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FAR 15.208:  Submission of proposals - Format and Substance

Comptroller General - Key Excerpts

New The contracting officer rejected ISI’s proposal based on the three provisions quoted from the manufacturer’s “terms and warranty” document above. COS ¶ 19. With respect to the first provision, the contracting officer found that it conflicted with the RFP’s requirement for delivery F.O.B. destination to Flagstaff, Arizona. AR, Tab 13, Decision Mem., at 263; see COS ¶ 17. With respect to the second provision, he noted that the solicitation did not provide for commercial financing, but provided for payment after delivery, while the provision above provided for payment before shipping. AR, Tab 13, Decision Mem., at 263; see COS ¶ 18.a. With respect to the third provision, he questioned whether ISI would be bound to perform the resulting contract if the government accepted ISI’s offer, since it stated that the price and specifications were subject to change without notice. AR, Tab 13, Decision Mem., at 263; see COS ¶ 18.b.

ISI disputes these findings, arguing that it should have been very clear to the contracting officer that the manufacturer’s terms and warranty document only applied to the manufacturer’s authorized distributor/dealer (i.e., ISI), not to the agency. Comments at 3, 12. ISI maintains that the contracting officer conflated the terms offered by ISI to the Forest Service, with the terms offered by the equipment manufacturer to ISI. See id. at 6. According to ISI, it included the manufacturer’s terms and warranty document “as an additional item for evaluation, even though it was not required [by] the BPA,” to be as thorough, comprehensive, and detailed as possible to “allow for a positive evaluation of our proposal.” Id. at 4‑6. ISI also claims that the disputed terms “are part of [the manufacturer’s] literature,” that “proprietary reasons do not allow [ISI] to remove text from [such] literature,” that it was thus “unavoidable to exclude these terms[,]” and that the contracting officer refuses to acknowledge “that the brochures provided [] are property of the manufacturer.” See id. at 4‑5, 7.

The Forest Service maintains that the contracting officer reasonably rejected ISI’s proposal, because it was ambiguous at best, and inconsistent with the solicitation at worse. MOL at 15. The agency points out that most of the manufacturer’s terms include various conditions, limitations, and responsibilities for the equipment “buyer” and “user,” but that ISI’s proposal did not explain that those terms did not apply to the agency. Id. at 12‑13. Without such an explanation, the Forest Service maintains, its contracting officer reasonably read the entire manufacturer’s terms and warranty document--including the unacceptable delivery, payment, and subject to change without notice provisions--as applying to the agency, and thus inconsistent with the RFP requirements. Id. at 13.

We agree with the Forest Service. It is an offeror’s responsibility to submit a well written proposal, with adequately detailed information which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation requirements and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency. See, e.g., International Med. Corps, B‑403688, Dec. 6, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 292 at 7. An offeror that does not affirmatively demonstrate the merits of its proposal risks rejection of its proposal. HDL Research Lab, Inc., B‑294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD ¶ 8 at 5. In reviewing protests challenging the rejection of a proposal based on the agency’s evaluation, it is not our role to reevaluate proposals; rather our Office examines the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and in accordance with the solicitation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. Wolverine Servs. LLC, B‑409906.3, B‑409906.5, Oct. 14, 2014, 2014 CPD ¶ 325 at 3; Orion Tech., Inc., B‑405077, Aug. 12, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 159 at 4.

Contrary to the protester’s arguments, it was not at all clear from ISI’s proposal which delivery and payment terms the firm was actually offering to the Forest Service. On the one hand, the proposal’s CLIN terms specified delivery F.O.B. to Arizona, consistent with the solicitation, and did not specify any payment terms. On the other hand, the CLIN terms, as the agency points out, explicitly referenced the subsequent warranty pages--which contained conditions expressly applicable to the “buyer” and “user” of the equipment, as well as delivery and payment terms that were facially inconsistent with the solicitation. As a result, instead of making its proposal more thorough by including the manufacturer’s terms and warranty document, as the protester urges, that document actually introduced ambiguities and inconsistencies into ISI’s offer that the Forest Service was not required to reconcile. Indeed, ISI essentially concedes that including the manufacturer’s document resulted in “confusion” and “misinterpretation” of ISI’s offer, and “may have caused additional work” for the contracting officer. See Comments at 5‑6; AR, Tab 18, ISI Email to Contracting Officer (CO), June 3, 2016; Tab 20, ISI Email to CO, June 3, 2016.

An agency is not required to piece together disparate parts of a protester’s proposal to determine the protester’s intent. See James Constr., B‑402429, Apr. 21, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 98 at 5; see also The Louis Berger Group, Inc., B‑407715 et al., Jan. 25, 2013, 2013 CPD ¶ 55 at 9 (agency not required to divine protester’s approach to specified technical requirement from proposal’s check-the-box table). Moreover, agencies are not required to infer information from an inadequately detailed proposal, or to supply information that the protester elected not to provide. Optimization Consulting, Inc., B-407377, B-407377.2, Dec. 28, 2012, 2013 CPD ¶ 16 at 9 n.17. We thus find unavailing ISI’s assertion that its proposal clearly met the solicitation’s requirements.

Moreover, ISI’s claim--that it could not exclude the manufacturer’s terms and warranty provisions from the manufacturer’s literature--is disingenuous, at best. The record actually shows that the manufacturer’s brochures (which did not specify warranty, delivery, or payment terms and conditions) were submitted by ISI separately and apart from ISI’s proposal. See Proposal at 209‑57; COS ¶ 15. In fact, ISI concedes that there was no need to include the manufacturer’s warranty terms as part of ISI’s proposal. See Comments at 6 (“We included the warranty terms as an additional item for evaluation, even though it was not required by the BPA.”), 7 (warranty term document could have been provided after evaluation). Thus, as the contracting officer admonished ISI, if the manufacturer’s terms and conditions did not apply to the Forest Service, then ISI should not have included those terms and conditions in its proposal. See AR, Tab 21, CO Email to ISI, June 6, 2016.

In sum, ISI’s protest amounts to nothing more than the protester’s belated attempt to re‑write its proposal and explain what it actually intended to offer the agency. While ISI disagrees with the Forest Service’s reasons for rejecting ISI’s proposal, the protester has not shown that the agency acted unreasonably. See Emergency Vehicle Installations Corp., B‑408682, Nov. 27, 2013, 2013 CPD ¶ 273 at 4‑5 (protest of rejection of quotation is denied where agency reasonably questioned whether the quotation was contingent on prepayment by the government, notwithstanding protester’s assertion that the inclusion of “informational only” pricing information in its proposal could not have reasonably lead the agency to conclude that the offer was contingent on advance payment); TechStart, LLC, B-403515, Nov. 10, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 274 at 2‑3 (protest of rejection of quotation is denied where it contained inconsistent delivery terms and explicitly stated that a deposit was required, contrary to FAR provisions for commercial item acquisitions).  (Independent Systems, Inc. B-413246: Sep 15, 2016)

FMP asserts that, “although FMP’s proposal did not include the correct Price Worksheet,” the draft version of attachment J.7 that FMP submitted included its proposed labor rates. Protest at 12. Accordingly, FMP maintains that “GSA could have allowed FMP to correct this deficiency by [resubmitting its labor rates] on the correct Price Worksheet.” Id. On this basis, FMP asserts that rejection of its proposal was improper. We disagree.

In reviewing protests challenging an agency’s evaluation, our Office does not reevaluate proposals; rather, we review the record to determine whether the evaluation was reasonable, consistent with the terms of the solicitation, and compliant with procurement statutes and regulations. See, e.g., Alutiiq Tech. Servs. LLC, B‑411464, B-411464.2, Aug. 4, 2015, 2015 CPD ¶ 268 at 4; Silverback7, Inc., B‑408053.2, B-408053.3, Aug. 26, 2013, 2013 CPD ¶ 216 at 3. An offeror’s disagreement with an agency’s evaluation, without more, does not establish that the evaluation was unreasonable. Id. Offerors are responsible for submitting well‑written proposals that conform to the solicitation requirements. See, e.g. Hallmark Capital Grp., LLC, B‑408661.3 et al., Mar. 31, 2014, 2014 CPD ¶ 115 at 9.

Here, the agency points out that the pricing worksheet submitted by FMP was “not functional.” Contracting Officer’s Statement at 2. The agency further notes that certain requirements regarding calculation of labor rates had been changed between the draft J.7 and the final J.7, and that accepting FMP’s offer based on differing assumptions than those that were applicable to all other offerors would have been improper. Id. On this basis, the agency maintains that FMP’s failure to comply with the solicitation’s express requirement regarding submission of attachment J.7 would have required that FMP resubmit, after the closing date, the appropriate document. Id.

As noted above, the solicitation specifically provided that only the revised version of attachment J.7 would be accepted, specifically warned offerors that failure to submit the appropriate version of the document “may result in the proposal being rejected,” and further stated that the agency “intends to strictly enforce all of the proposal submission requirements.” RFP at 111, 149, 151. On this record, we find no basis to question the reasonableness of the agency’s elimination of FMP’s proposal from consideration.

The protest is denied.  (Federal Management Partners, Inc. B-413155.7, B-413155.13: Aug 30, 2016)


Agencies are required to evaluate quotations consistently, and in accordance with a solicitation’s instructions, including any instructions relating to a quotation’s format and page limitations. See DPK Consulting, B-404042, B-404042.2, Dec. 29, 2010, 2011 CPD ¶ 12 at 4-6. As a general matter, firms competing for government contracts must prepare their submissions in a manner consistent with the format limitations established by the agency’s solicitation, including any applicable page limits. IBM U.S. Federal, a div. of IBM Corp.; Presidio Networked Solutions, Inc., B‑409806 et al., Aug. 15, 2014, 2014 CPD ¶ 241 at 12. Consideration of submissions that exceed established page limitations is improper in that it provides an unfair competitive advantage to a competitor that fails to adhere to the stated requirements. Id. at 12-13.

Here, while acknowledging that the RFQ specifically required quotations to be single-spaced, the agency argues that applying the “common meaning” of “single-spaced” simply requires that there be no blank lines between lines of text. Supp. COS/MOL at 7. Therefore, the agency contends that vendors were free to choose whatever word-processing application suited them, along with that application’s default single-space setting. Id. The agency also asserts that it performed a detailed analysis of Criterion’s quotation, and found that the quotation conforms to the definition of single-spaced. Id.

A comparison of samples of text from Criterion’s and DKW’s technical quotations, respectively, within the section limited to 10 pages, demonstrates the competitive advantage Criterion gained by its noncompliance with the formatting instructions.

Criterion’s quotation:

AR, Tab 3, Criterion’s Quotation, at 62.

Introduction

TheNationalNuclearSecurityAdministration’spolicyandgovernanceprogramprovidesstandards andguidanceto streamlineandunifyInformationTechnology(IT)andcybersecurityprogramactivities andinitiatives underasinglestrategic,operational,andtechnologicalframework.Witheffectivesupportfromanestablishedcontractingteamwithprovensuccessworkingtogether toadvancetheNationalNuclearSecurityAdministration(NNSA)objectives, thePolicyandGovernanceOrder [deleted].

DKW’s quotation:

AProactiveMethodologyDeliversResults— TeamDKWbringsrecognizedprocesses,industry bestpractices,andaccesstostateoftheart [deleted] forcontinuousimprovementthat willdirectlybenefitNNSA.Forexample,TeamDKWpartner [deleted] DKW as prime contractor has more than 14 years of business operations providing IT services to Federal agencies. The benefit to NNSA is a mature back-office with systems and processes already in place to provide exemplary support for agile program management and contract administration on a contract of this magnitude. Our highly experienced key personnel [deleted].

AR, Tab 2, DKW’s Quotation, at 204.

The formatting requirements here, especially as they affect page limitations, were established as mandatory requirements in the RFP, and therefore may not be viewed as mere suggestions that may be disregarded. Rather, their consistent application establishes a fair and level playing field for all parties.

Here, even using the agency’s definition of single-spacing, the record shows that Criterion used multiple space settings. Although the RFQ required single-spacing for the entire quotation,[5] Criterion used different spacing for both volumes 1 and 3, which had no page limitations, than it did for the technical volume, which had a 10-page limit. For example, in both volumes 1 and 3, Criterion used spacing that yielded approximately 44 lines per page. See, e.g., AR, Tab 3, Criterion Quotation, at 25, 92; Tab 8 at 9.[6] However, for the technical volume, Criterion used dramatically smaller line-spacing for every line of the 10 pages, resulting in approximately 66 lines per page. See, e.g., Id. at 70. Accordingly, it appears that Criterion implemented compressed line-spacing in a deliberate and intentional effort to evade the page limitation imposed by the RFQ, especially when compared to the other parts of its quotation. Criterion’s significant deviation from the other two volumes of its quotation effectively added approximately three to four pages to the 10-page limitation. In our view, this was a material change from the RFQ’s instructions that gave Criterion a competitive advantage.

The intervenor argues that even if Criterion failed to comply with the RFQ’s formatting provision, exclusion of its quotation for such failure was not required because of the provision’s comment that if a quotation did not follow the prescribed format, the agency “may” consider such failure a material omission and “may” adversely evaluate or eliminate the quotation from the competition. Intervenor Supp. Comments at 4, citing RFP at 19.

To be reasonable, and therefore valid, an interpretation must be consistent with the solicitation when read as a whole and in a reasonable manner. See Raytheon Co., B-404998, July 25, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 232 at 17; Alluviam LLC, B-297280, Dec. 15, 2005, 2005 CPD ¶ 223 at 2. When a dispute exists as to the actual meaning of a solicitation provision, we will resolve the dispute by reading the solicitation as a whole and in manner that gives effect to all its provisions. Id.

Here, notwithstanding the use of the word “may” in the provision, it is clear, given the context in which it appears, that compliance with the instructions regarding the printing of quotations was mandatory (see, e.g., the RFQ requirements that technical quotations be limited to 10 pages, with single-spaced text, and that the quotations “must . . . follow the prescribed format.” RFQ at 19-20). To conclude otherwise would not be consistent with the purpose of the quotation preparation instructions--to ensure that quotations are submitted in a similar format and are limited as to the amount of information and data they contain on an equal basis. Thus, we find that the RFQ's quotation preparation instructions were clear that the quotations be single-spaced.

We sustain the protests on this basis.  (DKW Communications, Inc. B-412652.3, B-412652.6: May 2, 2016)  (pdf)


LOGMET challenges the Army’s elimination of its proposal from the competition. The protester does not specifically contest the agency’s determination that the version of attachment No. 5 submitted by LOGMET violated the RFP’s prohibition on altering the locked/protected status of the Excel spreadsheet. Rather, LOGMET, in essence, argues that any resulting noncompliance was the result of the agency’s failure to properly implement the locked/protected feature in Excel. See Protest (Oct. 4, 2015) at 47; LOGMET Comments (Nov. 4, 2015) at 3-4; LOGMET Supp. Comments (Dec. 1, 2015) at 1. In this regard, the protester contends that, had the agency properly implemented the locked/protected feature, an offeror could not modify the matrix without having the Army-assigned password. See Protest (Oct. 4, 2015) at 47; LOGMET Supp. Comments (Dec. 3, 2015) at 6-7. As further evidence of the Army’s alleged failure to properly implement the locked/protected feature in attachment No. 5 to the RFP here, the protester argues that the Army has recently amended attachment No. 5 included in solicitations for other competitions under the EAGLE basic ordering agreement. See LOGMET Comments (Nov. 4, 2015) at 3-4. Finally, LOGMET contends that, even if its attachment No. 5 was not properly locked/protected, the Army nonetheless should not have eliminated its proposal from the competition because the protester “submitted an adequate Excel XML spreadsheet in the format established by the solicitation, including all information, encoded formulas and cost data that was [required] or necessary for our proposal to be evaluated.” Protest (October 4, 2015) at 48. For the reasons that follow, we find no basis to sustain LOGMET’s protest.

