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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

A little sadness and absurdity courtesy of USDA

Recently someone kidded me that I’m more than a little obsessed with bid protests. And there is probably some truth to that.

I’m drawn to them because they are a great source for identifying who’s competing with whom. Often there are important issues about competition and fairness. They also demonstrate that few things are strictly black and white. There is plenty of shades of gray in the government market.

But sometimes, a bid protest rolls around that illustrates the sometimes sadly absurd world of procurement.

The latest is an $18 million small business contract that the Agriculture Department has been trying to award since September 2013. The department wants IT infrastructure operations and support for the Food and Nutrition Service.

In 2013, the contract – an Alliant Small Business task order – went to Milvets Systems Technology Inc.

Protests by Criterion Systems and Agile Defense, led USDA to pull back the award so it could try again.

Milvets won the contract again and again Agile Defense challenged the award and on May 22, 2014, the protest was dismissed because USDA decided to take corrective action again and do another re-evaluation.

This time the contract when to DKW Communications, which sparked protests by Milvets and Agile Defense.

And by now you’ll spot the pattern – those protests were dismissed after USDA again decided to take a corrective action. That was on Jan. 8, 2015.

Now Milvets and DKW Communications are protesting an award to Metrica Team Venture.

The protests were filed this week and a decision is expected by Jan. 29. Unless of course, there is another corrective action.

So four times, USDA has made an award and each time it has been answered with bid protests.

As one person said to me, “You gotta wonder what the heck is going on over there.”

One issue might be that – according to Deltek – USDA is on its third contracting officer leading the team on this procurement.

The thing I keep coming back to is that is pretty straightforward work. It’s IT infrastructure. The contract is being competed through Alliant Small Business, so I don’t have access to the solicitation documents, but it seems to me this is the type of work that generally is bid on the lowest price, even if it is a best-value contract.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense that it would be this hard to make an award. I guess now that I’ve written this, it actually seems more sad than absurd

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Oct 23, 2015 at 9:31 AM

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