Could this GAO decision signal broader use of LPTA?
The Government Accountability Office defended one agency's use of LPTA criteria in awarding an EIS task order, which could clear the way for more similar contracts to buy commercial services.
I thought Verizon would prevail in its protest against the Defense Information Systems Agency's decision to use lowest price, technical acceptable evaluation criteria for awarding a task order through the EIS telecommunications contract vehicle.
But Verizon has lost that battle after three sets of pre-award protests and two sets of corrective actions. With each corrective action, it looked like DISA was relenting and backing away from using LPTA for an Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions task order.
Verizon’s argument was that LPTA was inappropriate for the task order. The company pointed to a string of provisions in different National Defense Authorization Acts that prohibit LPTA except for very narrow cases.
With Verizon’s third protest, DISA didn’t go for a corrective action and it seems they were smart to do so as the Government Accountability Office sided with DISA and approved the use of LPTA. This clears the way for DISA to award the task order using an LPTA evaluation criteria.
Mike Majorana, senior vice president of federal sales for Verizon, said the company was disappointed in GAO’s decision.
“As Congress recognized through recent NDAAs, the networks and technologies that our federal partners utilize enable their critical missions, and those missions are too important to the American people to simply buy for the lowest price,” he said in a statement to Washington Technology.
Under this 13-year task order, DISA is buying basic internet, wi-fi and voice services for 950 Air Force recruiting locations.
The Air Force and DISA set out the minimum requirements it wanted and stated in the solicitation that it wouldn’t pay more to exceed the minimum requirements, according to the GAO decision.
Verizon argued that failed to meet the criteria described in acquisition regulations on when to use LPTA. The government failed to show that there would be no value from future innovations during the 13-year term of the contract, according to Verizon.
But DISA’s answer to this is very interesting, and may serve as a warning to others pushing back against LPTA. The government argues they are buying a commercial service and the requirement is that the contractor “support the industry standards for commercial telecommunications services.”
In other words: since it is a commercial service DISA is buying, then as industry incorporates innovations into their commercial offerings those innovations will become part of the service DISA is buying.
DISA is not buying telecommunications and networking equipment. DISA eused the example of a business opening a store in a mall or office park and needing basic internet and phone service.
Another EIS vendor in MetTel also has protested DISA’s use of LPTA on two other task orders. DISA took a corrective action in late May so we don’t know yet what the next step will be and whether it’ll follow a similar pattern as the Verizon-DISA battle.
We’ll have to watch if DISA pushes more LPTA task orders when it is buying a commercial service. That seems to me a crack might be opening that could bring broader use of LPTA, especially as the market moves toward more as-a-service type offerings.