When contractors don’t know best

When contractors don’t know best

They say that ignorance is bliss. That is seldom the case when preparing a government contract proposal. But there is a situation that contractors occasionally find themselves in where understanding of the experience needed to fulfill the contract is of little value and can actually be a hindrance to successfully competing for the award.

Protesting contractor: Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc. (HTSI), Columbia, Md.

Contracting agency: Department of the Army, Army Material Command

Protest issue: Ignorance isn’t bliss to the incumbent

Decision: Denied by the Government Accountability Office May, 3, 2013

Post-mortem: The Army published a request for proposals to provide logistic support, property accountability services and maintenance in one location in Afghanistan, one in the Pacific and one in the U.S. Award would be made to the proposals that represented the best value to the Army.

The primary issue of dispute was how the Army evaluated past performance. HTSI was the incumbent contractor for the contracts in Afghanistan and the US. As such, it was intimately aware of what was required. And yet, despite that, the Army determined that HTSI’s past performance was less than that of the other offerors. According to the source selection authority it was the higher past performance ratings of the other offerors which made them the best value to the government.

After an initial protest, which included a supplemental agency report, the Army took corrective action, providing offerors with a spreadsheet detailing the relevant considerations that it would use to evaluate past performance.

In its second protest filed after the Army took corrective action, HTSI challenged numerous minimum requirements the Army used for evaluating relevance. One example that HTSI gave was that the minimum value for a contract the Army consider relevant was $20 million, while HTSI’s incumbent contract was valued at $50 million. HTSI argued that the minimum listed in the spreadsheet was not a realistic representation of the minimum workload required.

According to the GAO, the determination of the relevance of an offeror’s past performance is “a matter within the discretion of the contracting agency.” The protest was denied.

HTSI as the incumbent was in the best position to know exactly what was required to fulfill the contract. The fact that the Army evaluated HTSI, the incumbent, with a lower rating on the identical work required of the solicitation speaks volumes regarding the Army’s view of HTSI’s performance.

At the same time, HTSI’s knowledge of what was required to complete the deliverables was ultimately more of a burden than a benefit. It led the company to sink money into protests under the false belief that it knew what the government needed more than the government.