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Nick Wakeman

CORRECTION: How I mischaracterized a recent protest decision

In May, I wrote about a State Department contract that was embroiled in a series of bid protests. I’ve learned since then that I got several things wrong.

In my original post, I talked about how the State Department awarded Salient CRGT a contract in late 2016 to support the Foreign Service Institute’s School of Language Studies.

Incumbent Global Language Center filed a protest over the award objecting to the evaluation process.

For the first protest, the State Department pulled back the award to re-evaluate its decision. Again, the department picked Salient CRGT. Also winning awards were Yorktown Systems Group and International Center for Language Studies as small businesses. Global then protested again.

GAO ruled in favor of Global and recommended that the agency reopen discussions and get revised proposals.

Here is where I made my mistake. I wrote that Salient CRGT prevailed again when it published a news release about its award. I used that release as a jumping off point to write about the contract and the protests.

What I didn’t realize was that the State Department had decided to make an award to four companies. And not just Salient CRGT, Yorktown Systems Group and International Center for Language Studies.

Global wrote to me expressing their disappointment in being left off the list of winners.

So to be clear, there are four companies including Global on the $732 million contract to provide language instruction, curriculum development and testing services to the School of Language Studies.

The school services about 2,000 students annually, with about 1,000 involved via distance learning courses. Training is available in more than 70 languages.

They will compete for task orders under the contract.

One thing that Global Language Center found wrong about my post was that I described the protests as a battle between them and Salient CRGT. There was a good reason for that.

Both companies were competing for the full-and-open portion of the contract. So Salient CRGT was an intervener in the protest, meaning it participated in filings and other actions involving the protest at GAO. The other companies are not mentioned prominently in the GAO protest decision.

But Global Language Center executives were clear with me that they were never protesting against Salient CRGT but against the evaluation process.

“Competition is a way of life for government contractors. And as such competition must always be viewed as fair to all parties,” David Mitchell, vice president of Global wrote to me. “Global Language Center believes that the General Accountability Office process for protesting contract awards is a necessary component of the government procurement process.

"It is a fair process and is aimed at correcting believed errors in the government’s evaluation of proposals. It is never used as a tool against another company.”

GAO’s decision is available here and I linked to it in my original post.

While I regret how I characterized the protest decision, I appreciate Global reaching out to me and pointing out what I got wrong.

They also provide a lesson on the value of bid protests, which allowed them to push back on what they rightly saw as mistakes the State Department made. Think about it. In the first protest, the State Department pulled back awards to re-evaluate their decision.

In the second protest, GAO ruled in favor of Global. The State Department’s answer finally was to give bot Salient CRGT and Global an award.

I would say that Global Language Center should feel vindicated.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jun 27, 2018 at 12:31 PM


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