GAO upholds Solers protest against DISA award to Booz Allen

Booz Allen's contingency language in its proposal for a DISA contract got it into trouble with the fixed-price requirements, GAO said in a new decision.

The next step recommended by the GAO is for DISA to either reopen discussions with Booz Allen and Solers to determine whether the fixed-price contingency can be eliminated, or to terminate the award and give the contract to Solers, if appropriate.

The Government Accountability Office has ruled that the Defense Information Systems Agency improperly awarded a $24.6 million contract to Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. because it did not meet a solicitation requirement to propose a fixed price.

The decision was issued by the GAO on April 29 with respect to a protest filed by Solers Inc., of Arlington, Va., which had bid on the DISA contract at a price of $27.4 million.

“Protest is sustained where the awardee’s proposal improperly took exception to the solicitation requirement to propose a fixed price,” Lynn Gibson, general counsel for the GAO, wrote in the decision.

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The agency put out a request for bids in July 2010 for cross-domain network solutions, as well as support and program management services. In September 2010, DISA selected Solers’ proposal, and Booz Allen filed a protest alleging that the agency did not consider an organizational conflict of interest with Solers.

DISA and GAO agreed on a corrective action consisting of reopening discussions, evaluating revised proposals and making a new decision. In the new selection process, although Solers was rated technically superior, those qualities did not override the cost differential and Booz Allen’s superior past performance, the report said.

Solers filed the protest making several allegations, including claiming the contract was improperly awarded because it did not comply with the requirement for offering a fixed price. The allegation relates to language contained in Booz Allen’s proposal that appears to offer a lower price if the government were to allow more of the services to be performed at government facilities.

DISA and Booz Allen officials disagreed with Solers’ contention, saying the language in Booz Allen’s proposal was not an exception to the fixed-price requirement, and was instead merely a suggestion that the contractor might request an adjustment to its fixed price in the future.

However, Gibson sided with Solers, saying the lower price was contingent on obtaining permission to work at government sites.

“We think that a fair reading of Booz Allen Hamilton’s proposal shows that the awardee took exception to the requirement to propose a fixed price….Booz Allen Hamilton stated that it had based its price on government-site and contractor-site rates, and that use of the government-site rates permitted the offeror to offer ‘a significant discount or savings’ to the agency,” Gibson wrote in the decision.

Gibson also sustained several other allegations contained in Solers’ protest, and stated that DISA must pay Solers’ legal costs for the protest.