In reviewing protests challenging the evaluation of an offeror’s proposal, or as here, the rejection of a proposal based on the agency’s evaluation, it is not our role to reevaluate proposals; rather our Office examines the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable, and in accordance with the solicitation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. Orion Tech., Inc., B‑405077, Aug. 12, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 159 at 4. In a negotiated procurement, a proposal that fails to conform to the material terms and conditions of the solicitation is considered unacceptable and may not form the basis for award. Wolverine Servs. LLC, B‑409906.3, B‑409906.5, Oct. 14, 2014, 2014 CPD ¶ 325 at 3‑4.

First, we find that the Army reasonably concluded that LOGMET modified attachment No. 5. LOGMET argues that it only pasted its cost/price information into the highlighted data fields in the version of attachment No. 5 included with the RFP. See LOGMET Supp. Comments (Dec. 1, 2015) at 1. The agency, however, asserts that there were several anomalies in the version of attachment No. 5 that was submitted by LOGMET that indicate that the protester modified the Excel matrix, in violation of the RFP’s prohibition.

As one example, the agency identified that the author, file creation date, and protected workbook status information in LOGMET’s submission deviated from the same information in the version of attachment No. 5 included with the RFP. Specifically, the version included with the RFP under the info tab of the file menu reflects that the file was created on April 22, 2014, by an Army employee, and the “protect workbook” option states that “[o]ne or more sheets in this workbook have been locked to prevent unwanted changes to the data.” AR, Tab 8, Screenshot of RFP attachment No. 5, Info Tab. In the Excel file provided with the RFP, when a user clicks on the “protect workbook” option, a text box appears prompting the user to enter a password; the lock/protection feature cannot be disabled without successfully entering the password. In contrast, the same information tab for LOGMET’s submitted attachment No. 5 reflects that an individual unaffiliated with the Army was the “author” of the file, the file was created on June 11, 2015, and no protections were applied. AR, Tab 9, Screenshot of LOGMET attachment No. 5, Info Tab.

Additionally, the Army argues that at least two columns in LOGMET’s attachment No. 5 were resized as compared to the Excel file provided with the RFP. See Supp. AR (Dec. 3, 2015) at 2. The agency asserts that an offeror could not adjust column widths in the locked/protected version of attachment No. 5. Id. Rather, if an offeror attempted to resize the columns, Excel would generate an error message stating: “The cell or chart you’re trying to change is on a protected sheet. To make changes, click Unprotect Sheet in the Review tab (you might need a password).” AR, Tab 20, Screenshot of Error Message from RFP attachment No. 5. The Army suggested that an offeror could avoid the lock/protect feature, and thus create the type of anomalies identified above, by copying and pasting the contents of attachment No. 5 into a new Excel spreadsheet. See AR at 3.

In addition to its opportunity to submit comments on the agency report, our Office also invited LOGMET on two separate occasions to specifically respond to the Army’s above assertions. Neither the protester’s comments nor supplemental submissions specifically addressed the Army’s assertions or offered any alternative explanation for how these anomalies could have occurred. Our review of the native Excel version of attachment No. 5 also was consistent with the agency’s assertions. For example, even after saving attachment No. 5 as a new version and pasting data into the highlighted cells, the information tab in the file menu still reflected that the “author” of the file was the same Army employee reflected in the original attachment No. 5 included with the RFP, and that the “protect workbook” feature was still activated. Similarly, when attempting to resize the columns, the same error message identified by the agency in AR, Tab 20 occurred. On this record, we find that the Army reasonably concluded that LOGMET’s attachment No. 5 had been modified, and therefore was noncompliant with the express terms of the RFP. We conclude that these facts support the Army’s conclusion that the Excel spreadsheet submitted in the protester’s proposal was altered from the version provided in the RFP.

Second, we find no merit to LOGMET’s arguments that the Army (1) effectively bore the risk that an offeror could modify attachment No. 5 based on the agency’s failure to adequately activate the lock/protect feature in Excel, or (2) was nonetheless required to accept the protester’s noncompliant attachment No. 5 because the agency could have independently verified that all of the required encoded formulas and data were included. As an initial matter, even assuming that the lock/protect feature was not properly implemented by the agency, such failure was not a license for the protester to modify attachment No. 5 in violation of the RFP’s express prohibition.

Furthermore, an agency is not required to adapt its evaluation to comply with an offeror’s submissions--the question is not what an agency could possibly do to cure a noncompliant submission, but, rather, what it is required to do. Strategic Resources, Inc., B‑411024.2, Apr. 29, 2015, 2015 CPD ¶ 200 at 4. In this regard, where, as here, proposal submission requirements are clear, an agency is not required to assume the risks of potential disruption to its procurement to permit an offeror to cure a defect in its proposal submission caused by the offeror’s failure to comply with a mandatory solicitation requirement. Id. The RFP here was clear that offerors were not permitted to modify attachment No. 5 other than by populating the data in the highlighted fields. RFP at 53. The purpose of locking/protecting the matrix ostensibly was so that the Army did not have to individually evaluate each proposal to determine whether an offeror had altered the formulas included in the Excel spreadsheet included in the RFP. We find that the agency was not obligated to conduct a heightened analysis of LOGMET’s noncompliant, modified attachment No. 5.

The protest is denied.  (LOGMET LLC B-412220.2: Dec 23, 2015)  (pdf)


New Proposal Page Limitation

CORTEK alleges that the agency treated it and ESP disparately in evaluating proposals because the agency improperly allowed ESP--but not CORTEK--to exceed the RFP’s specified page limitation for technical proposals. The RFP limited technical proposals to no more than 25 pages. RFP at 114. The record shows that ESP’s technical proposal was 26 pages in length, and CORTEK maintains that the agency should not have evaluated the last page of the ESP proposal. The last page of the ESP proposal appears to include information relating to one of ESP’s three past performance/corporate experience examples, and this example was proffered by ESP during discussions. AR. Exh. 30, ESP Technical Proposal, at 26. The record also shows that, on the basis of that new past performance/corporate experience example, the agency changed the ratings assigned to ESP’s proposal from unknown confidence to satisfactory confidence under the past performance evaluation factor, and from marginal to acceptable under the corporate experience factor. AR, exh. 27, SSDD, at 1-2.

The agency responds that the first page of the ESP technical proposal was an executive summary that merely reiterated the contents of the ESP technical proposal and included no substantive information. As a result, the agency explains that it reasonably ignored the first page of the ESP proposal in performing its page count, and concluded that the proposal was only 25 pages.

We disagree. Agencies are required to evaluate proposals consistently, and in accordance with a solicitation’s instructions, including any instructions relating to a proposal’s format and page limitations. See DPK Consulting, B-404042, B-404042.2, Dec. 29, 2010, 2011 CPD ¶ 12 at 4-6.

As noted, the RFP included a 25 page limit for technical proposals, but ESP’s technical proposal included 26 pages. The RFP specifically provides that: “[p]ages submitted in excess of the page limitations described above will not be evaluated.” RFP at 114. Although the agency maintains that the first page of the ESP proposal was merely an executive summary that could be excluded from the page count, the record shows that the first page also included information relating to ESP’s approach to paying health and welfare benefits directly to its employees: [deleted]. AR, exh. 25, ESP Executive Summary. It appears that this information is found nowhere else in the ESP technical proposal.

Because the evaluation record in this case is comprised of selected, heavily redacted documents that do not include the agency’s evaluation findings with respect to ESP’s corporate experience, past performance or price proposal, we are unable to determine whether or not this benefits information included in the executive summary on the first page proved significant in the agency’s ultimate selection of the ESP proposal for award. That said, and as correctly noted by the protester, the record does show that the information included on page 26 of the ESP technical proposal apparently was central to the agency concluding that the ESP proposal should receive a satisfactory (rather than unknown) past performance confidence rating and an acceptable (rather than a marginal) corporate experience rating. The information on page 26 of the ESP proposal should not have been considered because it was included on a page that exceeded the 25 page limitation imposed by the RFP, and, as noted, the RFP specified that pages in excess of 25 pages would not be evaluated. We therefore sustain this aspect of CORTEK’s protest.  (CORTEK, Inc. B-412047, B-412047.2, B-412047.3: Dec 17, 2015)  (pdf)


RFP Page Limitations

Lockheed asserts that the agency’s evaluation of Raytheon’s technical approach under the operations, maintenance, and support technical focus area of the sustainment activities technical subfactor violated the RFP’s explicit provisions regarding page limitations. Accordingly, the protester contends that Raytheon was afforded an unfair competitive advantage. Supp. Protest at 32-35. We disagree.

As noted above, offerors were required to submit proposals as separate technical, past performance and cost/price volumes. RFP, § L, at 16-18. The technical volumes were to address an offeror’s proposed approach for meeting the RFP requirements, the actual methodology the offeror would use to address the criteria of the technical subfactors, and were limited to 115 pages. Id. at 23. Also as noted above, the [basis of estimate] BOEs were part of the cost proposals, and were to describe the rationale used to derive proposed labor and materials estimates based upon the offeror’s proposed technical approach, so that the agency could conduct a cost realism assessment. RFP, § L, at 45. Lockheed and Raytheon submitted cost proposals with 1,151 and 661 BOE pages, respectively. AR, Tab 26k, Lockheed Cost/Price FPR; Tab 27k Raytheon Cost/Price FPR.

Both Lockheed and Raytheon complied with the technical proposal page limit. However, the protester contends that Raytheon included technical approaches in its cost/price proposal, and that the agency improperly considered them in its evaluation of Raytheon’s technical proposal, thereby allowing Raytheon to circumvent the RFP’s page limits.

It is a fundamental principle of government procurement that competition must be based on an equal basis; that is, offerors must be treated equally and be provided with a common basis for the preparation of their proposals. An agency may waive compliance with a material solicitation requirement in awarding a contract only if the award will meet the agency's actual needs without prejudice to other offerors. Safety-Kleen (TS), Inc., B-284125, Feb. 23, 2000, 2000 CPD ¶ 30 at 2-3. Competitive prejudice is an essential element of a viable protest; and where the protester fails to demonstrate that, but for the agency’s actions, it would have had a substantial chance of receiving the award, there is no basis for finding prejudice, and our Office will not sustain the protest. See, e.g., SunGard Data Systems, Inc., B-410025, Oct. 10, 2014, 2014 CPD ¶ 304 at 7-8. Unfair competitive prejudice from a waiver or relaxation of the terms and conditions of the RFP for one offeror exists where the protester would have altered its proposal to its competitive advantage had it been given the opportunity to respond to the altered requirements. Vocus Inc., B-402391, Mar. 25, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 80 at 6.

Here, the record reflects that Lockheed also included a great deal of information related to its technical approach in its cost proposal, and that the agency’s evaluation of both Lockheed’s and Raytheon’s technical approaches for this focus area relied almost exclusively on information contained in the offerors’ respective cost proposals. AR, Tab 37d, Updated PAR, at 145-46 (Lockheed); at 474-78 (Raytheon). As regards Lockheed, the PAR states, in multiple paragraphs, that the agency evaluated Lockheed’s approach based on the contents of particular BOEs. Id. at 145‑47. For Raytheon, the agency specifically cites sections of Raytheon’s cost volume. Id. at 474-78. Since the agency appears to have waived the page limit restriction for both offerors, we have no basis to conclude that Lockheed was prejudiced by the agency’s actions, and we find no basis to sustain the protest on this ground.  (Lockheed Martin Corporation B-411365.2: Aug 26, 2015)  (pdf)


Page Limitations

As an initial matter, the protesters assert that the agency unreasonably determined that parts of their proposals exceeded applicable page limitations. In this regard, the solicitation provided that Proposal Volume II was to consist of an executive summary and Tabs 1-8. RFP at Bates 0137-39. Pertinent here were Tab 6 (Commitment to Supply Chain Management and Supply Diversity), Tab 7 (Post Award Support and Service) and Tab 8 (Management Plan). Id. at Bates 0139. The RFP set forth a page limitation of 90 pages for Volume II, excluding from the count: (a) “Cover Page, Indices”; (b) “Deviations and Exceptions”; and (c) Tabs 1 and 3. RFP, § A.3.6(b)(1), at Bates 0138. The RFP specifically provided that “[p]ages submitted in excess of the limitations specified in this provision will not be evaluated by the Government and will be returned to the offeror in accordance with NFS [NASA FAR Supplement] 1815.204-70(b).” RFP, § A.3.6(b)(5), at Bates 0139. In this regard, NASA FAR Supplement § 1815.204-70(b) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Pages submitted in excess of specified limitations will not be evaluated by the Government. The contracting officer shall return one copy of the excess pages removed from the proposal to the offeror, advising the offeror that they were over the limit and will not be evaluated.

The dispute here stems from approximately 60 pages of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) “letters of support,” included in Volume II of the protesters’ proposals under Tab 6, Commitment to Supply Chain Management and Supply Diversity. Proposal at Bates 0262-0320. The CO counted these pages for purposes of determining compliance with the 90-page limit for Volume II. COS at 10. As a result, the CO calculated that the 90-page limit was reached mid-way through the “letters of support” and, consistent with the RFP, did not consider the remainder of the material under Tab 6 as well as all of Tab 7 (Post Award Support and Service) and Tab 8 (Management Plan) of the proposals. Id. at 11. Since Tabs 7 and 8 were not considered, the CO determined that the protesters’ proposals did not address post award support and service (Tab 7) and did not include a management plan (Tab 8), which were to be evaluated under Subfactor C, “Management Plan,” under the management/technical approach factor. COS at 12; see RFP at Bates 145. In this regard, management plan was the most heavily weighted subfactor under the management/technical approach factor. RFP at Bates 157. The CO therefore determined that the protesters’ proposals “contained a material omission” which made them unacceptable and excluded them from further evaluation. COS at 12.

