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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Resignation kills URS bid for Navy contract

The fact that agencies have wide latitude in how they evaluate proposals is on stark display in a recent bid protest decision.

URS Federal Services  filed a protest that SimVentions won a $37.8 million contract for engineering and technical services for the Naval Sea Systems Command.

The Navy had scored portions of URS’s proposal as unacceptable- particularly its workforce plan.

The solicitation required resumes for eight key personnel that would work on the project. And where URS ran aground with the Navy was that one of its key personnel left the company after the proposal was submitted but before an award was made.

In cases like this, the agency has two choices – it can open discussions with the bidders to address the problem, or it can evaluate the proposal as is and find it unacceptable. The Navy did the latter, killing URS’s chances of winning the contract.

Government Accountability Office ruled that it was within the Navy’s discretion to not open discussions as GAO has held in earlier decisions.

“An agency’s discretion to hold discussions is quite broad and is generally not reviewed by this Office,” GAO wrote in its decision

GAO also rejected URS’s claim that replacing the person would be a minor administrative task. Here, GAO pointed to the solicitation that changes in personnel required the contracting officer’s approval.

It seems the more reasonable action would have been to allow URS to replace the person who left the company and then continue on with the evaluation. Just shutting URS out seems to be a disservice to the government. Why not let them make the change and fully vet both proposals? What's the downside? A delay? You should be used to that.

SimVentions very well may have still won. It received outstanding scores for its non-price factors, so they had a very good proposal.

But the way it is now, we’ll never really know if URS was even close.

I’m not sure if there is any lesson here for bidders other than a warning. URS didn’t try to pull a bait and switch and get caught. A person resigned and that is something companies have very little control over.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Aug 04, 2016 at 9:27 AM

Reader Comments

Mon, Aug 8, 2016

The title of this article is misleading. It was not the resignation of a key person that killed URS' proposal. Read the actual decision: http://www.gao.gov/products/D14100#mt=e-report

Mon, Aug 8, 2016

Nick, would be interesting to further clarify if offerors (both in general per FAR/TINA or specifically in this case given NAVSEA 5252.237-9106) are required to disclose if someone bid as key resigns after submission, but prior to award...

Mon, Aug 8, 2016

The real issue here is that this decision is going to result in inhibiting competition. Given that it can take more than 8 months to award a contract, no company can avoid personnel turnover during the period between submission and award. If the government is going to invalidate proposals based on this, companies are going to think twice about spending scare bid and proposal dollars on these opportunities.

Fri, Aug 5, 2016

What killed the bid was URS's non-compliant proposal...please go back and read the entire GAO decision and the other past cases that they referenced in that decision. Cherry-picking a piece of the GAO decision – to put in a headline – distorts the entire set of facts in URS's favor. So, if your reader does not do their own homework on this, they will miss the lessons to be learned here. URS should have notified the Government of their situation, as soon as it occurred (per standard Government/RFP requirements), rather than rely on the Government to somehow discover it and then engage them during the oral Q&A portion of the submissions. As pointed out by the GAO ruling, URS also left out addressing two key positions in the out years...a common practice that many large defense contractors use to artificially bid a low price. It’s about time the Government stands up against these big companies playing unethical games with their staffing plans to try and outbid the competition…and then expecting to ‘get away with it’ just because they are big enough to cause the Government headaches by dragging them into ‘protests.’ A quick review of URS (just look through the GAO protest docket) shows they ‘protest’ almost every loss…which is a total misuse of the protest process. This type of behavior causes a direct negative impact on our warfighters and the systems and technologies they need…and, is also why Congress is now looking into revamping this protest process all together (see: http://www.arnoldporter.com/en/perspectives/publications/2016/05/house-senate-propose-alternative-visions-bid), to include invoking financial penalties on protests that are found to be without merit.

Fri, Aug 5, 2016

Perhaps the better question is how the Navy became aware of a personnel action ...

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