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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Accenture loses incumbent USCIS contract

Accenture has lost an opportunity to defend a $100 million incumbent U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services contract for data analytics and artificial intelligence after the firm's technical solution was deemed unacceptable.

Accenture then filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office over that to claim USCIS “unreasonably concluded” that the company’s technical solution was unacceptable and the government used an unstated technical requirement.

GAO denied the protest and agreed with USCIS. But what was that so-called unstated requirement?

According to the GAO decision, USCIS ran a two-part competition. In part one, bidders were evaluated on their technical solution. In this case, the government provided a problem statement and bidders had to provide a coding submission that solved the problem.

The solution would include a single script that would provide a link to launch an interactive notebook and launch at least three environments: development, end-to-end testing and production. Both the notebook and environments were to run within the Amazon Web Services cloud.

Accenture used AWS’ SageMaker service that was hosted on the AWS US East 1 region. But unbeknownst to Accenture, there were limitations on the availability of SageMaker in the region. When USCIS tested the solution, it failed and Accenture was out of the competition.

The limitation was not publicly-known, so Accenture argued that to be penalized for that is tantamount to an unstated technical requirement. Accenture said that once USCIS learned of the problem, the agency should have amended the solicitation and allowed bidders to submit new coding submissions.

But USCIS argued that using SageMaker was Accenture’s choice. It wasn’t a requirement set by the government. The second reason, according to the government, is that Accenture specified the AWS availability zone where SageMaker would be hosted. Instead, Accenture should have only specific the availability zone “identifier” and not used a region or availability code.

A little confusing, but AWS hosting locations are organized into regions represented by a region code. Each region is a separate geographic area that contains multiple locations known as availability zones.

The mistake Accenture made apparently was being too specific about where SageMaker would be hosted.

With the protest cleared up, USCIS can move forward with making an award to another bidder.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 10, 2019 at 7:27 AM

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