The protesters challenge the CO’s decision to count the “letters of support” included in their proposals under Tab 6 in determining compliance with the 90-page limit for Volume II. Protest at 4-7. The protesters point out that the RFP required that “[a]ll pages” of the Proposal “be numbered,” RFP at Bates 0137, and that, since the letters of support were not assigned page numbers, this demonstrated that they were not “proposal pages” and were instead included as support documents for NASA’s reference only. Protest at 5. According to the protesters, the “letters of support” were “meant to be extra documents in support of, and in addition to the main proposal, and not a substitute or a part of the main SEWP V proposal.” Comments at 3 (emphasis in original). The protesters also point out that the Table of Contents for Tab 6 did not include the letters of support. Protest at 6; see Proposal at Bates 0242; but see id. at 0187, Vol. II Table of Contents. The protesters further argue that, even if NASA was required to count the “letters of support” in calculating compliance with the page limitation, it should not have counted the pages in Volume II in the order they were placed in its proposal, but rather should have first counted all “properly numbered” pages, followed by “all ‘non-numbered’ supporting/reference documents like ‘Letters of Support.’” Protest at 6.

We find nothing improper about NASA’s decision to count the “letters of support” attached to Tab 6 against the Volume II page limitation. As a general matter, offerors must prepare their proposals within the format limitations set out in an agency’s solicitation, including any applicable page limits. Techsys Corp., B‑278904.3, Apr. 13, 1998, 98-2 CPD ¶ 64 at 6; see also All Star Maintenance, Inc., B-244143, Sept. 26, 1991, 91-2 CPD ¶ 294 at 3-4; Infotec Dev., Inc., B‑238980, July 20, 1990, 90-2 CPD ¶ 58 at 4-5. Here, the RFP set forth clear, unambiguous page limitations for Volume II. RFP, § A.3.6, at Bates 0138-39. In this regard, while the protesters contend that the OEM “letters of support” were simply extra documents in support of the main proposal, the RFP provided:

If any reference to documentation is made by the offeror such documentation shall be cited at the page, section, and paragraph level. The cited offeror documentation shall be included in the proposal and counts against the page count as defined in A.3.6.

RFP at Bates 0141; see COS at 5. This inclusion of “reference” documentation in the page count was also consistent with the agency’s position in its response to the Industry Questions and Answers, published on FebBizOpps:

324. A.3.10.3, Please clarify what the government means by “any reference to documentation.[”]

Answer: “Any reference to documentation” are documents cited in your proposal that were not required in the RFP.

325. A.3.10.3, In order to help evaluators assess the compliance of mandatory minimum requirements, would the government allow offerors to provide an appendix of reference documentation (outside page limitations in soft copy format only) that detail related product specifications?

Answer: No, reference documentation is included in the page limitations.

AR, Tab 3, Q&A, at Bates 0184-85 (emphasis in original).

In any case, as noted by the agency, the RFP specifically required offerors to address “Supply Chain Management and Supply Diversity” in Tab 6, including describing “their teaming relationships with other vendors and manufacturers.” AR at 6; see RFP at Bates 144. We agree with the agency that the protesters’ arguments would render the RFP’s explicit page limitation superfluous, since an offeror could evade the limitation simply by labeling proposal pages, including those responsive to solicitation requirements, as “attachments” or by failing to number them.

Offerors that exceed a solicitation’s established page limitations assume the risk that the agency will not consider the excess pages. Techsys Corp., supra, at 6. In those instances where a solicitation has established clear page limitations, we have held that an agency is not obligated to sort through an offeror’s proposal to decide which pages should or should not be counted toward that limitation. Id.; HSQ Tech., B-277048, Aug. 21, 1997, 97-2 CPD ¶ 57 at 3 n.1. Here, the agency began counting with the first text page in Volume II and continued up to the 90-page limit. Consistent with the RFP, the agency did not consider the remainder of the material under Tab 6, as well as any of the material in Tabs 7 and 8. COS at 10-11. We see nothing objectionable in this approach. Accordingly, since the CO reasonably decided that the protesters’ proposals failed to address key solicitation requirements within the applicable page limitations, she reasonably determined that they were unacceptable and excluded them from the competition. See, e.g., Blocacor, LDA, B-282122.3, Aug. 2, 1999, 99-2 CPD ¶ 25 at 2 n.1 (proposal that failed to meet material requirements of the solicitation was properly rejected as unacceptable).  (IMPRES Technology Solutions, Inc.; Metis Intellisystems, LLC; Futron Inc.; Patriot Comm; Ideal Systems Solutions, Inc., B-409890, B-409890.2, B-409890.3, B-409890.4, B-409890.5: Aug 5, 2014)  (pdf)


ASC argues that the omission of an electronic version of its subcontractor’s spreadsheets was a minor formal defect, which the Army should have allowed the firm to correct. According to ASC, the paper versions of the two spreadsheets, which included with the proposal on March 4, already set forth all of the required data; the only missing information was electronic instructions to perform obvious functions--adding, dividing, and multiplying--that were clearly implied by the spreadsheet itself. ASC thus analogizes the missing electronic spreadsheets to the omission of duplicate paper copies of a proposal. Protester’s Comments at 13-15.

In reply, the contracting officer states that, without the electronic versions of the spreadsheets, the agency could not “properly and efficiently perform the evaluation process.” AR, Tab 4, Declaration of Contracting Officer, at 1; Tab 5, Declaration of Head Cost/Price Analyst, at 1. The head cost/price analyst further argues that he was unable to “extrapolate[]” formulas used in the spreadsheets of ASC’s subcontractor from the paper copy that allowed the government to view its pricing buildups for accuracy. See AR, Tab 5, Declaration of Head Cost/Price Analyst, at 1.

It is an offeror’s responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information that clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency. See Herman Constr. Group, Inc., B-408018.2, B-408018.3, May 31, 2013, 2013 CPD ¶ 139 at 3 (agency properly rejected electronic versions of spreadsheets not submitted in Excel format, with formulas included, as required by RFP). Proposals with significant informational deficiencies may be excluded, whether the deficiencies are attributable to either omitted or merely inadequate information addressing fundamental factors. Johnson Controls, Inc., B‑407337, Nov. 20, 2012, 2012 CPD ¶ 323 at 4.

ASC argues that the electronic versions are essentially duplicative of the timely-submitted paper versions, which the agency could have used to perform a complete price/cost evaluation, and that the late electronic copies did not permit the firm to gain any advantage. Protester’s Comments at 20-21. We disagree. The electronic version of the spreadsheets contained software instructions showing how particular data was calculated (for example, that each amount labeled as a “total” was the sum of the column of numbers above it). In short, the paper copy did not show the actual computer instructions, thus the omission of the electronic version of the two subcontractor price spreadsheets left the agency to “extrapolate[]” the arithmetic, rather than being able to ascertain it from the software itself. See AR, Tab 5, Declaration of Head Cost/Price Analyst, at 1.

As the agency’s head cost/price analyst explained, trying to develop formulas would mean that he would bear the risk of error in his calculations, which could lead to error in the evaluation itself. Id. An agency is not required to adapt its evaluation to comply with an offeror’s submission; even if the agency could have extrapolated the missing information to allow for a full cost/price evaluation, the question is not what the agency could possibly do to cure a noncompliant submission, but rather, what it was required to do. Herman Constr. Group, Inc., supra, at 3. Where proposal submission requirements are clear, an agency is not required to assume the risks of potential disruption to its procurement in order to permit an offeror to cure a defective proposal submission initiated by its failure to comply with mandatory solicitation requirements. Id.

Since ASC’s omission violated the terms of the RFP, the missing electronic version could not be cured after the due date for submission of proposals, and thus the Army properly rejected ASC’s proposal as unacceptable.

The protest is denied.  (American Systems Corporation, B-409632: Jun 23, 2014)  (pdf)


Moreover, it is an offeror’s responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal that demonstrates the merits of its approach; an offeror runs the risk of having its proposal downgraded or rejected if the proposal is inadequately written. Id. at 4-5.

Here, the record shows that the Navy reasonably found that neither Watts-Obayashi’s nor Black’s proposals indicated that they would provide two site safety and health officers, as required by the RFP. For example, Watts-Obayashi states in its proposal that the project manager “will work with the Jobsite Superintendent(s), Quality Control Manager, Project Site Safety and Health Officer, Project Engineers, and subcontractors to implement safe and effective construction methods” and that “The Site Safety and Health Office, (SSHO) shall have direct responsibility for the overall management of Watts-Obayashi’s safety program for the project.” AR, Tab 5, Watts-Obayashi Proposal, at 1, 2 (emphasis added). In addition, as Watts-Obayashi admits, Watts-Obayashi Comments at 26, the firm’s organizational chart showed only one site safety and health officer. Thus, Watts-Obayashi’s proposal indicated that the firm would provide only one site safety and health officer, contrary to the RFP requirements. Although the protester argues it was aware that two different sites were covered by the contract and therefore it “presumably intended to have a [site safety and health officer] at each site,”[14] see id., it was Watts-Obayashi’s responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal.

Likewise, Black provided an organizational chart that identified a single “Site Safety and Health Officer (SSHO)” and its proposal states “We will appoint a full time Site Safety and Health Officer (SSHO) with training and experience germane to trenching and fuels projects.” See AR (Black Protest), Tab 4, Black Proposal, at 5; see also Organizational Chart. Black admits that its organizational chart does not identify two site safety and health officers, but argues that its promise to implement a Health and Safety Program in accordance with the RFP satisfies the requirement to identify two site safety and health officers. Black Protest at 10. We disagree. Blanket statements of compliance are insufficient to establish compliance with solicitation requirements--especially when detailed portions of the proposal, like Black’s organizational chart, show otherwise. See National Shower Express, Inc.; Rickaby Fire Support, B‑293970, B‑293970.2, July 15, 2004, 2004 CPD ¶ 140 at 4‑5.  (Watts-Obayashi, Joint Venture; Black Construction Corporation, B-409391, B-409391.2, B-409391.3: Apr 4, 2014)  (pdf)
 


Wolf Creek complains that its past performance should not have received a neutral confidence assessment rating, arguing that it should have received credit for the past performance of affiliated companies. In this regard, Wolf Creek’s proposal provided past performance information for seven contracts that had been performed by subsidiaries of Chugach, but no past performance information for itself. Wolf Creek argues that it provided records of significant accomplishment by its affiliates and demonstrated the meaningful roles they would play in contract performance. Wolf Creek notes that its past performance proposal informed NASA that Wolf Creek would “directly use the experience of personnel who have played key management roles within the [Chugach] subsidiaries from which our past performance is drawn.” See Protester’s Comments & 2nd Supp. Protest at 4 n.5, quoting, AR, Tab 4, Wolf Creek Initial Past Performance Proposal, at 2,665. Wolf Creek also complains that it provided resumes for proposed staff that had previously been employees of Chugach affiliates.

NASA responds that Wolf Creek’s proposal identified no meaningful role for Chugach or any of its subsidiaries in actually performing the requirements in the PWS. In this regard, Wolf Creek’s proposal did not state any substantial role by the affiliates in providing labor, management, or other resources for this contract. Supp. AR at 4. Rather, the agency found that Wolf Creek’s proposal described only general consultation and advisory roles for its affiliates, which the agency did not find to be meaningful involvement in the performance of PWS requirements. AR at 8‑10. In this respect, NASA notes that no role was assigned to Wolf Creek’s parent, Chugach, in the company’s mission suitability proposal, and no Chugach resources were allocated to this contract in Wolf Creek’s price proposal. Supp. AR at 4.

Responding to Wolf Creek’s contention that it should have been credited for the experience of some of its proposed personnel, based on work that these individuals performed for Chugach, NASA states that this information was not provided in Wolf Creek’s past performance proposal. Instead, resumes for Wolf Creek’s proposed project manager and business manager (showing experience with Chugach subsidiaries) were improperly provided in Wolf Creek’s mission suitability proposal, contrary to the RFP’s instructions. Because the past performance evaluation was based exclusively on the contents of the past performance volume, this information was not considered and therefore is not reflected in Wolf Creek’s past performance rating. NASA also notes that the project manager’s experience was not recent (as defined by the RFP), and that the recent work identified by both resumes was not relevant.[10] AR at 12.

In reviewing a protest challenging an agency’s past performance evaluation, we will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable statutes and regulations. Ostrom Painting & Sandblasting, Inc., B-285244, July 18, 2000, 2000 CPD ¶ 132 at 4. An agency properly may consider the experience or past performance of an offeror’s affiliated companies where the firm’s proposal demonstrates that the resources of the affiliated company will affect the performance of the offeror. See FAR § 15.305(a)(2)(iii); Perini/Jones, Joint Venture, B-285906, Nov. 1, 2000, 2002 CPD ¶ 68 at 4. The relevant consideration is whether the resources of an affiliated company--its workforce, management, facilities or other resources--will be provided or relied upon for contract performance, such that the parent or affiliate will have meaningful involvement in contract performance. IAP World Servs., Inc.; EMCOR Gov’t Servs., B-407917.2 et al., July 10, 2013, 2013 CPD ¶ 171 at 9. While it is appropriate to consider an affiliate’s performance record where the affiliate will be involved in the contract effort or where it shares management with the offeror, it is inappropriate to consider an affiliate’s record where that record does not bear on the likelihood of successful performance by the offeror. Id.

Here, the record supports NASA’s determination that Wolf Creek’s proposal failed to show that the Chugach family of companies would contribute to Wolf Creek’s performance of the PWS requirements. AR at 9; Supp. AR at 3; Second Supp. AR at 6. Although Wolf Creek’s past performance proposal included a narrative that purported to demonstrate the meaningful involvement of its affiliates, NASA found that this narrative described general administrative support without identifying any firm commitment, nor did it indicate which Chugach affiliate would be providing support. See AR at 2. Although Wolf Creek disagrees with NASA’s evaluation in this regard, this does not show that the agency acted unreasonably. See Citywide Managing Servs. of Port Washington, Inc., B-281287.12, B-281287.13, Nov. 15, 2000, 2001 CPD ¶ 6 at 10-11. It is an offeror’s responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal that establishes its capability and the merits of its proposed approach in accordance with the evaluation terms of the solicitation. See Verizon Fed., Inc., B‑293527, Mar. 26, 2004, 2004 CPD ¶ 186 at 4.  (Wolf Creek Federal Services, Inc., B-409187, B-409187.2, B-409187.3: Feb 6, 2014)  (pdf)
 


Compuline protests the agency’s rejection of its proposal, arguing that USAID did not comply with requirements of Part 15 of the FAR, and that it failed to reasonably evaluate Compuline’s proposal in accordance with the RFP. Protest at 2. In response, USAID argues that Compuline’s proposal was properly rejected because it did not include some of the most basic information required by this RFP. AR at 2-3. We agree with the agency.

The evaluation of proposals is a matter within the discretion of the procuring agency; we will question the agency’s evaluation only where the record shows that the evaluation does not have a reasonable basis or is inconsistent with the RFP. Hardiman Remediation Servs., Inc., B-402838, Aug. 16, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 195 at 3. Since an agency’s evaluation is dependent on the information furnished in a proposal, it is the offeror’s responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal for the agency to evaluate. Id.; Pacifica Servs., Inc., B-280921, Dec. 7, 1998, 98-2 CPD ¶ 137 at 3. An offeror risks having its proposal evaluated unfavorably where it fails to submit an adequately written proposal. Recon Optical, Inc., B-310436, B-310436.2, Dec. 27, 2007, 2008 CPD ¶ 10 at 6. Where, as here, a proposal fails to meet material requirements of the RFP, it may be rejected as unacceptable. Blocacor, LDA, B-282122.3, Aug. 2, 1999, 99-2 CPD ¶ 25 at 2 n.1; Diversified Collection Servs., Inc., B-406958.3, B-406958.4, Jan. 8, 2013, 2013 CPD ¶ 23 at 11.

