Air Force SBEAS contract continues NetCents protest tradition

A $13 billion small business contract continues to be mired in bid protests just like the contract it aims to replace.

A $13 billion Air Force small business contract is mired in pre-award protests by companies who argue that they have been unfairly eliminated from the competition.

This contract is known as the Small Business Enterprise Applications Solutions IDIQ, or SBEAS. The contract will replace the Air Force’s Netcents 2 Application Services Small Business contract set to expire in June 2019.

But according to Air Force solicitation documents, SBEAS will not be awarded until the third quarter of 2019.

Despite the gap, the Air Force has said it won’t extend Netcents 2 beyond June 20, 2019. But task orders lengths are being extended from three years to five.

Given the protest history of the Netcents contracts, it shouldn’t be surprising that SBEAS also has also been wracked with protests.

Over the last 10 months, there have been 14 protests filed at the Government Accountability Office.

An earlier group of seven protests have seen one protest from Avosys Technology get denied by GAO and another protest by Veteran Technology Integrators get sustained. GAO’s decisions involving those cases have not been released yet.

Protests by Datum Software and CEdge Software Consultants have been withdrawn. Protests by Technalink SITS, Technology Wins and Global Consulting International have been dismissed by GAO.

But a second batch of protests has rolled in since late July and those are still pending decisions by GAO. These protests were filed by Dfuse Technologies, LinTech Global, Flairsoft Ltd., Salience Technologies, eTranservices Corp., Technalink SITS LLC and Ryan Consulting.

GAO expects decisions to be made between Oct. 31 and Dec. 10. Those decisions will be made based on the date the protests were filed.

The Air Force said the bid protests were one of the primary reasons the anticipated award date had been pushed to the third quarter of 2019.

Many of the companies who were eliminated from the competition were eliminated because their proposals were non-compliant, according to the Air Force.

“Despite the transparency provided during industry days, one-on-one sessions and three sets of questions and answers from industry prior to and immediately following release of the RFP, we’ve had to remove offerors for not complying with the solicitation and failing to address the evaluation criteria,” the Air Force wrote.

The Air Force said it has received more bids than it expected, so it is taking more time to move through all of those.

The Netcents 2 Application Solutions Small Business contract had 12 winners six years ago but it looks like this contract may be larger. SBEAS also is slated to be a mandatory use vehicle for services such as project management, systems engineering, software development, web services, database development and a wide range of other services.

But mandatory use and a high ceiling make SBEAS an attractive target. The more attractive, the higher the probability of protests. We are seeing that play out now.

Pushing out the award date allows the Air Force to keep moving forward while the protests playout. While a protest is pending, the Air Force can continue to evaluate bids but it is precluded from making an award.

And of course: more protests could be filed after award as well.