What’s government willing to pay? The ultimate question.

What’s government willing to pay? The ultimate question.

Whether you are a consumer shopping for a car or a government agency shopping for products and services that support your mission, the goal is always to get the most you can get for the least amount of money spent. The challenge in government contracting, however, is knowing just what the government is willing to spend to get the services it wants.

Protesting contractor: Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda

Contracting agency: General Services Administration

Protest issue: Low cost versus premium services

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

Post-mortem: The GSA issued a task order request to all contract holders under its Alliant government-wide acquisition contract for IT technical support services for the Army, including labor, materials and supplies. Contractors were told the award would be made to the quote that represented the best value to the government after considering four technical factors and cost. The GSA received nine quotes.

Among the bidders were Lockheed and L-3 Services Inc. of Reston. Lockheed was rated by the GSA as “Good” in two factors, “Acceptable” in one factor and “Excellent” in the remaining factor. L-3 on the other hand was rated as “Excellent” in all four factors. The cost quote was where the two most differentiated from each other: L-3 quoted a price of $362 million while Lockheed quoted a cost of $350 million. In making its award decision to L-3, the Source Selection Authority stated that “L3 proposed the most comprehensive solution with the lowest risk… and the government is willing to pay a premium for L3’s technical approach, experienced personnel, and overall superior technical solution.”

Lockheed protested on a number of grounds, none of which seemed to have much chance of success. According to the GAO, some of Lockheed’s protest grounds were abandoned after they failed to respond to the agency report. Others were simply not very persuasive. Under the protest of the technical evaluation, the GAO pointed out Lockheed only challenged one of the six weaknesses it was assigned and only challenged two of the nine weaknesses assigned under key personnel and staffing evaluation. Ultimately, the GAO determined that “Lockheed’s challenges to the selection decision have no basis in the record.”