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The Information You Seek Is [deleted]

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robert_antonio

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I read bid protests decisions issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Court of Federal Claims (COFC), and Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). If I find others, I read them too. One thing that irritates me is [deleted]. I didn't delete anything vulgar. I "redacted" something. Those who redact claim it is used to prevent the disclosure of information that is confidential or sensitive. Those who see the [deleted] repeatedly have a hard time reading decisions.

I'm against the disclosure of information that would compromise a firm's position in the competitive marketplace. In fact, I'm worried that the latest fad in state and local government--transparency--may be going too far. However, public documents should include enough information for readers to understand the decision.

The latest decision that I [deleted] my way through was Wackenhut Services, Inc., v. U. S. and Coastal International Security, No. 08-660C, December 15, 2008. This National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) procurement is gaining recognition for its solicitation which exceeds 2,500 pages, if the COFC is to be believed. The procurement is for security guard services, potential fire fighting/prevention services, and potential emergency medical response services, at fourteen different NASA locations.

Five offers were received and two were eventually included in the competitive range. One offeror was selected for award and another protested. That leaves us with 2 offerors. How did the 2 offerors stack up against each other in the evaluation? The COFC provides a table that shows scoring for technical fators on p. 13 of its decision. Unfortunately, it is useless since everything is [deleted]. Check it out. So, you want more than that [deleted]. Don't worry, head on over to p. 4 of the GAO decision, Wackenhut Services, Inc., B-400240; B-400240.2, September 10, 2008. at p. 4. It provides everything but the protester's price. If you missed the little box at the top of the CG decision it says:

This redacted version has been approved for public release.

So, GAO provided the scoring information in its decision. Why not the COFC? My records show that I posted the GAO decision to Wifcon.com on October 15, 2008--2 months before the COFC decision appeared in public. By the way, the COFC used the GAO decision in its decision so it knew the information was public. Why did the COFC redact public information? Maybe the COFC uses a vocabulary with a word "re-redacted" in it.

What's that you say? Neither table provides the price of the protester? Well, you just have to be a bit more persistent when reading decisions. Luck helps too. Go to p. 53 of the COFC decision where it states:

The Complaint alleged that the SSA violated FAR 15.308,31 and acted arbitrarily and capriciously in: (i) determining that WSI?s and CIS?s final proposals as to the ?Mission Suitability? Factor and ?Past Performance? Factor were ??basically equal;? (ii) in failing ?to provide any discussion in [the] selection decision of the value of WSI?s significant strengths; and (iii) in failing ?to conduct a technical/price tradeoff between [WSI?s] significant strengths and
WSI?s 5% higher price
.? Compl. ? 35d. (emphasis added)

There you are. The protester states that its price is 5 percent higher than the other offeror's price. You can do the math to complete the table. Isn't that just wonderful?

To me, its clear that neither the GAO nor the COFC have a consistent policy for what should be [deleted] from their decisions. They should meet and agree on the type of information, do it consistently, and favor the maximum amount of disclosure.

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