Consistency is key in GAO decisions

Consistency is key in GAO decisions

Whether companies are big or small, or come armed with an army of legal attorneys or none at all, procurement rules remain the same.

Protesting contractor: SAIC Inc., McLean

Contracting agency: Department of the Army

Protest Issue: Whether all offerors were held to the same standard.

GAO Decision, Dec. 5, 2011: Denied.

Post-Mortem: I wrote last week about a smaller company that filed their protest without the assistance of an attorney, and an awardee that responded equally without counsel. This week the GAO released a written decision of a case decided last month that highlights the opposite side of the spectrum, involving companies that are household names in the D.C. area. Between SAIC, BAE Systems and General Dynamics, there were no fewer than 25 attorneys involved in this protest.

That said, the decision wasn’t that different from any other protest decision. During the selection process the Army issued nearly three hundred written discussion items to each offeror. SAIC argued that that the Army “applied a more exacting or onerous standard” in reviewing its weaknesses as compared to its review of the other offeror’s weaknesses. The GAO discussed only a few of the arguments, in the end stating that SAIC had failed to show that the Army had acted unreasonably or applied a separate standard.

GAO’s decision shows that, generally speaking, the system works. Every protest argument, no matter how big or small, is evaluated equally to determine whether the government followed the law. The system is not perfect, and I certainly have been critical of the GAO in the past, but whether there are 25 attorneys or none at all, or whether it is for a few thousand dollars or a billion, the system is applied fairly.

If they know the law and can articulate their argument adequately, size really doesn’t matter.