Government Offerors—There Are No Foolish Questions

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Merle M. DeLancey, Jr. 

The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) regularly denies protests because an offeror made assumptions in its proposal. To the offeror, such assumptions seem perfectly reasonable but to an agency the assumptions are incorrect or contrary to the agency’s intended procurement approach. As a result, the offeror’s proposal is rejected as non-compliant.

If the offeror files a GAO protest, GAO will likely dismiss the protest as being untimely, stating that the offeror was required to challenge a solicitation’s terms and conditions prior to the deadline for the submission of proposals. This scenario is frustrating because it likely could have been avoided had the offeror simply asked the agency questions.

Frequently, clients ask us to opine on what information an agency is seeking in a solicitation or how to interpret a term in a solicitation. These questions are often asked shortly before an offer is due. While we do our best, our guidance is not a substitute for agency guidance. We appreciate offerors are busy. Most prepare proposals based on due dates. As a result, by the time an offeror begins to prepare its proposal, the solicitation’s Q&A period is over.

Continue reading “Government Offerors—There Are No Foolish Questions”

Relief Requested: What the Federal Circuit’s CACI-Federal Decision Means for Your Bid Protest beyond Standing

Stephanie M. Harden ●

The primary holding of the Federal Circuit’s May 2023 decision in CACI, Inc.-Federal v. United States (Case No. 2022-1488), is that “statutory standing” is no longer a jurisdictional issue. This means that when considering whether a protester is an “interested party” under the Tucker Act, the Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) is not required to address statutory standing before the merits.

Although much has been written about this holding, our view is that there will be little or no impact on most bid protests stemming from this particular aspect of the decision, other than perhaps an uptick in denying protests on the merits without first addressing statutory standing.

We think the more interesting part of the decision is its reaffirmance of the Chenery doctrine, and specifically, the Federal Circuit’s direction about which issues must be remanded back to the agency, rather than decided by the COFC in the first instance. Although the Chenery doctrine is not new, the Federal Circuit has now made it clear that the doctrine greatly limits the COFC’s ability to order specific relief where an issue was not previously considered by the agency. On this issue, our takeaway is that CACI-Federal will actually lead to a reduction in the COFC weighing in on certain merits-based issues.

Confused about how Chenery relates to statutory standing? Read on for our analysis.

Continue reading “Relief Requested: What the Federal Circuit’s CACI-Federal Decision Means for Your Bid Protest beyond Standing”

60-Second Sustains: Life Science Logistics, LLC

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Elizabeth N. Jochum

Life Science Logistics, LLC
B-421018.2, .3

  • The protester alleged that GSA failed to conduct meaningful discussions by not raising, in pre-corrective action discussions, significant weaknesses that resulted in the proposal being rated unacceptable in a post-corrective action evaluation.
  • GAO has held that, when an agency seeks revised proposals and performs a new evaluation, that reevaluation may identify flaws in a materially unchanged proposal that the agency would have been required to discuss with the offeror, had the flaws been identified when the proposal was initially evaluated.
  • In that situation, the agency must reopen discussions in order to disclose its concerns.
  • GSA argued Life Science’s pre- and post-corrective action proposals were materially different, but GAO found that the content that gave rise to the significant weaknesses was present in both proposals but had been overlooked in the initial evaluation.
  • Since the Agency did not advise Life Science of the significant weaknesses in its initial proposal when conducting discussions, GAO sustained the protest and recommended GSA reopen the procurement, conduct meaningful discussions, and evaluate revised proposals.

Blank Rome Successfully Represents KPMG LLP in GAO Bid Protest Challenging U.S. Air Force Award Decision

Samarth Barot headshot image

A Blank Rome team represented KPMG LLP in a successful bid protest before the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”), in which KPMG challenged the award decision of the United States Air Force in a procurement for visible accessible understandable linked trusted (“VAULT”) subject matter expert support.  

The team was led by Dominique L. Casimir and included Robyn N. Burrows and Samarth Barot

To learn more, please visit our website.

FY 2022 Sees Number of Protests Fall, Solicitation Challenges Join the List of Most Likely Protest Grounds to Be Sustained

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Luke W. Meier and Elizabeth N. Jochum ●

The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) has released its Annual Report to Congress summarizing bid protest activity for Fiscal Year 2022 (GAO-23-900462). The report mostly shows a continuation of recent trends: the overall number of GAO protests continues to drop, “effectiveness” remains high and stable (51 percent), and there are very few hearings (two for the year). Of note, preaward solicitation challenges were one of the most successful types of protest at GAO, for the first time ever since GAO began reporting the bases for successful protests in 2013. Below we break down what contractors can glean from this latest report.

Overall numbers down

The total number of protests filed at GAO continues to fall. The chart below shows the number of protest actions reported by GAO over the last several years.

Continue readingFY 2022 Sees Number of Protests Fall, Solicitation Challenges Join the List of Most Likely Protest Grounds to Be Sustained

60-Second Sustains: Tech Marine Business, Inc.

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Elizabeth N. Jochum

Tech Marine Business, Inc.
B-420872.1, .2, .3

  • The protester alleged that it should have been assigned a strength for its transition plan, which exceeded the Navy’s schedule for workload turnover and would be completed “well in advance[] of the 60-day requirement.”
  • The Agency argued that, as GAO has held, it is not required to document determinations of adequacy or explain why a proposal did not receive a strength for a particular item. The Agency represented that it reviewed the protester’s transition plan and did not consider the proposed ability to transition faster than the 60-day requirement to be a strength.
  • GAO found this insufficient and that the agency “provides no explanation—contemporaneous or otherwise—to support the reasonableness of its evaluation of Tech Marine’s transition plan.”
  • GAO stated it failed to see, and the Agency failed to explain, why exceeding the transition schedule would not benefit the Agency.
  • GAO recommended the Agency reevaluate Tech Marine’s proposal and make a new source selection determination.

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.

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.

Cost Realism: Frequently Asked Questions

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David L. Bodner ●

Understanding the basics of cost realism can help offerors submit more competitive proposals and withstand cost realism challenges to award. The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) cites cost realism as one of its “most prevalent reasons for sustaining protests” in its Fiscal Year 2021 Bid Protest Report.

What is a cost realism analysis?

A cost realism analysis is a FAR 15.404-1(d)(1)-prescribed proposal analysis technique where the agency determines if the proposed costs are realistic for the work to be performed. In a cost reimbursement contract, an offeror’s proposed costs are not controlling because agencies are responsible for all actual and allowable costs. A cost realism analysis determines if an offeror is proposing unrealistically low costs to secure award. An agency cost realism analysis evaluates each offeror’s proposed cost elements (e.g., direct costs, overhead, G&A, material and subcontracting, etc.) for the unique technical approach proposed to determine the expected cost of performance. If the agency determines a proposed cost element is unrealistic, the agency can adjust the offeror’s evaluated cost, typically upward. The agency uses each offeror’s evaluated cost to select the best value awardee. However, the contract award reflects the awardee’s proposed total cost.

Continue reading “Cost Realism: Frequently Asked Questions”
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