60-Second Sustains: R&K Enterprise Solutions, Inc.

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Elizabeth N. Jochum

R&K Enterprise Solutions, Inc.
B-419919.6, .7, .8

  • The protester alleged the Air Force’s best-value tradeoff decision was unreasonable because it consisted of a “mechanical comparison of point scores that did not take into account the underlying bases for those scores” and because the source selection authority only considered the awardee’s proposal and did not compare the merits of the offerors’ proposals.
  • GAO agreed, noting that the award determination document discusses only the awardee’s proposal, with no reference to R&K’s proposal.
  • The Agency had argued that the selection authority had relied on the evaluation board’s recommendation and rationale, but GAO found that, even if that were the case, that recommendation was “based entirely on a mechanical evaluation of point scores” without a qualitative comparison of underlying strengths and weaknesses and was therefore unreasonable.
  • GAO recommended the agency perform and document a proper best-value tradeoff.

60-Second Sustains: Selex EX, Inc.

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Elizabeth N. Jochum and Luke Meier

Selex EX, Inc.
B-420799

  • Selex ES argued that the solicitation, which sought proposals to replace a tactical air navigation system, was unduly restrictive of competition because it could be interpreted to require offerors meet the navigation system’s flight check qualification and readiness level requirements at the time of proposal submission rather than at the time of award or performance.
  • GAO found that the solicitation was patently ambiguous regarding whether the requirements are due at time of proposal submission or at time of award and that Selex ES was prejudiced by the ambiguity and GAO sustained the protest on that basis.
  • GAO declined to address whether it would be unduly restrictive of competition to expect offerors to meet the requirements at the time of proposal submission given the patent ambiguity.
  • GAO recommended the agency amend the solicitation to clarify when various requirements are due.

Law360 Rising Star: Elizabeth N. Jochum

Blank Rome partner Elizabeth N. Jochum was profiled as a 2022 Government Contracts Rising Star by Law360, notably honoring her as one of the top five government contracts attorneys nationwide under the age of 40. (See Law360 Names Elizabeth N. Jochum a 2022 Government Contracts Rising Star)

In her profile, Elizabeth talks about why she’s a government contracts attorney, her biggest recent case and other important cases throughout her career, and her proudest moments as an attorney.

You can read an excerpt on our website

60-Second Sustains: Insight Technology Solutions, Inc.

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Elizabeth N. Jochum ●

Insight Technology Solutions, Inc.
B-420543.2

  • Insight Technology challenged a solicitation requirement that offerors possess capability maturity model integration (“CMMI”) level 3 certification at the time of proposal submission.
  • GAO denied the argument that the certification requirement was unduly restrictive of competition overall but agreed with the protester that requiring the certification at time of proposal submission, rather than at time of award, was unreasonable.
  • GAO found nothing in the record to support a need for the certification prior to the start of performance, much less before award.
  • The agency argued earlier certification was necessary to allow it to evaluate offerors, but GAO found no reason the objective determination of whether the offeror possessed the certification would need to be completed until immediately before award, at the earliest.
  • GAO recommended the agency amend the solicitation to allow certification at time of award or performance.

60-Second Sustains: Office Depot, LLC

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Samarth Barot and Elizabeth N. Jochum

Office Depot, LLC
B-420482

  • Office Depot challenged GSA’s attempt to use a single blanket purchase agreement to purchase both hardware/industrial supplies and office supplies, arguing that the evaluation scheme was unreasonable because it was predicated on consideration of incomplete historical sales information for the office supplies.
  • The protester argued that the market basket to be used for evaluation was based on historical sales of hardware and industrial items, to the exclusion of data on office supplies, which resulted in a market basket which didn’t reasonably represent the likely purchases of office supplies.
  • GAO agreed that the Agency had unreasonably relied on limited historical data regarding office supply sales to predict its future buying needs and that it had no (or virtually no) basis for forecasting estimated quantities of office supplies.
  • GAO recommended GSA conduct additional market research and revise the solicitation with a reasonable representative sample of estimated hardware/industrial items and office supply purchases.

Law360 Names Elizabeth N. Jochum a 2022 Government Contracts Rising Star

Blank Rome partner Elizabeth N. Jochum was named a 2022 Government Contracts Rising Star by Law360, notably honoring her as one of the top five government contracts attorneys nationwide under the age of 40.

This year’s list spans 96 law firms and 36 practice areas, and recognizes attorneys under 40 whose legal accomplishments “belie their age” and honors their significant career accomplishments in their respective disciplines.

