STS prevails in multi-year protest battle Khuankaew

The company faced three rounds of protests over almost the same number of years, but now finally has the decision that upholds its Army field services contract win.

The third time might be a charm for STS International as it has battled for nearly three years with ICF over a contract for Army field services.

ICF is the incumbent contractor to provide field services for equipment deployed by the Natick Soldier Systems Center in Massachusetts. Support services can be provided globally.

According to a Government Accountability Office decision released in late June, the Army first picked STS in December 2020 when the recompete came up for award. ICF's first protest followed shortly thereafter.

By the end of January 2021, the Army took corrective action to address the issues raised by ICF.

In November 2021, the Army again awarded the contract to STS and a second protest from ICF followed. In February 2022, the Army took another corrective action.

That brings us to March 2023 when for the third time, the Army awarded the contract to STS and ICF filed its third protest.

The Army decided not to take a corrective action. On June 28, GAO issued a decision rejecting ICF’s arguments.

In its third protest, ICF said that the Army failed to consider what STS’ low price indicated about its understanding of the contract's technical requirements.

STS bid a price of $20.6 million compared to ICF’s at $23.2 million.

ICF argued that STS' price was too low given that the latter planned to hire ICF employees to continue working on the contract. ICF said that STS couldn’t hire ICF employees at that low of a price.

Deltek data lists the total value at $49.5 million.

ICF argued that the price difference indicated that STS didn’t understand the technical requirements of the contract.

Here is where a bit of procurement hairsplitting comes in. GAO said the solicitation didn’t require the Army to consider price as part of its technical evaluation. Instead, the Army only needed to look at price as part of its determination of whether STS was a responsible party.

“While ICF is correct that a price realism evaluation can be used to evaluate whether an offeror’s prices are so low that they reflect a lack of technical understanding, the RFP here did not contemplate such an evaluation,” GAO wrote.

A price evaluation only came into play after the Army evaluated the proposals' technical and past performance factors. The Army only evaluated pricing to determine if a company was responsible. GAO said there was no issue with that approach because the Army laid it out in the solicitation.

“In light of these considerations, we find that this aspect of ICF’s protest fails to state a valid basis for protest,” GAO said.

ICF also raised two other issues involving the technical evaluation, but GAO dismissed these as untimely because they should have been raised in the first protest and not the third.

GAO also denied ICF’s protests involving the best-value decision.