed.

An executive with the company shared a copy of the company’s Unsuccessful Offeror Notification.

The notification says that GSA received 330 proposals. Pool 1 alone had 186 offerors. GSA made only 43 awards in that pool, so that’s 143 disappointed bidders.

So, if you get only 10 protests out of that many rejected proposals, that sounds pretty good to me.

If my source’s notification letter is typical of what the other losing bidders received, it’s even more surprising there aren’t more protests because the notification letter also includes a written post award debrief.

But it’s a bare-bones debrief to say the least. This company was told simply that its technical score was too low. But there is no elaboration. There is nothing to build on for future bids.

This kind of lack of information is what drives a lot of companies to protest. The fact is that we haven’t seen a flood of protests yet, which indicates to me that GSA is in a strong position to defend its decisions.

We could still see more protests but as each day goes by, that becomes less likely.

But going back to the notification letter, I can’t help but think there is something unfair about it.

GSA isn’t breaking any rules. The solicitation was clear that there would be “no extensive debriefs,” according to my source at the company.

But it seems that GSA should pass back more specific information, particularly when dealing with small businesses. Even if you lose, there should be some value in going through the process, but the dearth of information makes it pretty tough to extract that value.

Posted on Mar 14, 2014 at 8:58 AM0 comments

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