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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Navy misteps add years to contract award

When I first started reading the Government Accountability Office’s protest decision involving a Navy contract, I thought the date had to be a typo.

Surely, this contract for data center support couldn’t have been first solicited in December 2011, but as I read the document, I learned that it was no typo. The Navy issued a request for proposals for an 8(a) contract to support its data center operations in New Orleans with customer support center services, systems administration and network security support on Dec. 9, 2011.

On Sept. 7, 2012, the Navy awarded a contract to eAlliant and a protest was quickly filed by Trescos Joint Venture, whose team included the incumbent, Systems Integration & Management Inc.

A corrective action followed by the Navy and then on Jan. 25, 2013, eAlliant won the contract again and again Trescos filed a protest.

And again, the Navy took a corrective action to re-evaluate the bids, following which eAlliant won the contract for the third time.

But three was no charm. Trescos again filed a protest.

Meanwhile, the Navy determined it made a mistake even before Trescos filed its third protest. The mistake involved a company called CoSolutions. The Navy had picked eAlliant over CoSolutions because CoSolutions higher price didn’t justify its higher technical score. But during the debrief with CoSolutions, the Navy realized it made a mistake in evaluating the realism of CoSolutions proposed costs. The Navy decided to pull the award back from eAlliant again to reconsider.

This time – the fourth attempt to award the contract – the Navy picked CoSolutions.

And, eAlliant decided it was time to file its own protest, which brings us to this decision.

GAO sustained eAlliant’s protest because the Navy had another fatal flaw in its process. The Navy changed the scores of eAlliant’s technical proposal. In the first two evaluations, eAlliant was found to have seven strengths. But in the third and fourth evaluations, eAlliant only had one strength. The technical evaluation moved down from good to acceptable.

In and of itself, a change in an evaluation isn’t unheard of. In this case, the Navy had a new set of evaluators, so it isn’t unreasonable to expect different opinions. But where GAO criticized the Navy was, its explanations during the protest hearing didn’t match the record of the evaluation and statements by the source selection authority.

“Although different agency evaluators reasonably may reach differing conclusions, we think it was incumbent upon the SSA to reconcile or explain the starkly different conclusions reached by the two…evaluations,” GAO wrote in its decision.

By siding with eAlliant, GAO told the Navy to pull back the CoSolutions award and re-evaluate its decision.

And that’s where we are now. The contract is back in the source selection process. It’s been there since January.

In the meantime, the Navy has awarded a bridge contract to Systems Integration & Management Inc.

According to Deltek, the contract has been worth $81.4 million to Systems Integration & Management. The bridge contract is worth $8.8 million.

And one last irony, the contract won by eAlliant was a three-year deal and would have expired this September. So the Navy should be working on a recompete by now, but is instead trying to award a contract from three years ago.

Sigh.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Aug 20, 2015 at 7:38 AM


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