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SRA, CSC continue contract battle

The bid protest battle between SRA International and Computer Sciences Corp. for a $365 million contract with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has moved from the Government Accountability Office to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and now back to GAO.

Of course, from GAO, it will go back to federal court for a final disposition. Maybe.

SRA has been providing infrastructure support to FDIC since at least 2009 through a task order under the General Services Administration’s Millennia contract.

In 2012, GSA used Alliant for the recompete, and CSC won that competition. SRA protested, and GSA pulled the award back.

That was at the end of 2012. After a series of amendments and corrective actions, GSA again awarded the work to CSC in August 2013.

During its debrief, however, SRA learned that Blue Canopy Group was CSC teammate.

SRA cried foul because Blue Canopy worked under a FDIC contract conducting security audits of SRA’s network security, which SRA said gave it access to SRA’s propriety information and knew of how FDIC evaluated SRA’s work.

Following this protest, GSA said that Blue Canopy was no longer part of the CSC team. This satisfied SRA’s concern about impaired objectivity, but not the unequal access to information charge.

GAO then ruled against SRA because the conflict of interest charge was resolved. SRA followed that action with a filing in the Court of Federal Claims, which brings us to where we are now.

There are some questions over whether the Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction in the case because in most circumstances, the task order decisions cannot be appealed to the court.

The court wants GAO to relook at the conflict of interest waiver it made in this case and issue an advisory opinion, which the court will use to help make its final decision.

The court did set a deadline of Jan. 23 for GAO’s opinion, but GAO asked for another week and won’t file until the end of January.

It’ll be a little longer before we know the content of that advisory, as GAO will not publish it, and will only be releasing it to the judge and the parties involved. We’ll likely have to wait until court issues its final decision.

This will be a good one to watch for several reasons. First, there is a possibility that the jurisdiction question may point to whether the court is open to looking at more protests involving task orders. It's possible that there will be no impact, but there is that chance.

Also, this is a great example of how hard companies are fighting to hold on to work. For SRA, this contract is their biggest. When the contract was first lost, it represented 9 percent of its revenue. The company warned of layoffs.

SRA has continued to provide services while the contract has been under protest, so the revenue hit hasn’t happened yet.

The cynic in me says that’s part of the protest strategy: protest in hopes of squeezing more time and revenue out of a contract.

In SRA’s case, the conflict of interest question is important. It goes to teaming decisions, and how you try to get the upper hand on your competitors.

What the court says or doesn’t say about that could have a widely felt impact. We’ll have to wait and see.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 28, 2014 at 11:01 AM


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