NIH CIO-SP4 contract hit with 97 protests

No, that's not a typo. Nearly 100 companies are objecting to their elimination from this $50 billion governmentwide IT vehicle.

We knew more protests were coming for the small business portion of the CIO-SP4 IT solutions contract when we reported last week that 13 new protests had been filed and another 10 were waiting in the wings.

But we would never have guessed the number of protests would swell to 97. We have not seen this level protests since probably 2013, when the Homeland Security Department was trying to award the Eagle II IT services vehicle.

CIO-SP4 is a very different animal, in that the National Institutes of Health organization running that procurement is using a self-scoring mechanism to eliminate companies from the competition during phase one.

That score not reaching a certain threshold means elimination from the competition.

All of the protests have been from small businesses so far.

One round of 10 protests led the NIH IT Acquisition and Assessment Center to take a corrective action and rethink the point threshold for those companies.

NITAAC apparently reset the threshold to another level, which let those companies back in but still left (so far) 97 others out in the cold.

The 97 companies filing this new round protests are arguing that NITAAC has set an arbitrary score as the threshold.

NITAAC has not responded to requests for comment, which is not surprising given that this is an active protest.

But if NITAAC takes another corrective action, where does that leave the situation? Will that mean a total reset of CIO-SP4, at least the small business portion? What would a reset mean for the companies who surpassed the self-scoring threshold?

Legal sources I have spoken with are withholding any predictions until they see what NITAAC says in a corrective action they all expect to happen.

NITAAC has 30 days to respond to the protests. If there is no corrective action, a Government Accountability Office ruling would be expected in mid-February.

I am following some of the discussion over CIO-SP4 on LinkedIn. Some believe NITAAC has made some grave errors, otherwise you wouldn’t see so many protests.

Others see sour grapes because the use of self-scoring was clear in the solicitation. They say the time to protest is long gone.

Time will tell which side is correct.