Email glitch kills ManTech's bid for $98M cloud contract

ManTech did nothing wrong but an email glitch effectively killed its attempt to win a $97.8 million cloud migration contract with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Often when I look at a bid protest that has been denied by the Government Accountability Office, I look for something the company did wrong.

But that’s nearly impossible to find in a protest ManTech International lost last week.

The company was bidding on a $97.8 million cloud migration assessment contact with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. NGA used the Air Force Installation Contracting Agency to run this procurement under the Cyber Security and Information Systems Technical Tasks contract.

The deadline for submitting proposals was 2 p.m. Eastern time on July 17. Proposals were to be sent to At 1:25 p.m., ManTech hit the send button on its email and received a confirmation from its Microsoft Outlook delivery receipt feature.

But the company still expected confirmation from the Air Force. When that did not arrive, ManTech spoke to the Air Force. The company was told its proposal had not arrived.

ManTech then resent the proposal at 1:37 p.m. to the CSIACTAT email. They also sent the proposal to the email of the Air Force person they spoke with. Again, they received a confirmation of receipt through their Outlook setup but no confirmation from the Air Force.

At 1:49 p.m., the Air Force again told ManTech they didn't have the proposal.

At 1:59 p.m., ManTech again sent the proposal. Again they received the confirmation from Outlook.

But at 2:01 p.m., the contracting officer told ManTech to stop emailing. The deadline had passed and the Air Force had never received the proposal. Which means ManTech would not be considered for an award. That’s when the company filed its protest.

According to GAO’s decision, ManTech was able to provide all of its Outlook confirmations showing that the proposal had been sent before the deadline.

In fact, no one -- not the Air Force, NGA or GAO -- disputes that ManTech emailed the proposal on time.

“ManTech has demonstrated that it timely sent its proposal to the agency,” GAO wrote.

But the Air Force explained that when an email is sent to any part of the Defense Department, it is scanned for malicious code by the enterprise email security gateway. If no malicious code is found, it is then sent to the recipient’s email server: in this case, the Air Force. The recipient’s server also conducts a scan and can reject the email.

And that is exactly what happened in this case.

But the Air Force’s email server is not directly connected to the Internet. So the Air Force could not send a bounce back to ManTech.

GAO ruled that ManTech was not able to “establish that its proposal was actually delivered to the agency’s designated e-mail box prior to the time set for the receipt of proposals, and thus, has failed to meet its burden of showing that its proposal was timely delivered to the agency.”

So ManTech did everything correctly and it still lost. And even if it seems like an unfair decision, the company has no recourse because it can’t take a protest over a task order to the Court of Federal Claims. GAO is the first and last stop on task order protests.

For the record, the Air Force did receive six proposals that made it to the designated email address. Apparently, there was something in the ManTech email that triggered the rejection.

ManTech’s attorneys declined to comment on the decision.

So what’s the lesson here? File an hour ahead of the deadline? Two hours?

Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is a lesson here. Just tough luck.