Based on our review of the record, we find that the agency reasonably rejected Compuline’s proposal. Among other omissions, Compuline did not provide a management or staffing plan or key personnel; did not include required information for past performance references; and did not submit a cost proposal. In addition, the proposal did not follow the format or organization required by the RFP, did not substantively address the topics identified in the RFP (or did not include sufficient detail), and instead addressed topics that the solicitation did not require. Given that Compuline failed to adhere to the clear instructions in the RFP for proposal content, we find that the agency reasonably rejected the proposal as non-responsive.  (Compuline International, Inc., B-408379, Jul 19, 2013)  (pdf)
 


Our review of the record leads us to conclude that the agency properly rejected the protester’s proposal for failing to comply with the RFP’s mandatory proposal submission format requirement. An offeror bears the burden of submitting an adequately written proposal in the format established by the solicitation, including all information that was requested or necessary for its proposal to be evaluated. See HealthStar VA, PLLC, B-299737, June 22, 2007, 2007 CPD ¶ 114 at 2; Client Network Servs., Inc., B-297994, Apr. 28, 2006, 2006 CPD ¶ 79 at 6. An agency is not required to adapt its evaluation to comply with an offeror’s submission; even if a reformatting effort by the offeror or the agency could be accomplished to allow for evaluation, the question is not what the agency could possibly do to cure a noncompliant submission, but rather, what it was required to do. See Mathews Assocs., Inc., B-299305, Mar. 5, 2007, 2007 CPD ¶ 47 at 3. Where proposal submission requirements are clear, an agency is not required to assume the risks of potential disruption to its procurement in order to permit an offeror to cure a defective proposal submission initiated by its failure to comply with mandatory solicitation requirements. Id.

The protester argues that PDF files were an appropriate substitute for Excel files because the solicitation (in Q&A No. 69) advised offerors that they could use a different “format” for the cost template guide (Attachment No. 4 to the RFP) as long as all formulas were provided. We disagree. The agency’s answer in Q&A No. 69 cannot reasonably be interpreted to have relaxed the RFP’s mandatory requirement regarding the submission of electronic price proposals in “XLS file format (at a minimum, version Microsoft Excel 2003).” RFP at 90. Rather, the question and answer, read consistently with the RFP’s repeated requirements for Excel documentation, can only reasonably be understood to refer to the physical layout of the cost template guide at Attachment No. 4. Our Office resolves disputes concerning the meaning of a solicitation term by reading the solicitation as a whole and in a manner that gives effect to all its provisions; to be reasonable, an interpretation of a solicitation must be consistent with such a reading. See Raytheon Co., B-404998, July 25, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 232 at 17.

Moreover, we do not agree that the agency was required to evaluate Herman Construction’s proposal notwithstanding the protester’s failure to comply with the above-specified solicitation requirement. Although the protester asserts that the paper version of its proposal (and its electronic PDF version) provided pricing documentation and formulas to allow for evaluation, the agency reasonably explains that evaluation of the protester’s proposal without the required Excel-encoded submission would be unduly burdensome.

For instance, the agency reports a substantial amount of time would be needed to either reformat the submission into Excel file format (to the extent that the evaluators could even do so), or to manually adjust and add prices from up to 50 spreadsheets submitted by the protester for the fence and gates work category alone. Contracting Officer’s Statement of Facts at 5; Memorandum of Law at 6.

Our review of the record supports the reasonableness of the agency’s decision to reject Herman Construction’s proposal due to its failure to follow the solicitation’s clear formatting requirements. See Mathews Assocs., Inc., supra.  (Herman Construction Group, Inc., B-408018.2, B-408018.3, May 31, 2013)  (pdf)


SMI challenges the agency’s determination that the protester’s proposal was technically unacceptable.[3] Specifically, SMI contends that its proposal, as revised after receiving the ENs, provided a detailed and quantitative response addressing each PWS performance objective. SMI also contends that it demonstrated sufficient relevant experience.

The evaluation of an offeror’s proposal is a matter largely within the agency’s discretion. Frontline Healthcare Workers Safety Found., Ltd., B-402380, Mar. 22, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 91 at 5. In reviewing a protest that challenges an agency’s evaluation of proposals, our Office will not reevaluate the proposals, but will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable statutes and regulations. Ocean Servs., LLC, B-406087, B-406087.2, Feb. 2, 2012, 2012 CPD ¶ 62 at 5. In this regard, it is an offeror’s responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency. Mike Kesler Enters., B-401633, Oct. 23, 2009, 2009 CPD ¶ 205 at 2-3. An offeror that does not affirmatively demonstrate the merits of its proposal risks rejection of its proposal. HDL Research Lab, Inc., B-294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD ¶ 8 at 5.

Here, the record supports the reasonableness of the agency’s judgment that SMI failed to provide a complete and realistic plan for satisfying the PWS performance objectives. SMI’s initial proposal did not identify a plan and otherwise failed to address most of the requirements. See AR, Tab 9, SMI Technical Proposal. In response to the agency’s discussion questions advising the protester that its proposal had failed to provide the required plan, SMI restated the PWS performance objectives and thresholds/standards, but did not provide a plan for how it would satisfy the requirements. See AR, Tab 12, SMI Revised Proposal at 9-10. Although SMI contends that it provided enough detail to show that it would perform the requirements, this is nothing more than disagreement with the agency’s evaluation judgment. A protester’s disagreement with the agency’s evaluation provides no basis to question the reasonableness of the evaluators’ judgments. Mike Kesler Enters., supra. We find that the agency reasonably rejected SMI’s proposal as unacceptable for failing to adequately address the mandatory RFP requirement to provide a plan for satisfying the PWS performance objectives.  (Security Management and Integration, B-407742, Jan 30, 2013)  (pdf)
 


The protester objects to the agency’s evaluation of its proposal, arguing that its final revised proposal provided the agency with sufficient data and detail to demonstrate that it was technically capable of performing the contract.

In reviewing protests of alleged improper evaluations and source selection decisions, it is not our role to reevaluate submissions; rather, we will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and in accord with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement laws and regulations. Panacea Consulting, Inc., B-299307.4, B-299308.4, July 27, 2007, 2007 CPD ¶ 141 at 3. A protester’s mere disagreement with an agency’s judgment is not sufficient to establish that an agency acted unreasonably. Entz Aerodyne, Inc., B-293531, Mar. 9, 2004, 2004 CPD ¶ 70 at 3.

Here, the record shows that the agency reasonably evaluated LC’s proposal as unacceptable under the technical approach subfactor. Although the protester insists that it has the technical capability to perform the requirement, LC failed to demonstrate an acceptable technical approach in its proposal. For example, LC argues that the SSEB was not aware of the latest technology available for rubber moldings, which LC contends allows for quicker manufacturing. Protest at 1. However, this newer process was not identified or explained in LC’s proposal.

Similarly, with respect to the SSEB’s judgment that LC’s description of its production process contained errors and was missing performance steps, LC does not contend that it fully described all the required steps for manufacturing the cable assemblies. Rather, LC contends that its description was intended merely as an illustration of an intended approach, which was to provide the agency with “a general idea” of their approach. Protest at 2. Offerors were required to demonstrate the viability and effectiveness of their techniques. RFP at 121, 131. LC failed to do so in its proposal. It is an offeror’s responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal that demonstrates the merits of its approach; an offeror runs the risk of having its proposal downgraded or rejected if the proposal is inadequately written. Trofholz Tech., Inc., B-404101, Jan. 5, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 144 at 4-5.

With respect to the deficiency identified under the schedule subfactor, LC argues that the flaws identified by the agency would be easily correctable during contract performance. Comments at 2. However, as explained above, the RFP required offerors to provide a detailed schedule to demonstrate that the offeror understood the necessary phases and tasks required to accomplish the SOW. The evaluators determined that missing or inaccurate steps in LC’s schedule were indicative of an inadequate technical approach. AR, Tab R, SSEB Final Evaluation Report, at 17. The protester’s arguments do not demonstrate that the SSEB unreasonably found LC’s proposed schedule to be unacceptable.

In short, the record shows that, despite several opportunities to explain its proposed approach and schedule, LC failed to provide an adequately written proposal that demonstrated an acceptable technical approach and schedule.

The protest is denied.  (LC Engineers, Inc., B-407754, Jan 31, 2013)  (pdf)


RightStar argues that DCMA unreasonably rejected its quotation, stating that its quotation provided that RightStar would provide the service desk suite and the remote installation sub-CLINs in the option years at no cost to the agency. Protest at 1. The record does not support this allegation, however.

It is the vendor that bears the burden of submitting an adequately written quotation by including all information that was requested or necessary for its proposal to be evaluated. See Capitol Supply, Inc., B-309999.3, Jan. 22, 2008, 2008 CPD ¶ 35, at 5. Here, RightStar’s quotation did not provide required pricing for these sub-CLINs for the option years nor inform the agency, as the protester now claims, that RightStar intended to provide these sub-CLINs in the option years at no expense to the agency. Rather, RightStar’s pricing schedule and response to DCMA’s discussion questions indicated to the agency that RightStar failed to understand the nature of a blanket purchase agreement. For example, with respect to the service desk suite sub-CLIN, in response to the agency’s request that RightStar provide pricing, RightStar informed DCMA that option year pricing did not apply because no additional software was needed--in essence, RightStar refused to provide pricing for the option years for the service desk suite sub-CLIN.

Similarly, with respect to the remote installation sub-CLINs, in response to a request to provide pricing, RightStar informed DCMA that sub-CLINs 3AB and 3AC “do not apply in the option years.” AR, Tab J, E-Mail Exchanges Between DCMA and RightStar, Sept. 28, 2012, at 3. Although RightStar also argues that it included the sub-CLINs in the on-site installation sub-CLIN, RightStar’s final pricing spreadsheet states that sub-CLIN 3AA (Installation Services On-Site, Columbus, Ohio) option year prices included remote administration for upgrades and customizations--not remote installation. See AR, Tab K, RightStar’s Final Pricing Spreadsheet, at 2 n.3.

Because RightStar failed to provide required pricing for the option years for these sub-CLINs or otherwise reasonably inform the agency that RightStar intended to provide these option year sub-CLINs at no cost to the agency, DCMA reasonably rejected the protester’s quotation as unacceptable.  (RightStar Systems, B-407597, Jan 16, 2013)  (pdf)


SRI argues that AFSC’s proposal should have been rejected as unacceptable because the awardee used a font smaller than was permitted by the TOR. The protester contends that had the awardee used a font that complied with the solicitation its proposal would have exceeded the page limit for the technical proposal.

The TOR stated that offerors’ technical proposals were limited to 20 pages. TOR amend. 1, at 2. The solicitation contained the following instructions for the technical proposal font: “Proposal font type shall be limited to Arial, Courier or Times New Roman not smaller than 12 pitch font size.” TOR at 76.

The meaning of the TOR font provision included in the TOR is not clear. The term “pitch” refers to the amount of horizontal space used for each character in a particular font. Integrated Tech. Works, Inc.-Teltara, Inc., B-286769.5, Aug. 10, 2001, 2001 CPD ¶ 141 at 2 n.1; see also Relationship Between Inches, Picas, Points, Pitch, and Twips, available at: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/76388. In contrast, the term “point” is a unit of vertical measurement, equal to 1/72 of an inch; a font size is typically expressed in terms of points to define the vertical height of characters. Id. Fonts such as Courier are fixed-width, meaning that each character is the same width. Id. Thus, a 12-pitch fixed-width font would have 12 characters per inch. In contrast, Times New Roman and Ariel are variable-width fonts, meaning that characters have differing widths, e.g., a “w” or “y” is wider than an “i” or “l.” Thus, the term “pitch” does not apply to a variable-width font. Id. This creates an apparent conflict in the solicitation provision’s use of the term “pitch” with its statement that variable-width Ariel and Times New Roman fonts are acceptable. See TOR at 76.

SRI argues that the awardee’s proposal violated the TOR’s font requirement as it relates to pitch. In light of the inapplicability of the term pitch to variable-width fonts, SRI advances two possible interpretations, either of which, it contends, shows that AFSC’s proposal should be rejected for failing to meet the font requirements. We do not think either interpretation provides a basis to sustain the protest.

First, the protester acknowledges that the term “12-pitch” does not apply to the Times New Roman font used by AFSC or SRI. See Protester’s Comments (Oct. 25, 2012) at 3. For this reason, the protester argues that the term 12-pitch should be understood to mean 12-point, and that AFSC’s proposal should be viewed as unacceptable because it did not use at least a 12-point font. We find that this interpretation is not supported by the TOR, as there is no basis to conclude that the term “12-pitch” should be understood to mean “12-point” when applied to variable-width fonts. The TOR does not use the term “point,” and, as explained above, it is clear that the terms are not synonymous or interchangeable.

Second, the protester argues that, notwithstanding the inapplicability of the term “pitch” to the Times New Roman font, the requirement for a “12-pitch” font should be applied literally to the awardee’s proposal. In this regard, the protester contends that offerors’ proposals must use a font that does not contain more than 12 characters per inch. The protester argues that the font used in awardee’s proposal contains, on average, 18 or more characters per inch, and was therefore unacceptable.

This interpretation has some merit, but only to the extent that it attempts to harmonize the provisions of the TOR. See Raytheon Co., B-404998, July 25, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 232 at 17 (our Office resolves disputes concerning the meaning a solicitation term by reading the solicitation as a whole and in a manner that gives effect to all its provisions; to be reasonable, an interpretation of a solicitation must be consistent with such a reading). The record shows, however, that SRI’s proposal also would not satisfy this standard; a measurement of the protester’s 12-point Times New Roman font in its proposal shows 14-15 characters per inch. Because the protester’s proposal also violates this second interpretation, we find no basis to sustain the protest.  (Strategic Resources, Inc., B-406841.2, Nov 27, 2012)  (pdf)


LOGMET asserts that the agency’s evaluation of its past performance was unreasonable. The protester argues that the Air Force improperly concluded that the offeror did not have--or did not demonstrate--relevant supply store and [information technology equipment] ITE asset management experience. LOGMET contends that had the agency conducted a proper evaluation of its past performance, it would have received a higher, substantial confidence rating and would have been selected for contract award.

Our Office will examine an agency’s evaluation of an offeror’s past performance only to ensure that it was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable statutes and regulations since determining the relative merit or relative relevance of an offeror’s past performance is primarily a matter within the agency’s discretion. TPMC-EnergySolutions Envtl. Servs., LLC, B-406183, Mar. 2, 2012, 2012 CPD ¶ 135 at 11; Clean Harbors Envtl. Servs., Inc., B-296176.2, Dec. 9, 2005, 2005 CPD ¶ 222 at 3. A protester’s mere disagreement with the agency’s judgment does not establish that an evaluation was improper. AT&T Corp.,B-299542.3, B-299542.4, Nov. 16, 2007, 2008 CPD ¶ 65. Our review of the record leads us to conclude that the agency's past performance evaluation was unobjectionable.

