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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

GAO rejects claim of ambiguous solicitation terms

Best-value evaluations for contracts have definite subjective areas and in this recent dispute, the arguments surrounded the definition of terms used in the contract.

After the Homeland Security Department issued its solicitation for cybersecurity support, the Federal Acquisition Services Team OASIS Joint Venture filed an objection with the Government Accountability Office. The company also known as FAST complained that terms in the solicitation were vague and ambiguous.

The GAO has rejected that argument but the decision highlights the challenge and importance of understanding what your customer is trying to say.

With the GAO decision, DHS is free to award the three-year, $22 million contract that is being competed as a task order under the OASIS vehicle.

FAST raised objections in the past performance section of the solicitation to multiple phrases such as “at a tactical level,” “ability to support,” “ability to independently develop and define,” and “transcend beyond [the] status quo.” The company said the phrases were confusing and open to varying interpretations.

DHS argued that FAST “cherry picked” the terms and they are clear if read in context of the entire solicitation.

FAST raised similar objections in other sections of the solicitation. But GAO rejected those as well, ruling that taken in context the solicitation was clear.

While this wasn’t mentioned in the GAO decision, it seems there are earlier opportunities to ask for clarifications before a final solicitation is released. So if you don’t understand, the time to ask is before the final request for proposals, or in this case the request for quotations.

If the final is out and you still don’t understand, a better strategy may be to not bid at all.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:03 PM


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