To learn more about Elizabeth and view the full list of 2022 Rising Stars, please visit our website.

60-Second Sustains: Rice Solutions, LLC

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Elizabeth N. Jochum

Rice Solutions, LLC
B-420475

  • GAO sustained the protester’s allegation that the Department of Health and Human Services had engaged in unequal discussions.
  • Once an agency chooses to conduct discussions, it must do so with all offerors in the competitive range under FAR 15.306(d)(1).
  • Here, the Agency did not dispute that it engaged in discussions with only the awardee, but claimed it had established “a de facto competitive range of one.”
  • GAO found that the record was devoid of any documentation or support for the Agency’s contention that a competitive range had been established before holding discussions with only one offeror, the awardee.
  • GAO stated, “[w]here, as here, there is no record or evidence that the agency established a competitive range, we will not infer the existence of a de facto competitive range, in order to validate an agency’s omission of an offeror during its conduct of discussions.”

60-Second Sustains: Eccalon, LLC

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Elizabeth N. Jochum

Eccalon, LLC
B-420297; .2

  • GAO sustained the protester’s challenge where the Defense Department considered a factor that was not reasonably encompassed within the evaluation criteria.
  • The RFQ provided that the agency would evaluate technical approach to determine the extent to which the approach demonstrated understanding of the requirements, feasible methods to accomplish required tasks, and reliable methods for ensuring quality deliverables.
  • In comparing the protester and awardee’s quotations, though, the agency found that the protester’s approach was only “somewhat superior” because it relied on “experience and not necessarily innovation.”
  • GAO found this conclusion inconsistent with the RFQ’s evaluation criteria, which did not put offerors on notice that their approach would be devalued if rooted in experience rather than innovation.
  • GAO found no clear nexus between the identified evaluation criteria and the agency’s consideration of experience and innovation and sustained the protest accordingly.

Get to Know Our Newest Partner, Elizabeth Jochum

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Justin A. ChiarodoDominique L. Casimir, and Elizabeth N. Jochum

In late 2021, we were thrilled to welcome Elizabeth N. Jochum in our Washington, D.C., office as a partner in the Government Contracts practice. A skilled litigator and counselor with a significant background in white collar defense and investigations matters, Elizabeth joined Blank Rome from Smith Pachter McWhorter PLC, where she was a partner.

Elizabeth advocates for government contractors in bid protests before the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims as well as handles appeals before the Armed Services and Civilian Boards of Contract Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. She also represents contractors in size protests, determinations, and appeals before the Small Business Administration. Elizabeth advises prime contractors and subcontractors on a range of matters, including regulatory compliance, contract negotiation, due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, and change and claim preparation.

Now that she has settled in at Blank Rome, we took a few minutes to chat with Elizabeth to find out more about her background, interests, and approach to client service. Here are the highlights, so that you can get to know her!

Welcome (again) to Blank Rome! We are so excited to have you on our team! What brought you to Blank Rome?

Thank you! I am so thrilled to be here, the transition has been incredibly smooth thanks to how welcoming the firm and group have been to my clients and me. I was drawn to Blank Rome because of the government contracts group’s incredible reputation. I have also had the opportunity to work with several members of the group on various matters and speaking engagements so had no doubt they were exactly the kind of smart, business-minded, and collegial people I hoped to work with. I also wanted to offer my clients a broader range of support outside of government contracts—particularly on labor & employment and corporate issues. Blank Rome has incredible capabilities in those areas as well.

Continue reading “Get to Know Our Newest Partner, Elizabeth Jochum”

Court of Federal Claims Declines to Adopt GAO’s Rule for Post-Proposal Key Personnel Changes

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Elizabeth N. Jochum and Robyn N. Burrows

For years, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) has been moving towards an increasingly draconian position on offerors’ obligations to notify agencies when the availability of proposed personnel changes after proposal submission. A recent decision by the Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) in Golden IT, LLC v. United States expressly addressing and departing from the GAO precedent may give hope to offerors struggling with GAO’s requirement.

Golden IT, LLC (“Golden”) protested the Department of Commerce’s award of a single blanket purchase agreement to Spatial Front, Inc. (“SFI”). Among its many protest grounds, Golden claimed that SFI’s quote contained a material misrepresentation regarding key personnel because it proposed an employee who had allegedly left SFI after it submitted its bid and before receiving award. Golden claimed that SFI was obligated to notify the agency of the individual’s unavailability after submitting its proposal.

Continue reading “Court of Federal Claims Declines to Adopt GAO’s Rule for Post-Proposal Key Personnel Changes”
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