As detailed above, the Air Force considered the relevance and quality of each LOGMET-provided reference when evaluating the offeror’s past performance. The [past performance evaluation team] PPET found, as a general matter, that LOGMET’s brief listing of the scope and responsibilities of each reference made it difficult to ascertain the relevance of these contracts to the PWS requirements here. Again, while the RFP provided offerors with up to five pages per contract reference to demonstrate the relevance of their prior efforts to the PWS requirements here, LOGMET elected to submit only a half-page description in each instance. Further, the PPET found that none of LOGMET’s references demonstrated supply store and ITE asset management experience. As a result, the evaluators concluded that LOGMET’s past performance failed to demonstrate the offeror’s ability to perform these two PWS-required functions, thereby resulting in assigning only a satisfactory confidence rating.

We find the Air Force’s evaluation to be reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria. It is an offeror’s responsibility to provide adequate detail about its past performance to demonstrate the relevance of its prior experience. See AIROD Sdn. Bhd., B-294127, Aug. 16, 2004, 2004 CPD ¶ 156 at 5 n.1; Interstate Gen. Gov’t Contractors, Inc., B-290137.2, June 21, 2002, 2002 CPD ¶ 105 at 5. In an exercise of its own business judgment, LOGMET submitted a proposal with a scant, half-page listing of the duties and functions of each reference although the RFP provided offerors with up to five pages per reference to demonstrate the relevance of their experience. As the evaluation record indicates, and our review of the firm’s proposal confirms, there is no discussion of either supply store or ITE asset management experience in any of LOGMET’s references.

LOGMET does not dispute that its proposal failed to demonstrate both supply store and ITE asset management experience. Rather, the protester argues that because it is the LMCA contractor at Wright-Patterson AFB, and because all Air Force LMCAs are organized and operated in the same manner, the agency should have understood that it therefore possessed all required experience. Comments, Aug. 22, 2012, at 1-2.

LOGMET’s argument here reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the proposal process. The RFP clearly established that it was an offeror’s responsibility for its proposal to demonstrate the relevance of its prior experience. The protester now essentially argues that it did not need to comply with the solicitation instructions, and the mere statement that it was an LMCA contractor at another location was by itself sufficient to justify the highest past performance rating. If LOGMET was of the opinion that LMCA contractors should not have been held to the submission requirements applicable to other offerors, it should have raised this challenge to the solicitation requirements before the closing date and time. See 4 C.F.R. ¶ 21.2(a)(1).

Moreover, contrary to the protester’s assertion, it appears that not all LMCA contracts are the same. In this regard, the record here indicates that LOGMET’s LMCA contract at Wright-Patterson AFB in fact did not include a supply store function. Contracting Officer’s Statement, July 26, 2012, at 6; AR, Tab 7, Past Performance Evaluation Report, at 29 (past performance questionnaire indicating that the supply store function was not performed); Tab 14, Email from Wright-Patterson AFB Contracting Officer’s Representative to Procuring Contracting Office, July 2, 2012 (“there is no office supply store”).

In sum, given LOGMET’s lack of demonstrated relevant experience in significant PWS functions, we find no basis for concluding that the agency acted unreasonably in not assigning a higher rating than satisfactory confidence.  (LOGMET LLC, B-407061, Oct 17, 2012)  (pdf)


J5’s senior systems/analyst engineer and six other individuals delivered the offeror’s oral presentation. The record indicates that J5 organized its oral presentation along the lines of the PWS sections and/or subject matter expertise of its presenters rather than the specific sample task areas that were required to be addressed. For example, one of J5’s presenters concentrated on interface engineering (PWS § 3.4), Tr. at 39-46, while another discussed training support requirements (PWS § 3.7), id. at 58-62, even though these were not among the sample task areas required to be specifically covered.[8] Similarly, to the extent that J5 addressed the various sample task areas (e.g., classification levels), it was done in piecemeal fashion at various points in the oral presentation as part of the discussion of the overall PWS requirements.

The TEB identified one major strength, three minor strengths, one minor weakness, and eight major weaknesses in its evaluation of J5’s oral presentation. AR, Tab 11, TEB Consensus Report, May 24, 2012, at 42. Relevant to the protest here, the Navy evaluators found that J5’s oral presentation did not discuss eight of the specifically-required areas as set forth in the sample task: (1) knowledge management; (2) communications and data links; (3) networks; (4) database and decision aids; (5) information display and distribution; (6) classification levels; (7) a plan to accommodate for growth; and (8) the application of best practices in relation to the prototype to be developed under the scenario. Id. The TEB concluded that J5’s response did not indicate a clear understanding of the sample task and its technical detail, and that the offeror’s presentation focused on the deployment and installation of a completed prototype C4I system but displayed no evidence of how J5 would utilize their collective knowledge to provide and support a SOA-based, net-centric maritime C4I prototype hosted on CCE equipment.

Id. The TEB therefore rated the J5’s presentation as overall “marginal.” Id.

Based upon our review of the record, we find the evaluated weaknesses attributed to J5’s oral presentation to be reasonable. As a preliminary matter, as set forth above, J5 elected to organize its oral presentation along the lines of the overall PWS requirements (e.g., interface engineering, training support) rather than the specific sample task topics that were required to be addressed (e.g., networks, classification levels, information display and distribution). The record shows, and the protester does not dispute, that the offeror made no attempt to systematically address each of the required sample task areas in its oral presentation. As a result, to the extent J5 discussed each of the required topics, it did so in an extremely disjointed manner. The protester acknowledges, for example, that its discussion of a plan to accommodate for growth and changes occurred in nine disjointed instances of the oral presentation (sometimes no longer than a sentence or phrase), while its discussion of classification levels was in ten separate parts of the presentation.
J5 Comments, July 6, 2012, at 22-26.

It is an offeror’s responsibility to prepare a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation and allows for a meaningful review by the procuring agency. American Title Servs., a Joint Venture, B-404455, Feb. 4, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 38 at 4; International Med. Corps, B-403688, Dec. 6, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 292 at 8. This requirement is as applicable to oral submissions as it is to written ones. See Business Mgmt. Assocs., B-403315, B-403315.2, Oct. 19, 2010, 2011 CPD ¶ 143 at 4. By failing to address each required sample task topic in a methodical fashion, J5 essentially imposed upon the Navy evaluators the burden of piecing together numerous dispersed portions of its presentation and perfecting J5’s submission, a responsibility which we find the agency was not required to assume. See Keystone Sealift Servs., Inc., B-401526.3, Apr. 13, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 95 at 4.  (J5 Systems, Inc., B-406800, Aug 31, 2012)  (pdf)


In its protest, Onsite explains that it had not used FedConnect prior to this procurement and did not review the FedConnect Tutorial. Onsite states that upon registering and logging in to FedConnect, it was directed to the FedConnect message center, and was not aware that there was a separate response center for the submission of proposals. Onsite therefore submitted its proposal as an attachment to a message sent via the message center on June 24, 2011. Onsite then submitted a revised proposal in the same manner on June 28. Additionally, Onsite sent an email message to the contracting specialist stating that it had submitted a revised proposal and that “if you have any questions or need any additional clarification, please feel free to contact me.” Email Message, June 28, 2011. The contracting specialist did not respond, and Onsite did not receive any indication that its proposal was not evaluated, or any notice of the award.

Onsite argues that its proposal was properly submitted in accordance with the terms of the RFP where it was submitted “through the FedConnect system.” Protest at 3. Onsite asserts that this is the case without regard to whether Onsite’s proposal was transmitted via the FedConnect message center versus the response center, because the solicitation did not specify or explain exactly how submission via FedConnect was to be achieved, or require offerors to review the FedConnect tutorial, and stated only that a proposal was an “electronic proposal submitted via FedConnect.” RFP at 58.

However, it is undisputed in this case that the protester’s proposal did not reach the contracting officer. Thus, the protester’s use of the FedConnect message center for the submission of its proposal was ineffective. The only question is whether the agency was required to seek out and review proposals timely submitted via the FedConnect message center rather than the response center. The agency maintains that it was not, and argues that the fault for the failure of the protester’s proposal to reach the contracting officer rests squarely with the protester, because it is the responsibility of the offeror, not the agency, to ensure that the offeror’s proposal is received at the proper place at the proper time. The agency maintains that the only “proper place” to submit a proposal via the FedConnect system--to ensure that it is received by the contracting officer--is through the FedConnect response center, and that the protester’s failure to investigate the proper use of the FedConnect system was at its own peril. We agree.

It is an offeror’s responsibility to ensure that its proposal is delivered to the proper place at the proper time, and through the method authorized in the solicitation. See Richcon Federal Contractors, Inc., supra, at 2 (where facsimile transmission was not authorized by the solicitation, proposal delivered by facsimile was properly rejected and not considered); Sector One Security Solution, B-400728, Dec. 10, 2008, 2008 CPD ¶ 224 at 2-3 (protest of failure to evaluate proposal is denied where a mailed proposal directed to the hand delivery address rather than the mailing address was returned to sender and was therefore not received by the agency). Although Onsite argues that it did submit its proposal through the method authorized in the solicitation in this case, we disagree, and conclude that it is incumbent upon the offeror to understand and properly utilize the method of submission specified by the solicitation. Where the protester did not avail itself of the FedConnect tutorial, or otherwise educate itself on the functionality of the Fedconnect system, the protester bore the risk of improper use of the system, and of the failure of its proposal to reach the proper place of receipt at the proper time.

The protest is denied.  (Onsite OHS, B-406449, May 30, 2012)  (pdf)


The protester complains that the Corps did not evaluate its entire proposal in determining that Outreach failed to identify three relevant projects for its company experience. Specifically, Outreach argues that it identified seven projects under the company experience section of its proposal and informed the Corps that this experience was detailed in the past performance section of its proposal. Comments at 8; AR, Tab J, Outreach Proposal at 7. Outreach also argues that its proposal identified 17 performance awards that the firm had received for its work, which Outreach argues demonstrates its relevant experience. Comments at 8. Finally, the protester complains that both it and employees of the Corps had attended the annual Association of State Floodplain Managers Conference in May 2011, from which the protester contends that the Corps was aware of Outreach's experience. Id. at 4.

Our Office will review an agency's evaluation and exclusion of a proposal from the competitive range for reasonableness and consistency with the solicitation criteria and applicable statutes and regulations. Int'l Med. Corps, B-403688, Dec. 6, 2010, 2010 CPD para. 292 at 7. Contracting agencies are not required to retain in the competitive range proposals that are not among the most highly rated or that the agency otherwise reasonably concludes have no realistic prospect of being selected for award. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) sect. 15.306(c)(1); D&J Enters., Inc., B-310442, Dec. 13, 2007, 2008 CPD para. 8 at 2. In this regard, a protester's mere disagreement with an agency's evaluation and competitive range judgment does not establish that the agency acted unreasonably. SPAAN Tech, Inc., B-400406, B‑400406.2, Oct. 28, 2008, 2009 CPD para. 46 at 9.

Here, as noted above, the Corps found that Outreach's proposal did not identify three projects that demonstrated the firm's experience facilitating meetings related to national flood risk management and levee/dam safety issues. AR, Tab K, Competitive Range Memorandum, at 6. Although Outreach argues that it identified seven projects under this section of its proposal, the record shows that Outreach provided only general information about the identified projects, noting little more than the number of meetings it had set up and stating that these meetings involved flood risk management and dam safety issues. See AR, Tab J, Outreach Technical Proposal at 4-12. This very limited information fails to demonstrate, for any of Outreach's identified seven projects, the firm's experience in facilitating meetings related to national flood risk management and levee/dam safety issues. With respect to the protester's argument that the 17 performance awards listed in this section of Outreach's proposal demonstrates its experience, the proposal does no more than list a number of awards without supporting detail. See id. at 4-5. This also does not demonstrate that Outreach has relevant experience facilitating meetings related to national flood risk management and levee/dam safety issues.

Outreach states that, although it provided limited information about its projects in the section of its proposal addressing the company experience factor, it provided more detailed information in the section of its proposal addressing the past performance factor. Comments at 8; see AR, Tab J, Outreach Proposal at 7. In this regard, Outreach notes that although the RFP established page limitations for offerors' responses to each evaluation factor, the solicitation did not prohibit offerors from cross-referencing sections in responding to the evaluation factors. Comments at 3-4. Outreach contends that by cross-referencing detailed information in its response to the past performance factor, it adequately demonstrated its relevant experience under the company experience factor. Id.

We disagree. Although the RFP may not have specifically prohibited cross-referencing, the solicitation specified page limitations for responses under each evaluation factor. As noted above, the RFP limited responses to the company experience factor to 10 pages, and responses to the past performance factor to 25 pages. See RFP sect. L at 135. Allowing Outreach to satisfy the requirements of the company experience factor by referencing other parts of its proposal would improperly increase the number of pages for addressing company experience, without allowing other offerors the same opportunity. See North Wind Inc.; Earth Res. Tech., Inc., B-404880.4 et al., Nov. 4, 2011, 2011 CPD para. at 12 (an agency improperly considered portions of an awardee's proposal that were outside the solicitation stated page limitations). It is a fundamental principle of government procurement that competition must be conducted on an equal basis; that is, offerors must be treated equally and be provided with a common basis for the preparation of their proposals. Electronic Design, Inc., B-279662.2 et al., Aug. 31, 1998, 98-2 CPD para. 69 at 10.

In sum, we find reasonable the Corps' determination that the protester's proposal was technically unacceptable. The record shows that Outreach failed to demonstrate that it satisfied the company experience requirements within the page limitations stated by the RFP. An agency's evaluation is dependent on the information furnished in a proposal; thus, it is the offeror's responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal for the agency to evaluate. SC&A, Inc., B-270160.2, Apr. 10, 1996, 96-1 CPD para. 197 at 5. As we have often said, an offeror that does not submit an adequately written proposal runs the risk of having its proposal rejected as unacceptable. L-3 Communications EOTech, Inc., B‑311453, B‑311453.2, July 14, 2008, 2008 CPD para. 139 at 4. Because Outreach's proposal was not among the most highly-rated offers, the firm's proposal was reasonably excluded from the competitive range.  (Outreach Process Partners, LLC,  B-405529,  November 21, 2011)  (pdf)


The protesters argue that NASA's re-evaluation of Navarro's proposal, and the new source selection decision, were inconsistent with the stated requirements of the solicitation. Specifically, the protesters contend that the agency could not have reasonably determined that Navarro's proposal, after removal of the 56 pages containing [basis of estimate] BOE narrative, met the solicitation's requirement to provide a BOE.

It is a fundamental principle of federal procurement law that a contracting agency must evaluate all offerors' proposals against the solicitation's stated evaluation criteria. See, e.g., Source Diversified, Inc., B-403437.2, Dec. 16, 2010, 2010 CPD para. 297 at 6; Computer Prods., Inc., B-284702, May 24, 2000, 2000 CPD para. 95 at 4-5. In reviewing protests against allegedly improper evaluations, our Office examines the record to determine whether the agency's evaluation was, in fact, in accord with the stated evaluation factors. Computer Assocs. Int'l, Inc., B-292077.3 et al., Jan. 22, 2004, 2004 CPD para. 163 at 6.

