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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

GDIT survives protest of $450M DISA contract

Best value in a competition is in the eyes of the beholder. Or, one person’s best-value competition is another’s lowest price, technical acceptable evaluation.

DRS Technologies can take their pick of my hackneyed clichés, but the results are the same – a lost bid protest.

The company filed a protest of a $450 million contract won by General Dynamics for communications support for DISA as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Southwest Asia. They argued that DISA converted a best value competition in an LPTA competition. But the Government Accountability Office said the record showed that DISA performed a best-value tradeoff that was reasonable and well documented.

After reading the decision, I think that DISA may have made a different mistake all together.

But it’s easy to see why DRS felt they should have won: Their technical scores were higher than GD’s. GD received acceptable scores across the board for technical management including its project management team and its solutions for two task orders described in the solicitation.

DRS also received acceptable for its project management plan, but was rated good for task order one and outstanding for task order two.

Both companies had acceptable past performance.

But then there are prices. GD’s evaluated cost/price for the two task orders was $132.1 million, while DRS’ was $152.1 million, a $20 million gap.

GAO explained in its decision that source selection officials have “considerable discretion” when making tradeoff decisions in a best-value procurement. The key in situations such as this is whether the decision follows a documented, rational process that is consistent with the evaluation scheme in the solicitation.

The documentation supporting the decision must show that the source selection official, technically called a source selection authority or SSA, was aware of the merits and costs of the competing proposals.

With that as a criteria, GAO denied DRS’s protest finding that the SSA documented the difference in the pricing and determined that DRS’s superior technical scores weren’t enough to justify their higher price.

DISA would have paid a 15 percent premium, or $20 million, for DRS’s proposal.

Despite DRS’s numerous strengths and exceptional approach, any technical advantage enjoyed by DRS’s proposal is simply not worth the substantial price premium as compared to GDIT’s acceptable proposal, the SSA wrote in his decision document.

What’s not in the GAO decision is the nature of the work, which makes me question DISA’s procurement strategy. According to solicitation documents, this is communications and IT work supporting the warfighter in Southwest Asia in countries such as Qatar and Pakistan.

The statement of work describes the need for services such as network operations, communications planning, logistics and systems administration.

The services DISA are looking for are fairly typical. There is no new solution being developed. What makes this stand out is where the work will be done.

When I overlay the nature of the work with DRS’s higher technical scores, and then I add in DISA’s decision to go with the lower priced, lower technical solution, it makes me wonder if this should have been an LPTA competition to start with.

GD still may have won, but it could have been a very different competition.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 16, 2015 at 9:32 AM

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