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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Poor report dooms Navy's protest defense

The Navy committed a litany of mistakes when it awarded a training contract for the Air Logistics Training Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

But the biggest mistake may be how it responded to the Government Accountability Office’s request for documents as it reviewed a bid protest filed by Cortek Inc. of Fredericksburg, Va.

Cortek was the incumbent on the training contract but lost to Engineering Support Personnel Inc. of Orlando, Fla., and filed a protest with GAO.

As part of the protest process, the Navy submitted a report to GAO reviewing the record of the solicitation and the evaluation process. It’s pretty standard procedure. But GAO didn’t like what the Navy submitted.

“The Navy prepared an extensively redacted report that included only selected documents and within those selected documents only very circumscribed portions thereof,” GAO wrote in its decision.

GAO went on to call the Navy’s report “overly aggressive” in its effort to limit the documents GAO had access to. “Without an adequate record, we cannot conclude that the agency’s actions were reasonable,” GAO wrote.

But it might not have made a difference because GAO found plenty of problems with the Navy’s decision and is recommended that the Navy cancel the contract with ESP and name Cortek the winner.

In addition to the poor report, GAO found problems with ESP’s staffing proposal, which didn’t meet the requirements laid out in the solicitation. It also didn’t buy the Navy’s argument on why the proposal was acceptable.

ESP’s technical proposal also was a page too long. And while the Navy said it ignored the first page because it was just an executive summary, GAO said that summary contained information not found elsewhere in the proposal.

The Navy should have not evaluated the last page, which contained a past performance reference. Without that reference, ESP would not have received a satisfactory score for past performance.

The Navy’s heavily redacted report also didn’t allow GAO to evaluate how the Navy scored ESP’s past performance, corporate experience or pricing.

All of these were faults in the Navy’s decision that Cortek pointed out in its protest.

The contract is for training services for the C-130T and C-9B aircraft. The competition was based on a best value criteria, and Cortek had better scores for management approach, corporate experience and overall non-price. It’s scores were either good or outstanding.

ESP’s scored acceptable for management approach, corporate experience and overall non-price. Both companies scored substantial confidence in the past performance category.

But Cortek’s price was $11.7 million compared to ESP’s $9.9 million bid.

I can’t help but wonder if the Navy evaluated ESP as acceptable and then went straight to the low-price, making this in essence an LPTA competition.

I also wonder about Cortek’s relationship with the Navy going forward especially given how hard the Navy pushed back on the protest by submitting the heavily redacted reports to GAO.

But from the GAO report, the Navy’s actions seem pretty egregious. And GAO also recommended that Cortek be reimbursed for its protest expenses.

Nevertheless, through no fault of its own, Cortek likely has some fences to mend with its customer.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 04, 2016 at 9:29 AM

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