NASA maintains that it evaluated Navarro's proposal in accordance with the solicitation criteria and did not consider the 56-page BOE attachment that was removed as a result of its initial evaluation, even though the same evaluators that had viewed the 56 pages conducted the re-evaluation.[10] NASA contends that it complied with the solicitation's requirements because Navarro's proposal contained sufficient BOE narrative within the remaining 50 pages of its mission suitability proposal for the agency to determine that "[REDACTED], despite the fact that Navarro did not explicitly state within its 50-page . . . [mission suitability proposal] that it [REDACTED]." NASA's Post‑Hearing Comments at 1-2; Tr. at 103. NASA states that its assumption that [REDACTED] was confirmed by its integrated assessment of the rest of Navarro's proposal (besides the 50-page mission suitability proposal).

Our review of the record reveals several problems with NASA's position. First, while it is true that the RFP allowed offerors to [REDACTED], Tr. at 78, they were nonetheless explicitly required by section L of the solicitation to provide a BOE. The BOE was required to include, among other things, "supporting rationale for all labor resources (FTEs and skill mix) proposed" to demonstrate that the resources are realistic for the proposed technical and management approach. RFP at L-19. During the hearing, NASA's SEB witness testified that the RFP [REDACTED]. Tr. at 79‑80.

The record here shows that both protesters and Navarro provided BOEs with their initial mission suitability proposals. However, as Navarro's proposal explained, Navarro did not address the BOE level of detail within the mission suitability page limit because it determined that this requirement was "outside of the page count." AR, Tab 7, Navarro's Mission Suitability Proposal, at 10.

In addition, during the hearing, the agency conceded that Navarro's 50-page mission suitability proposal [REDACTED], as Navarro was required to do if this was its intent. Tr. at 175. In our view, without such a representation, the agency could not reasonably conclude that the proposal contained "a discussion regarding how the proposed FTEs were estimated" as required by the BOE level of detail. See RFP at L‑19.

Furthermore, even if we accept that Navarro [REDACTED]. The RFP specified that resources tables "shall agree with" the narrative discussion (here, how the FTEs were estimated) required for the BOE labor and non-labor resources. RFP at L-20. Our review of Navarro's resource tables for task order 1 and task order 2 confirms the protesters' allegations that [REDACTED]. Compare ERT AR, Tab 7, Navarro Mission Suitability Proposal, attach., Task Order 1 Resources Table, and Task Order 2 Resources Table with RFP at L-26-28; see Tr. at 142-43, 169-70. While NASA asserts that the differences were relatively minor and that a review of the totality of the proposal confirms that [REDACTED], Navarro did not state this, or provide the BOE required by the RFP, in its 50‑page mission suitability proposal.

As indicated, while stipulating that inclusion of the BOE in the technical approach section of the mission suitability proposal was a requirement of the RFP, Tr. at 60, NASA nevertheless contends that Navarro's proposal provided sufficient narrative to meet the BOE requirements. In both its agency report, and at the hearing, NASA provided examples that it contends show Navarro's compliance with the BOE requirements, and [REDACTED].

We have reviewed of each of NASA's examples, the parties' arguments, the hearing testimony, and Navarro's proposal; in our view, Navarro's mission suitability proposal did not comply with the RFP proposal preparation requirements. Specifically, the proposal failed to provide adequate "supporting rationale for all labor resources (FTEs and skill mix) proposed" to demonstrate that the proposed resources are realistic for the proposed technical and management approach. See RFP at L-19. Furthermore, as indicated, Navarro's mission suitability proposal did not "include a discussion regarding how the proposed FTEs were estimated." See id. Navarro's mission suitability proposal also failed to provide any narrative BOE that explained its understanding of the required non-labor resources. See id.   (North Wind, Inc.; Earth Resources Technology, Inc., B-404880.4; B-404880.5; B-404880.6, November 4, 2011)  (pdf)


PRA protests the agency's rejection of its proposal for exceeding the page limitation. Protest at 1. Specifically, PRA contends that the subcontractor letter and SOW were supporting documentation for the cost proposal and should not have been counted against the page limit. Protest at 2; Comments at 2.

Offerors are required to prepare their proposals in the format established by the solicitation, including page and other limitations. Client Network Servs., Inc., B‑297994, April 28, 2006, 2006 CPD para. 79 at 6. If the solicitation provides that a proposal exceeding a specified page limit will be rejected and an offeror does not protest those terms, then rejection of a proposal that exceeds the limit is unobjectionable. See Macfadden & Assocs., Inc., B-275502, Feb. 27, 1997, 97-1 CPD para. 88 at 2. In reviewing a protest against an agency's evaluation of proposals, our Office will not reevaluate proposals, but instead will examine the record to determine whether the agency's judgment was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. Shumaker Trucking & Excavating Contractors, Inc., B-290732, Sept. 25, 2002, 2002 CPD para. 169 at 3. A protester's mere disagreement with the agency's judgment in its evaluation does not establish that the evaluation was unreasonable. VT Griffin Servs., Inc., B-299869.2, Nov. 10, 2008, 2008 CPD para. 219 at 4.

First, PRA argues that the solicitation required offerors to provide "detailed substantiation" of proposed subcontractor costs. Protest at 2; Solicitation sect. 3.5.c(6). The protester argues that the subcontractor SOW was a "cost substantiation," which was intended to enable the agency to understand the proposed costs for the subcontractor. Comments at 4, citing Solicitation sect. 3.5.c(6).

The Army contends that the subcontractor cover letter and SOW related to the work to be performed by the subcontractor, rather than a substantiation of the costs of performance. To the extent that the protester contends that the solicitation required "substantiation" of subcontractor costs in the form of technical approach information, the agency notes that the solicitation advised offerors that the level of detail for subcontractor costs must be the same as that provided for the prime contractor. AR at 7, citing Solicitation sect. 3.5.c(6). The agency further notes that PRA did not provide details concerning its own technical approach in its cost proposal, thus undercutting the protester's interpretation that the solicitation required subcontractor costs to be supported by technical approach information in the cost proposal. AR at 7.

We think that the agency's conclusion was reasonable. The solicitation did not state, as the protester contends, that offerors were required or permitted to include technical approach information in their cost proposals. See Comments at 2. Consistent with the solicitation, all such information should have been part of the technical proposal. Solicitation sect. 3.5.b(3)(1). Neither the subcontractor's cover letter nor the SOW itself discuss the subcontractor's costs or how the subcontractor plans to use the requested funds. See AR, Tab 4, PRA Proposal, at 22-23; Solicitation sect. 3.5.c(6). Instead, PRA separately provided details concerning the subcontractor's proposed costs in the "Proposal Pricing Sheet." AR, Tab 4, PRA Proposal, at 24. On this record, we conclude that the agency reasonably found the cover letter and subcontractor SOW to be part of the technical proposal.

Next, PRA argues that the "mere brevity" of the subcontractor SOW is evidence that the page was not meant to provide "any technical substance." Comments at 3, 4. Regardless of the protester's intentions in submitting this information, the record shows that the subcontractor SOW described the work related to the tasks to be performed. For this reason, we do not think that the protester's representations concerning its intended purpose for the subcontractor SOW demonstrate that the agency unreasonably found that the pages counted toward PRA's technical proposal.

Finally, PRA argues that, in connection with other Army SBIR solicitations, it has submitted similar subcontractor information as part of its cost proposal, and that the Army did not reject those proposals. Protest at 2; Comments at 3. For this reason, the protester contends that the agency should not have deviated from its prior practice. Even if the protester is correct that the agency had not previously rejected other PRA proposals that included similar subcontractor information--a point not substantiated by the protester--we find no merit to this argument. As our Office has long held, each federal procurement stands on its own, and an agency's prior practices, if independently reasonable, are not rendered improper by the fact that the agency might have viewed a prior proposal differently. See e.g., Gonzales-McCaulley Inv. Group, Inc., B-402544, May 28, 2010, 2010 para. 127 at 3 n.4; FR Countermeasures, Inc., B-295375, Feb. 10, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 52 at 8.

In sum, we conclude that the agency reasonably found that the subcontractor cover letter and SOW were part of PRA's technical proposal, rather than its cost proposal. Thus, consistent with the terms of the solicitation, the agency counted these pages toward the technical proposal page limit. Because these two pages resulted in the protester's proposal exceeding the solicitation's 20-page limit, the agency reasonably rejected PRA's proposal.  (Propagation Research Associates, Inc., B-405362, October 20, 2011)  (pdf)


F&S argues that its proposal was acceptable, and therefore should have been included in the competitive range. In particular, F&S argues that its proposal complied with the 48-hour readiness requirement, and that in any event it was improper for FEMA to exclude F&S's proposal from the competitive range without considering its price. Protest at 10-13. In two supplemental protests, F&S challenges the geographic eligibility of the awardee, JESCO Company, Supplemental Protest at 6-13, argues that FEMA ignored favorable past performance of F&S, and argues that F&S was treated unfairly compared to other offerors. Comments & Second Supplemental Protest at 17‑23.

As explained below, we conclude that FEMA reasonably rated F&S's proposal unacceptable based on its failure to comply with the 48-hour readiness requirement. We therefore conclude that FEMA reasonably rejected F&S's proposal, rendering F&S's remaining arguments regarding its evaluation, and the agency's ultimate award, immaterial.
F&S first argues that its proposal met the 48-hour readiness requirement. F&S points out that its proposal expressly mentioned the availability of "qualified personnel" in five Alabama locales, and "additional personnel . . . 'On-Call' and ready to depart within [24] hours of award notification." Comments & Second Supplemental Protest at 11. F&S argues that the FEMA evaluators ignored or misinterpreted these statements in its proposal, id. at 11-12, while improperly focusing on the elements of the phase-in plan that reflected longer timelines. Id. at 13.

FEMA does not dispute that F&S's proposal mentioned personnel in position or ready to depart within 24 hours. Nevertheless FEMA argues that F&S's proposal did not place the phase-in tasks in a clear time-frame or otherwise provide that F&S was prepared to begin performing contract maintenance services within 48 hours after award. AR at 8-9. Rather, FEMA argues that F&S's phase-in plan focused on the firm's internal planning for performance, which included determining personnel requirements and hiring or subcontracting, all of which were keyed to a FEMA‑hosted kick-off meeting--that the agency describes as "nonexistent." AR at 9. Ultimately FEMA argues that F&S's proposal failed to provide any clear commitment to provide the required maintenance activities throughout the contract performance period--particularly by beginning such services within 48 hours of award. Id. FEMA also notes that F&S's proposal lacked a timeline with key dates (requested by the RFP), which could have shown when F&S intended to begin performing THU maintenance. Id. at 14‑15. Accordingly, FEMA maintains that its evaluation was reasonable and that it properly rated F&S's proposal as technically unacceptable. AR at 16.

We find FEMA's position reasonable. It is an offeror's responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information to clearly demonstrate compliance with the solicitation requirements, to allow a meaningful review by the procuring agency. CACI Techs., Inc., B-296946, Oct. 27, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 198 at 5. In this regard, an offeror must affirmatively demonstrate the merits of its proposal and risks the rejection of its proposal if it fails to do so. HDL Research Lab, Inc., B‑294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD para. 8 at 5.

The phase-in plan submitted by F&S, as described above, identifies two periods--the earlier of which, "project mobilization," was described as taking place in a 72-hour period measured from a kick-off meeting that the agency had not committed to conduct. The tasks related to this "project mobilization" phase were described as providing plans and making decisions for performance (including hiring and subcontracting) that were internal to F&S. Additionally, the second "project alignment" period in the first 30 days involved F&S meeting with its staff, transferring functions to itself, and assigning technicians to newly created service zones. We agree with FEMA that F&S's proposal did not provide any clear statement that the firm would meet the 48-hour readiness requirement; rather, the phase-in plan suggested that F&S would take significantly longer than 48 hours after award to have staff in place to begin actual performance of the required maintenance services. Based on this record, FEMA's rating of F&S's proposal as unacceptable was reasonable.  (F&S Environmental, LLC, B-405232; B-405232.2; B-405232.3, September 22, 2011)  (pdf)


GEA protests the agency's rejection of its proposal for exceeding the page limitation. Protest at 3. GEA contends that the additional proposal pages were the result of unclear solicitation instructions and a "partially defective" SBIR submission website. Protest at 2; Comments, Aug. 21, 2011, at 1.

Offerors are required to prepare their proposals in the format established by the solicitation, including page and other limitations. Client Network Servs., Inc., B‑297994, April 28, 2006, 2006 CPD para. 79 at 6. If the solicitation provides that a proposal exceeding a specified page limit will be rejected and an offeror does not protest those terms, then rejection of a proposal that exceeds the limit is unobjectionable. See Macfadden & Assocs., Inc., B-275502, Feb. 27, 1997, 97-1 CPD para. 88 at 2.

Here, the solicitation's terms regarding the cover sheets and the company commercialization report were unambiguous. Contrary to the protester's assertion that "[n]owhere in the instructions does it say that a signature is not required on the form," Comments, Aug. 21, 2011, at 1, the solicitation and cover sheets clearly stated that signatures were not required at the time offerors submitted proposals. Solicitation at sect. 6.1; AR, exh. 9, DOD SBIR FY11.2 Forensic, at 1-2; see AR, exh. 2, GEA Proposal, at 2 of 2. The protester also ignored explicit solicitation instructions warning offerors not to duplicate the electronically-generated cover sheets, and that duplicated cover sheets would count against the page limit. AR, exh. 7, Army SBIR Proposal Submission Instructions, at 1, 9; see Solicitation at sections 3.2, 3.4.

Additionally, with regard to the company commercialization report section, the solicitation permitted offerors to include additional explanation at the end of the electronically-generated report. Solicitation at sect. 3.5.d. However, uploading documents for the report was neither authorized by the solicitation, nor provided for in the relevant section of the website. See AR, exh. 9, DOD SBIR FY11.2 Forensic, at 2.

In sum, the protester has not presented any evidence to substantiate that the website was defective. See Protest at 1. Instead, the record shows that the protester disregarded clear solicitation instructions when it duplicated the cover sheets and uploaded documents to support its company commercialization report. As a result, the agency appropriately counted the duplicate cover sheets and two-page brochure against GEA's proposal's page count. Because the inclusion of these extra pages resulted in the protester's proposal exceeding the solicitation's 20-page limit, the agency properly rejected GEA's proposal.  (GEA Engineering, P.C., B-405318, October 13, 2011)  (pdf)


The agency provided each offeror with discussion questions and requested final revised proposals (FPR). As discussed in greater detail below, offerors were instructed to provide an FPR that addressed the agency's discussion questions. The request for FPRs stated that the original 30-page limit for technical proposals had been increased to 35 pages. AR, Tab 10, Request for DPK FPR, at 4. Offerors were also required to provide a letter to "accompan[y]" the FPR that "outlines" the offeror's response to the agency's discussion questions. AR, Tab 10, Agency Email Forwarding Request for DPK FPR, at 1 (July 16, 2010).

