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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

After initial success, Battelle loses fight for CDC virus work

Battelle’s desire to support the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s response to influenza epidemics and pandemics has crashed and burned.

The company proved in one protest it was treated unequally by CDC, which awarded a $23.4 million contract to General Dynamics IT. The Government Accountability Office told CDC to re-evaluate proposals in a May decision that gave Battelle another shot at the contract.

But CDC again picked GDIT, which was bidding as CSRA LLC. Battelle protested again and this time claimed there were differences in how the proposals were treated and CDC failed to explain how it assigned strengths and weaknesses to the proposals. The company also criticized CDC’s best value analysis.

The Government Accountability Office rejected all of those arguments, saying that CDC acted reasonably and its actions were consistent with the solicitation. The procurement record also supported the best-value choices the agency made.

But in reading the GAO decision it is easy to understand Battelle’s frustration as its proposal was actually slightly higher rated than GDIT’s. Battelle scored a 38.5 on the technical approach, compared to GDIT’s 35.5 score.

GDIT had a higher score for its staffing plan -- 18.3 compared to Battelle’s 16.8. GDIT’s management plan also was higher with a score of 9.4 to Battelle’s 8.2. Battelle scored 20 for similar experience  compared to GDIT’s 19.4. Battelle's transition plan was rated a 10, while GDIT’s earned a 9.

Overall, Battle’s total score at 93.5 was just shy of two points higher than GDIT’s 91.6.

The pricing also was close. Battelle proposed a price of $23.7 million GDIT’s price was $23.4 million -- just a $300,000 difference.

CDC told GAO that because the technical scores were essentially equivalent, they went with GDIT’s lower price.

CDC also was drawn to GDIT because of its previous work with CDC providing bioinformatics support. In this solicitation, the companies were asked to propose ways to develop and apply “new and novel molecular characterization methods.” The work will help CDC understand the range and virulence of novel and seasonal influenza viruses.

The experience with CDC and its slightly lower price is what won the day for GDIT.

I should note that this contract was in the works long before COVID-19 and it was not part of a response specific to that pandemic. CDC released the solicitation in June 2019.

Usually, in denied bid protests there are certain lessons or areas where the losing bidder can glean some kernel of what to do differently next time. I’m not sure that is here, except for one area where GAO and CDC said that Battelle could have provided more details.

But Battelle had a strong proposal. There is where its frustration must lie.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 30, 2020 at 12:07 PM

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