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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

What SRA's protest track record says about today's market

SRA International is fighting for another lost contract. This time, it’s a Transportation Security Administration contract for computer security.

This is the eighth bid protest SRA has been involved with in the last year or so, and its record says more about the state of procurement than it does about one company’s success or failings.

In the current fight, SRA is trying to protect an incumbent contract it has with TSA. The company has held the Security Operations Center Computer Network Defense contract since July 2009, and it has been worth about $93 million to the company, according to Deltek’s contract database.

During the recompete for the contract, Secure Mission Solutions took it from SRA, and it is now worth an estimated $88 million.

SRA filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office on Oct. 9. A decision is expected by Jan. 20.

Not counting the current protest, SRA has been involved in seven other bid protests, and looking at those protests and their results says a lot about the state of procurement in the federal market.

Two protests were dismissed, which means the agency took some sort of corrective action. One protest of a DISA contract was dismissed in late September, and the outcome of the corrective action isn’t known yet.

The other dismissal involved GSA’s $60 billion OASIS contract. SRA was one of over 50 protesters who didn’t get spots on the contract when it was first awarded. In its corrective action, GSA added SRA and many of the other protestors to the contract.

SRA won a protest of a NASA contract when GAO recommended that the agency re-evaluate bids. SRA was subsequently added to the $26 million, multiple-award contract for executive leadership and organizational development.

The company also prevailed in a back and forth fight with Science Applications International Corp. SAIC bested SRA in a competition for a Military Sealift Command contract, where SRA was the incumbent.

SRA protested, and GAO ruled in their favor; the command then awarded the contract to SRA. SAIC filed its own protest after that award decision, but GAO ruled against SAIC.

SRA has had three protests denied, including the protest of a lucrative Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. contract that had been the company’s largest single contract.

The company lost a protest of a Health and Human Services cloud contract that went to InfoReliance.

SRA also was on the losing side of a protest of a contract award that went to Lockheed Martin to modernize FDA’s databases and applications for the FDA Office of Regulatory Affairs. Booz Allen Hamilton also protested the award to Lockheed and lost.

Let’s think about those results: The company has lost three protests, won three and might be the winner of another, depending on the outcome of the corrective action. I’d call that a 50-50 record. In baseball, you’d be the greatest hitter of all time.

When you look at that sort of success, you can’t really complain about a company filing a bid protest, especially if 50 percent of the time, the outcome is in your favor.

if agencies can only successfully defend award decisions 50 percent of the time, then I think more of the problem lies with government and not industry.

If SRA’s success with bid protests is typical, then it is obvious that there are too many poorly designed procurements, too many unclear requirements, and too many award decisions that can’t stand up to scrutiny.

So, don’t blame contractors for so many bid protests. Look at the other side of the table.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Oct 15, 2014 at 9:23 AM

Reader Comments

Thu, Oct 16, 2014

SRA protests contracts because the Federal Government has received poor performances on the ones that were granted. It is not the procurement process that is inconsistent, as your article suggests.

Thu, Oct 16, 2014 Editor

On the comment that SRA protested 11 times, it is important to note the file number GAO uses. The same case can show up multiple times because each time a protester files an amendment it goes into the docket as a separate item, so while SRA may have 11 items in the docket, it doesn't mean there are 11 separate protests. And as I tried to make the point in my blog, SRA only has three out right denials. A dismissed protest doesn't mean a loss. A dismissal often means that the agency is taking a corrective action and so far those corrective actions have been in SRA's favor.

Thu, Oct 16, 2014 Frank McNally

Your conclusions are based on a limited sample size. A company with deep pockets like SRA can afford the legal expense of parsing out the minutiae of complex procurement actions and finding inconsistency. If you torture the process long enough, it will admit to anything. Furthermore, I doubt a small company could afford to protest 9 actions in a single FY, so SRA's success is hardly typical. Not to mention that corrective actions may reflect a desire by the agency to avoid a lengthy adjudication process that will delay the program and solution delivery. They do not necessarily imply that SRA was correct or would have won the protest if fully adjudicated. Of course there are instances where procurements are poorly designed, requirements undefined, and evaluation plans overly complex. And when these instances occur, industry should have an avenue to protect their interests from bias and prejudice. However, it doesn't seem as though the current protest process is capable of balancing the need to protect industry from unfair treatment and the autonomy of an agency to do business with their vendor of choice. The current protest process is not working. Its time to address the root causes and not the symptoms.

Thu, Oct 16, 2014

suggest you look at the GAO site; where SRA protested 11 times, 9 were either denied or dismissed with 2 sustained. Not sure where the Author got his stats on how sucessful SRA has been with protest.

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