AID provided discussion questions for DPK that identified weaknesses under the technical approach, staffing and key personnel, and management approach factors, including, as relevant here, notice that three of its proposed key personnel did not meet the solicitation requirements. DPK submitted an FPR that consisted of a 49‑page cover letter, a 35-page technical proposal, and several appendices; DPK's specific responses to the agency's discussion questions were contained in its cover letter, rather than in its revised technical proposal. Chemonics also submitted a cover letter, revised technical proposal, and appendices.

The agency did not evaluate the detailed responses to the discussion questions contained in DPK's 49-page cover letter. AR, Tab 19, Revised Technical Evaluation, at 2. In this regard, the agency concluded that the protester's approach of addressing the discussion questions outside of its 35-page technical proposal did not comply with the instructions in the request for FPRs, and that evaluation of this information would result in an "unfair competitive advantage" for DPK. Id. In contrast, the agency concluded that Chemonics' proposal complied with the request for FPR instructions, and evaluated the entirety of its FPR.

(table and section deleted)

The RFTOP [request for task order proposals] required offerors to submit its technical proposal with a limit of 30 pages. Offerors were also permitted to submit appendices to their technical proposal that addressed certain RFTOP requirements, such as key personnel resumes and letters of commitment, and past performance information; these appendices were not subject to a page limitation. RFTOP sect. L.5 at 59. The request for FPRs instructed offerors to address the discussion questions by revising their technical proposals as follows:

Addressing these technical weaknesses and/or deficiencies will require a significant revision of the proposal. This revision may also directly result in major changes to the cost proposal.

The [FPR] should clarify and document DPK's understandings of both the technical proposal and the cost/business proposal. Please make sure that your responses to USAID's comments and clarifications are complete yet concise.

* * * * *

The FPR should not exceed thirty-five (35) pages, exclusive of annexes and other pages not subject to this page limitation as specified in Section L of the subject RFTOP.

AR, Tab 10, Request for DPK FPR, at 4. In addition to these instructions, the email transmitting the discussion questions and request for FPRs stated that the revised proposals "should be accompanied with a letter that outlines DPK's response to USAID's" discussion questions. AR, Tab 10, Agency Email Forwarding DPK FPR, at 1.

As discussed above, DPK's FPR consisted of a 49-page cover letter, a 35-page revised technical proposal, and a number of additional appendices. Rather than specifically addressing the agency's discussion questions in its revised technical proposal, DPK addressed these questions in the cover letter. Chemonics' response included a 15‑page cover letter, a 35-page revised technical proposal, and a number of appendices.

AID reviewed DPK's revised technical proposal and noted that the protester had addressed some concerns regarding its technical approach. AR, Tab 19, Revised Technical Evaluation, at 2. The agency concluded, however, that the protester's revised proposal did not address other concerns identified during discussions, including the experience of its proposed key personnel. With regard to DPK's cover letter, the agency noted that it contained "additional information on key personnel, management capacity, sub-partner relationship, and other matters (including alternative candidates for three positions)," but stated that this information "was not evaluated as it would have constituted an unfair competitive advantage over the 35‑page limit for the FPR." Id. In this regard, the agency notes that the solicitation specifically instructed offerors that although offerors were allowed to use appendices for information, such as resumes and performance information, "[a]ll critical information from appendices must be summarized in the technical proposal." See RFTOP sect. L.5.b at 59.

DPK argues that AID unreasonably failed to evaluate the responses to discussion questions contained in the cover letter to the protester's revised proposal. Specifically, the protester argues that the instructions to the request for revised proposals instructed offerors to respond to the discussion questions, and that the cover letter did not have a page limit.

In our view, the request for revised proposals did not instruct offerors to "respond" to the discussion questions in the cover letter. Instead, the instructions explained that "[a]ddressing these technical weaknesses and/or deficiencies will require a significant revision of the proposal," AR, Tab 10, Request for DPK Final Proposal Revisions, at 4, and that the revised proposals "should be accompanied with a letter that outlines DPK's response to USAID's" discussion questions. AR, Tab 10, Agency Email Forwarding DPK FPR, at 1. (emphasis added). Although the protester repeatedly argues that offerors were instructed to "respond" to the discussion questions in the letter, see Supp. Protest at 4, Protester's Supp. Comments at 4-5, the instructions make clear that an offeror was required to revise its technical proposals to account for the agency's discussions, and could only "outline[]" its response to the discussion questions in the "accompany[ing]" letter. Because the protester chose to include its detailed responses to the discussion questions in its 49-page cover letter, rather than in its 35-page revised proposal, we think that the agency reasonably excluded consideration of DPK's responses that were not otherwise contained in its revised proposal.  (DPK Consulting, B-404042; B-404042.2, December 29, 2010)  (pdf)


The agency advised Adelaide in its debriefing that, while its corporate experience was a strength, its technical proposal did not provide sufficient details regarding its management approach, did not include a proposed schedule, and did not provide an adequate staffing plan. Adelaide challenges the evaluation in this regard.

Our Office reviews challenges to an agency's technical evaluation to determine whether the agency acted reasonably and in accord with the solicitation's evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. Integrate, Inc., B-296526, Aug. 4, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 154 at 3. Here, we find that the technical evaluation was reasonable.

Adelaide has furnished no basis to question the agency's determination that its management plan lacked adequate detail to evaluate the likelihood of successful performance. In this regard, the RFQ provided as follows:

Management Approach: At a minimum, the offeror should develop a plan showing an understanding of the tasks to be covered and the schedule for the required services. The plan should show how the work will be managed to ensure the success of the contract from a professional, cost and time perspective and should include a staff plan that among other items shows availability of staff and subcontractors to complete multi-tasked jobs.

RFQ at 3.

Adelaide notes that in describing its corporate experience, it listed in its proposal the various tasks performed under four prior VA contracts for asbestos surveys. The solicitation here, however, required vendors to furnish a "'plan . . . show[ing] how the work will be managed to ensure the success of the contract." Id. Simply listing tasks completed under prior contracts does not describe a plan for successful performance. Likewise, while Adelaide points to a flow chart in its proposal identifying the stages in the required work‑‑"'Need Identified and Project Manager Assigned"; "'Work Request Received by Environmental Consultant"; "'Brewster Office"; "'Team/Client Pre-job Briefing and Planning"; "'Data Gathered Analyzed"; "'Detailed Reporting"‑‑we find reasonable the agency's position that simply identifying a few general stages in the work, without including any narrative describing each stage, did not furnish an adequate basis for the agency to evaluate its management approach. Further, while Adelaide furnished a generic Quality Assurance and Quality Control Manual, the agency reasonably determined that the manual did not constitute a detailed, overall management approach to performing the specific required work under this solicitation. Furthermore, while Adelaide entered in the solicitation schedule a completion date for each VA facility, we disagree with the protester that this shows the agency was unreasonable in downgrading its proposal for lack of a performance schedule. Rather, we find reasonable the agency's position that an overall completion date for each VA facility is not the sort of detailed, task-by-task schedule that was to be furnished under the management approach subfactor and which was necessary in order to evaluate the vendor's likelihood of successful, timely performance.

Regarding the staffing plan, Adelaide notes that it identified in its proposal its president/contract administrator, senior vice president/program manager, director of technical and field operations/field supervisor, and an industrial hygienist. Adelaide Proposal at 9-13. In contrast, however, the awardee identified in its proposal its proposed project manager, assistant project manager, quality manager, a number of lead industrial hygienists, and a number of industrial hygienists. Furthermore, the awardee also indicated in its proposal its staffing approach for each stage of performance. Aerosol Proposal at 2-3, 7, 14-22. In these circumstances, we conclude that the agency reasonably viewed the protester's staffing approach as less detailed, and less likely to result in successful performance than the awardee's.

Having considered all of Adelaide's challenges to the evaluation, we find that none furnish a basis for questioning the issuance of a task order to Aerosol.

The protest is denied.  (Adelaide Environmental Health Associates, Inc., B-404164, January 13, 2011)  (pdf)


The agency received nine quotations by the September 20 closing date for the receipt of quotations, including four quotations from HUBZone small businesses. In accordance with the cascading set‑aside procedures established by the RFQ, only the four quotations from HUBZone vendors were considered for selection. Of these four quotations, 1-A Construction & Fire's was the lowest-priced (at $19,950). The agency, however, rejected the protester's quotation. The evaluators found that the protester's quotation identified limited reservoir experience for the firm and provided limited information about that experience. The evaluators also found that 1-A's limited response under the benefit to the local community factor, which stated only that the reservoir project would provide water sources for cows and all other wildlife, was insufficient to explain how the firm planned to benefit the local area. The agency selected Hayden Brothers for the task order at that firm's quoted price of $42,680. After learning of the agency's decision, 1-A filed this protest.

In its protest, 1-A contends, among other things, that the agency unreasonably concluded that its quotation was unacceptable under the benefit to the local community evaluation factor; 1-A contends it was sufficient for the firm to have noted in its quotation that the pond project will provide water for cows and wildlife. 1-A suggests, in its comments submitted in response to the agency's report on the protest, that the pond project's benefits in providing water to local wildlife will ultimately benefit the community, by supporting, among other things, hunters who, in turn, will spend money in the county.

In reviewing a protest against the propriety of an evaluation, it is not our function to independently evaluate proposals and substitute our judgment for that of the contracting activity. Barents Group, L.L.C., B-276082, B-276082.2, May 9, 1997, 97-1 CPD para. 164 at 6. Rather, we will review an evaluation to ensure that it was reasonable and consistent with the evaluation criteria in the solicitation and applicable procurement statutes and regulations; a protester's mere disagreement with the evaluation does not show it lacked a reasonable basis. Id. On the record here, we see no basis to question the evaluation of the protester's quotation or the source selection decision.

Here, the RFQ specifically instructed vendors to address how they planned to benefit the local community in carrying out the project, for example, through local hiring, local equipment rentals, and the use of local housing and meal facilities. To the extent 1-A generally noted that the reservoir project itself would provide a benefit, since it would serve as a water source for cows and wildlife, 1‑A's response was not meaningful, since the RFQ clearly required vendors to establish how their own planned activities in performance of the project would provide a direct economic benefit to the local community. Given 1-A's failure to adequately address this fundamental solicitation requirement, the agency acted reasonably in finding 1‑A's quotation unacceptable under the benefit to the local community evaluation factor, which provided a reasonable basis for the agency's rejection of 1-A's quotation.

The protest is denied.  (1-A Construction & Fire, LLP, B-404128, January 7, 2011)  (pdf)


Tetra Tech argues that it submitted a subcontracting plan, and that the plan's disappearance is the Navy's responsibility. Tetra Tech submitted sworn statements from its employees, explaining that they made multiple checks of the proposal before submitting it, to ensure that all parts of the proposal were present. Protest, exh. A, Affidavit of Proposal Manager, at 1-2; exh. B, Affidavit of Contract Administrator, at 1. Additionally, Tetra Tech maintains that a copy of the proposal retained for the firm's own files does contain the subcontracting plan, which, the protester contends, means the plan was also present in the original proposal and the copies submitted to the Navy. Id. at 2. Accordingly, Tetra Tech argues that if the subcontracting plan was no longer with the proposal when the Navy began its evaluation, the Navy lost it.

In response, the Navy denies losing the subcontracting plan and asserts that Tetra Tech's proposal did not include it. The Navy has provided a statement from the contract specialist who received the proposal, delivered the technical proposal volumes to the evaluation panel, and opened the price proposal volumes. The contract specialist reports that when he opened Tetra Tech's price proposal, he found no subcontracting plan in either the original or copy provided to the agency. AR, Tab 10, Statement of Contract Specialist, at 2. The contract specialist brought Tetra Tech's technical and price proposal to the contracting officer, who verified that the subcontracting plan was not contained in either the technical or price proposals. Id. The contract specialist also checked his office, where the other offerors' subcontracting plans were located, and Tetra Tech's plan was not there. Id. The Navy argues that Tetra Tech's proposal submission did not contain a subcontracting plan, and therefore the Navy properly assigned a deficiency and rated the proposal poor under the subcontracting plan factor, which renders the proposal ineligible for award.

In its comments in response to the agency report, Tetra Tech argues that not only have its employees sworn that the plan was submitted with the proposal, the contemporaneous record acknowledges that the proposal contained a subcontracting plan section. Specifically, Tetra Tech points out that the Navy's evaluation report states that "[a]ll proposals were received on time" and were "reviewed for compliance with the RFP submission requirements." Protester's Comments at 7 (quoting AR, Tab 8, Source Selection Evaluation Report, at 4). According to the protester, this statement means that no proposal--and specifically, Tetra Tech's proposal--was missing any information.[4] Tetra Tech also argues that the Navy's efforts to ensure that the subcontracting plan had not been mislaid actually demonstrate that the plan was lost by the Navy; that is, if the Navy had not lost Tetra Tech's subcontracting plan, it would not have needed to search for it. Protester's Comments at 7 n.6. Neither of these arguments is persuasive evidence that Tetra Tech submitted a subcontracting plan with its proposal, but that the Navy lost it.

An offeror bears the burden of submitting an adequately written proposal and it runs the risk that its proposal will be evaluated unfavorably where it fails to do so. Beck's Spray Serv., Inc., B-299816, Aug. 9, 2007, 2007 CPD para. 149 at 3. Although Tetra Tech argues that the Navy lost the firm's subcontracting plan, the protester has not convincingly established that the subcontracting plan was included with the submitted proposal. Furthermore, the record demonstrates that, upon receipt of the protester's proposal, the Navy handled the proposal with appropriate care, noticed that the subcontracting plan was missing when the evaluation began, and used diligence to confirm that the plan had not been mislaid by the Navy or misfiled in the other proposal materials. Based on this record, we find reasonable the agency's conclusion that Tetra Tech had not submitted a subcontracting plan with its proposal, and the agency's assignment of a deficiency and poor rating to the proposal under the subcontracting plan factor as a result. See Nevada Real Estate Servs., Inc., B‑293105, Feb. 3, 2004, 2004 CPD para. 36 at 4 (even though protester claimed agency had lost the missing proposal contents, proposal was reasonably found unacceptable).

In addition, Tetra Tech argues that the Navy should have informed Tetra Tech that the subcontracting plan was missing, and should have allowed the firm to submit the plan as a clarification or through discussions.

Clarifications are limited exchanges with an offeror that agencies may use to allow the firm to clarify certain aspects of its proposal or resolve minor or clerical mistakes, while discussions are undertaken with the intent of allowing the offeror to revise its proposal. FAR sect. 15.306(a), (d). The submission of a proposal section, omitted entirely from the initial proposal, the content of which was required for evaluation, could not have been resolved as a clarification and would have constituted discussions. Environmental Quality Mgmt., Inc., B-402247.2, Mar. 9, 2010, 2010 CPD para. 75 at 5. However, the Navy was not required to hold discussions simply because Tetra Tech needed to correct a material omission from its proposal. Kiewit Louisiana Co., B‑403736, Oct. 14, 2010, 2010 CPD para. 243 at 4. Accordingly, the protester's argument does not provide a basis to sustain this protest.  (Tetra Tech Tesoro, Inc., B-403797, December 14, 2010)  (pdf)


TechStart provided an explanatory letter and product literature with its quotation to demonstrate the claimed equivalence of the IPCallCo system. In reviewing the quotation, the agency found that the product literature did not indicate whether strobe and Bluestar locator light assemblies were included in the IPCallCo system. Nor did Techstart indicate whether the assemblies were included in its quoted price. The agency also discovered that, while the quotation stated that it was priced FOB Destination, its price schedule listed shipping and handling charges. Further, the payment terms of TechStart's quotation required a 25 percent initial deposit, which the contracting officer concluded the agency could not properly pay.

