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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Lessons from PAE's lost Air Force protest

PAE has lost its shot at keeping a $97.3 million contract with the Air Force for base operations support.

PAE was the incumbent but lost the competition to Vectrus to support Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. After Vectrus won in April, PAE filed a bid protest with the Government Accountability Office.

GAO dismissed the protest, which is unusual at this stage. Usually you see dismissals after an agency takes a corrective action and GAO makes no comment.

But in this case, GAO made the decision and it is a lesson for all companies in the market.

PAE’s protest was dismissed because their issue is one that needs to be raised after the solicitation comes out and before proposals are submitted.

In this case, PAE protested the evaluation scheme used by the Air Force. But GAO said protesting the scheme after award came too late.

To use GAO’s words: “Our Office has found that post-award challenges to an agency’s cost or price evaluation scheme are not timely, if the challenged scheme was set forth in the solicitation.”

In a way, the PAE protest is the opposite of a separate protest I wrote about last week. GAO denied a protest that General Dynamics filed over a $404 million award to Science Applications International Corp. But in the decision, GAO spends some time critiquing the evaluation scheme, something called “quality-infused pricing.”

GAO called it convoluted and an attempt by the Air Force to reduce a best-value source selection process to a mathematical formula.

But GD didn’t complain about the scheme because they knew about it before submitting their proposal. After that, it is too late.

The message is clear – understand your solicitation. Look for things that can hurt your or put you at a disadvantage during evaluation. Raise any objections early.

I’m not saying that these things are always worthy of a protest. In a lot of cases, they probably won’t be.

But filing after an award to protest something you knew from the beginning just won't cut it.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:46 AM

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