Court hits GSA over handling of Polaris small biz contract boonchai wedmakawand

A federal judge has told the General Services Administration to change how it evaluates past experience examples and pricing. The implications could stretch beyond just this one governmentwide IT contract.

Protesters who challenged the General Services Administration’s Polaris small business contract in federal court won some of the claims and lost others.

But the final result means GSA has to make adjustments to the governmentwide IT solutions contract.

A U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge has ruled that GSA has to stop evaluating proposals for the $15 billion contract. GSA also cannot make awards until it makes amendments to the solicitation and lets companies resubmit their proposals.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by VCH Partners and SH Synergy. Among their challenges were objections to the self-scoring portion of the solicitation and how points are awarded to company’s past experience, especially when it comes to small business mentor-protégé joint ventures.

The companies also raised objections to how pricing was evaluated, because GSA didn’t include task order level pricing.

The judge ruled that GSA needs to change how it scores joint venture past experience and needs to include pricing in the evaluation for awards at the master contract level.

GSA did not include pricing as an evaluation factor to get selected for Polaris, having argued that was best evaluated at the task order level.

While significant rulings, they should be relevantly quick fixes and especially how pricing is evaluated. In many ways, the judge's ruling returns the process to how GSA has traditionally evaluated proposals and especially the pricing item.

The mentor-protégé portion of the decision is a little more confusing. The judge agreed that GSA can limit a mentor to one joint venture, but also ruled the agency was too restrictive in how it allowed mentor-protégé teams to score their past experience.

According to the ruling, a protégé could only submit one example of their work while other offerors could submit up to three.

GSA argued that the protégé had an advantage with just one past-experience example compared to three for other offerors. But VCH Partners and SH Synergy argued that how the points were assigned gave offerors an advantage.

The judge agreed and told GSA to amend that portion of the solicitation as well.

The impacts beyond Polaris will be interesting because the self-scoring methodology is so pervasive in government contracting. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if we see agencies adjusting their solicitations to comply with the court’s ruling.

I’m sure the legal team at the National Institutes of Health's IT Acquisition and Assessment Center is looking at how this decision impacts the CIO-SP4 vehicle, which has been mired in protests related to its self-scoring methodology.

GSA will now include price evaluations in the solicitation for the OASIS+ professional services vehicle to incorporate the Polaris ruling, according to a LinkedIn post from Red Team Consulting.

So far, no official updates to the OASIS+ solicitation on But we’re watching.