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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

What the InfoZen-Vencore protest fight says about today's market

I wonder if companies celebrate today when they win contracts.

Do they bring in champagne? Pizza for the winning group? Gift cards?

I know with the large, multiple-award contracts, you really haven’t won anything. It’s the proverbial hunting license.

But what if it’s a $212 million, single-award contract? Do you party then?

Maybe not anymore. The call from the agency to tell you that your proposal was the best is just one more hurdle to clear. With the large number of bid protests, the final answer on who is the winner likely will go through the Government Accountability Office.

Take for example the Transportation Security Administration’s contract for operations and maintenance of its Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing system computing environment. The contract goes by the acronym of TTAC and is worth $212 million.

The TTAC system is a screening and credentialing system to check and verify identities of workers who need access to secure transportation facilities such as airports and docks.

TTAC was won in July 2013 by QinetiQ North America, besting the incumbent InfoZen Inc. Then, In August of 2013, InfoZen filed a protest, and TSA decided to re-evaluate proposals.

More than a year later, InfoZen won, with the award being announced in November.

Now, QinetiQ, which since the original award was acquired by the SI Organization and rebranded as Vencore, has filed its own protest, so the saga isn’t over yet.

The protest is filed under the Vencore name. A decision by GAO is expected by March.

If InfoZen prevails, it will have been 20 months since TSA first tried to award the contract. If you count from when the solicitation was released, it’ll be three years and two months.

But if GAO rules in favor of Vencore, or if TSA decides to take another corrective action, the months and years will continue to add up.

By the way, TSA issued its first contract extension to InfoZen in December 2011.

The thing about the battle for this contract is that it isn’t a unique scenario. Companies are battling fiercely for work. Government agencies are focused on affordability. For the record, this contract was a best value competition, not a price shootout.

The combination of competition and affordability makes incumbents vulnerable. At the same time, a flat market makes it paramount that companies expand beyond their current universe of customers. Companies are faced with guarding what they have while also trying to take market share from competitors.

In short, there is a fight for every dollar out there.

On one hand, these protest battles are to be expected because of the tight competitive market. That’s mostly positive I think. Competition is a sign of a healthy market.

Where this equation falls apart is when you look at the timeframes I mentioned earlier. When your customers can’t seem to get from solicitation to actual work getting done without years of delays then that’s not a healthy.

Those months and years are lost opportunities to serve the customer, innovate and invest.

In a healthy market, winning a $200 million contract or any hotly contested contract would be cause to celebrate.

Instead, it is just the end of one round in the fight and the start of another.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 12, 2014 at 9:24 AM

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