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Lockheed prevails in bid protest fight; here's why

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 by Nick Wakeman on Mar 10, 2014 at 12:58 PM


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