This case is an example of two rules that all contractors should never forget when formulating proposals: give the customer what they ask for, and — if you are not going to follow rule one – be sure to explain why.
Protesting contractor: Piton Science and Technology, Oakton
Contracting agency: Department of the Army
Protest issue: Whether deviations from the solicitation were justified.
GAO, Jan. 23, 2012: Denied.
Post-mortem: In conducting a best value evaluation, the Army found Piton was marginal under the category of mission capability, due primarily to its failure to justify the lower number of man hours proposed than was recommended in the solicitation. As a result, Piton was excluded and the Army awarded contracts to seven other offerors.
The error made here is one that I like to call Incumbent Ego. Piton’s justification was simply that it held the predecessor contract and therefore knew what the Army needed apparently better than the Army. It is this idea — that because I am the incumbent I don’t have to follow the same solicitation rules and criteria that other offerors have to follow — will lose many contracts.
It is okay (even beneficial) to be innovative, but you need to convince the customer that your alternative better meets the requirements of the contract. If you can’t do that, than perhaps the deviation is actually not in the best interest of the customer after all.