Rather than reject TechStart's quotation immediately, according to the agency, the contracting officer made several attempts to contact TechStart for clarification. The agency states that after phone calls made to TechStart on July 22 and July 23 were not returned, the contracting officer contacted IPCallCo directly, and was informed that strobe and Bluestar locator light assemblies were an available option on IPCallCo call boxes. The agency further states that the contracting officer then attempted to contact TechStart via email on July 27, using an email address previously used successfully to contact the firm. The record shows that in this email the contracting officer sought to confirm that the strobe and Bluestar locator light assemblies were included in the quotation at no extra charge, that the shipping and handling charges would be eliminated, and that the 25 percent deposit provision would be removed. The email requested a response by July 28.

When no response was received by July 29, the contracting officer determined that TechStart's quotation was ambiguous and not responsive to the RFQ, and that the award should be made to ITA. The award notice was posted on August 2. This protest followed on August 6.

TechStart asserts that the alleged ambiguities in its quotation were insignificant, and that a reasonable review of the quotation should have led the contracting officer to regard the issues as minor discrepancies. TechStart argues that, even including shipping and handling charges, its quotation was significantly lower in price than the awardee's, that the contracting officer should have realized that the deposit requirement was not applicable to a federal customer, and that the issue of the strobe and Bluestar locator light assemblies was resolved through the contracting officer's communication with IPCallCo. TechStart also alleges that it did not receive telephone calls or messages from the contracting officer on July 22 or 23, and did not receive the contracting officer's July 27 email.

We have reviewed the record here and agree with the contracting officer's conclusion that TechStart's quotation was unacceptable under the RFQ. Even considering the contracting officer's conversation with IPCallCo, the contracting officer could not determine whether TechStart had included the cost of the strobe and Bluestar locator light assemblies in its quotation, or whether the shipping and handling charges stated in the price schedule applied. Additionally, the payment terms set forth in Techstart's quotation explicitly stated that a 25 percent deposit was required, which the agency could not properly pay. See Federal Acquisition Regulation sect. 32.202-2 (an agency may not pay more than 15 percent of the contract price as a pre-performance deposit in a commercial item purchase).

With regard to TechStart's argument that it did not receive the July 22 and 23 telephone calls placed by the contracting officer, or the email sent on July 27, we note that the contracting officer had no obligation to seek to resolve the issues with TechStart's quotation. Rather, it is the vendor's responsibility to submit a well-written quotation, with adequately detailed information, that clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation requirements. Domain Name Alliance Registry, B-310803.2, Aug. 18, 2008, 2008 CPD para. 168 at 10. Here, at the time the contracting officer determined to make the award, on July 29, TechStart's quotation remained ambiguous as to whether the strobe and Bluestar locator light assemblies were included and whether the shipping and handling charges applied, and required a 25 percent pre-performance deposit that the agency was not authorized to pay. Under these circumstances, the contracting officer properly concluded that TechStart's quotation was unacceptable and that award should be made to ITA.  (TechStart, LLC, B-403515, November 10, 2010)  (pdf)


MCSI asserts that it submitted the required experience/past performance data sheets, and that its proposal was improperly evaluated by GSA under the experience evaluation factor. The agency acknowledges that MCSI submitted five experience/past performance data sheets, but, as noted above, argues that in four cases the data sheets failed to demonstrate that the referenced projects included grounds maintenance responsibilities, and therefore did not meet the solicitation's definition of "Similar Work" as required for evaluation under the experience factor. We agree.

The evaluation of proposals is a matter within the discretion of the contracting agency. In reviewing an agency's evaluation, we will not reevaluate proposals; instead, we will examine the agency's evaluation to ensure that it was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation's stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement laws and regulations. MAR, Inc., B-246889, Apr. 14, 1992, 92-1 CPD para. 367 at 4. An offeror's mere disagreement with the agency's evaluation does not render the evaluation unreasonable. McDonnell Douglas Corp., B-259694.2, B-259694.3, June 16, 1995, 95-2 CPD para. 51 at 18.

As stated above, the solicitation required offerors to demonstrate experience in performing similar work, and defined similar work as projects including grounds maintenance services. The record shows that, despite this instruction, only one of MCSI's experience/past performance data sheets even arguably referenced any aspect of grounds maintenance. Specifically, MCSI's first data sheet stated, in the description of work, "complete janitorial and related services, policing grounds, carpets, floor maintenance 10 buildings." Comments, July 8, 2010, Exh. 2, at 1 (emphasis added). The remaining data sheets specifically identified the services provided for each project, but made no reference to any grounds maintenance services. For example, MCSI's second data sheet stated, "[c]omplete janitorial and related services, carpet, floor maintenance, window cleaning," and its fifth data sheet stated, "[c]omplete aseptic cleaning/janitorial service, related services, carpet and floor maintenance, window cleaning, blood borne pathogen procedures (OSHA)." Id. at 2, 5. Based on this record, we find GSA's determination that MCSI's data sheets did not demonstrate experience within the solicitation's definition of similar work to be reasonable and consistent with the solicitation.

MCSI contends that the grounds maintenance services under its prior projects were included within the "related services" referenced in its data sheets. Given that MCSI specifically listed certain janitorial services in its experience/past performance data sheets, but failed to list grounds maintenance, we do not consider it unreasonable for GSA to have concluded that grounds maintenance services were not included in the projects. Since an agency's evaluation is dependent on the information furnished in a proposal, it is the offeror's responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal for the agency to evaluate. LOGMET, B-400535, Oct. 30, 2008, 2008 CPD para. 199 at 3. An offeror that fails to do so runs the risk that its proposal will be evaluated unfavorably. Recon Optical, Inc., B-310436, B-310436.2, Dec. 27, 2007, 2008 CPD para. 10 at 6.  (Moura's Cleaning Service, Inc., B-402741.4,September 7, 2010)  (pdf)


JBlanco complains that its proposal met most of the solicitation's requirements and that, to the extent it did not, its noncompliance was minor and should have either been waived or corrected through clarifications.

An offeror has the responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation requirements and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency. CACI Techs., Inc., B–296946, Oct. 27, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 198 at 5. In this regard, an offeror must affirmatively demonstrate the merits of its proposal, and risks the rejection of its proposal if it fails to do so. HDL Research Lab, Inc., B–294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD para. 8 at 5.

The purpose of the technical proposal's demonstration project was for offerors to demonstrate their task order proposal preparation capability. Offerors were informed that, among other things, the agency would review offerors' calculations for a complete and reasonable task order price proposal complying with the project specifications and drawings. RFP amend. 1 at 6-7. Thus, it was incumbent upon the protester to submit a technical proposal that clearly demonstrated its ability to satisfactorily calculate prices as instructed. JBlanco essentially concedes that it did not do so in its technical volume.

We do not agree with JBlanco that its failure to demonstrate its capability to properly prepare task order proposals could be waived as a minor error or corrected through clarifications. Unlike a clerical or mathematical error in a price proposal, which could be susceptible to correction through clarifications, the error here implicates the protester's ability to properly prepare its task order proposals. We think the agency could reasonably conclude that allowing the protester to correct the prices or change the pricing method in its technical proposal, after the agency explained what errors the protester had made, would defeat the purpose of the project demonstration. On this record, we find no basis to question the reasonableness of the agency's determination that JBlanco's proposal failed to meet this pass/fail solicitation requirement.

The protest is denied.  (JBlanco Enterprises, Inc., B-402905, August 5, 2010)  (pdf)


Richcon Federal Contractors, Inc., of Wellington, Florida, protests the rejection of its quotation by the Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, under request for quotations (RFQ) No. R3-6-10-007 for roofing services. The protester argues that the agency should have accepted its quotation, which was submitted by facsimile, notwithstanding the fact that the RFP incorporated a Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clause that prohibited submission of quotations by this method.

We deny the protest.

The RFQ was issued on June 11, 2010, and sought quotations to replace the roof of the Glenwood shop in the Gila National Forest, New Mexico. Section L of the RFQ included the text of FAR sect. 52.252-1, which states in relevant part: "This solicitation incorporates one or more solicitation provisions by reference, with the same force and effect as if they were given in full text." Among the clauses incorporated by reference was "Instructions to Offerors--Competitive Acquisition," which states, as relevant here, "[u]nless other methods (e.g., electronic commerce or facsimile) are permitted in the solicitation, proposals and modifications to proposals shall be submitted in paper media in sealed envelopes or packages . . . ." FAR sect. 52.215-1(c)(1). The RFQ did not advise vendors that any method other than paper media was acceptable for submission of quotations.

Richcon submitted its quotation via facsimile on June 29, 1 day before the solicitation closing date. The agency rejected Richcon's quotation because it was delivered by facsimile, rather than on paper, as required under the RFQ. Contracting Officer's Statement para. 10.

Richcon argues that the Forest Service improperly rejected its quotation because the RFQ did not specifically state that quotes could not be submitted by facsimile. In this regard, the protester contends that the RFQ did not expressly include language that prohibited facsimile submission. As discussed above, however, the RFQ advised vendors that the clause at 52.215-1 was incorporated into the solicitation. It is a well-accepted principle of contract law that when an item is incorporated by reference into a contract or other document, it is not necessarily to bodily insert the text of the item into the contract or document. Staker & Parsons Cos., B-402404.2, Mar. 1, 2010, 2010 CPD para. 74 at 2-3; see also Northrop Grumman Info. Tech., Inc., 535 F.3d 1339, 1343-46 (Fed. Cir. 2008). On this record, we conclude that vendors were advised that facsimile submissions were prohibited, and that the contracting officer acted reasonably by rejecting Richcon's quotation. See G.D. Searle & Co., B-247077, Apr. 30, 1992, 92-1 CPD para. 406 at 3.  (Richcon Federal Contractors, Inc., B-403223, August 12, 2010) (pdf)


URS argues that it fully complied with all RFP requirements and maintains that it did demonstrate that it possessed a facility with a top secret safeguarding clearance prior to the due date for receipt of proposals, namely its facility with CAGE code 1RD04.

In reviewing protests of alleged improper evaluations, our Office examines the record to determine whether the agency's judgment was reasonable and in accord with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement laws. L-3 Commc'ns Westwood Corp., B-295126, Jan. 19, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 30 at 5. It is an offeror's responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency. CACI Techs., Inc., B-296946, Oct. 27, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 198 at 5. In this regard, an offeror must affirmatively demonstrate the merits of its proposal and risks the rejection of its proposal if it fails to do so. HDL Research Lab, Inc., B-294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD para. 8 at 5.

URS argues that the EPA misunderstood URS's corporate structure, and that URS fully complied with the requirements of the RFP because the proposal identified the specific CAGE code of the facility that maintains a top secret safeguarding clearance. URS explains that URS Group, Inc., is composed of multiple facilities existing as a single entity, referred to as a "Multiple Facility Organization." According to the protester, the facilities that comprise URS Group, Inc., have different CAGE codes; the facility with CAGE code 1N5H4 (which was listed in the SF 33 as the offeror) is the headquarters and does not have a top secret safeguarding clearance, but the facility with CAGE code 1RD04 (which was listed in the technical proposal) is a subordinate facility of the headquarters and does have a top secret safeguarding clearance. Protest at 4. URS maintains that the headquarters facility can use the security clearance of its subordinate facility without the two facilities entering into a written agreement because the two facilities are the same legal entity operating out of the same physical location. URS asserts that its identification of different CAGE codes in the SF 33 and its technical proposal is irrelevant. Id. at 4-6.

We do not agree that the identification of different CAGE codes is irrelevant, or that two entities with different CAGE codes are the same for purposes of this procurement. CAGE codes are assigned by the Defense Logistics Agency and are assigned to discrete business entities for purposes of executing payments under government contracts and to track the ownership of technical data. National Found. Co., B-253369, Sept. 1, 1993, 93-2 CPD para. 143 at 2 n.1. Similarly, the DUNS numbering system is established by Dunn & Bradstreet Information Services, and discrete 9‑digit numbers are assigned for purposes of establishing the precise identification of an offeror or contractor. See FAR sections 4.605(b); 4.607. On an SF 33, the CAGE code and DUNS number are used to identify the entity that is the offeror for a given procurement. On the SF 33 here, those numbers for the offering entity are different than the numbers in the proposal for the entity with the top secret safeguarding clearance.

As stated above, the RFP required offerors to have the appropriate security clearance by the due date for receipt of proposals. RFP sect. L.27. The RFP stated that the agency would confirm that the offeror had the appropriate clearance in place by the due date, and that offerors without the proper clearance would not be considered for award. RFP attach. 9, at 9-7. After determining that the URS entity that submitted the proposal in response to the RFP, listed on the SF 33 with CAGE code 1N5H4, did not have the appropriate clearance, the agency rejected URS's proposal. Based on our review of the record, we find this action unobjectionable.

In further support of its argument that the agency improperly rejected its proposal, URS asserts that its technical proposal committed the resources of the subordinate facility with CAGE code 1RD04, which possesses a top secret safeguarding clearance, to perform the contract. Comments at 3. However, the record shows that URS failed to submit a complete demonstration of its security clearance relative to the DD254, as required by the RFP. Not only do the SF 33 and technical proposal identify two different entities with different CAGE codes and DUNS numbers, but also URS never explained in its proposal the relationship between the two entities. Moreover, URS, in its proposal, identified another entity that would be aiding the firm in its performance of the safeguarding requirements; and it never identified its relationship with this firm, provided the CAGE code or DUNS number for this firm, or provided any evidence of this firm's ability to handle and possess top secret information.

In summary, the protester failed in its responsibility to clearly demonstrate compliance with the RFP security requirements. The record supports the reasonableness of the agency's decision to find the proposal unacceptable for failure to demonstrate that it satisfied the RFP security requirements.  (URS Group, Inc., B-402820, July 30, 2010)  (pdf)


Xtreme questions the agency's evaluation of its proposal and argues that the agency improperly issued the task orders to two offerors with higher evaluated costs.

In reviewing protests of alleged improper evaluations and source selections, our Office examines the record to determine whether the agency's judgment was reasonable and in accord with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement laws. See ABT Assocs., Inc., B-237060.2, Feb., 26, 1990, 90-1 CPD para. 223 at 4. It is an offeror's responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency. CACI Techs., Inc., B-296946, Oct. 27, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 198 at 5. In this regard, an offeror must affirmatively demonstrate the merits of its proposal and risks the rejection of its proposal if it fails to do so. HDL Research Lab, Inc., B-294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD para. 8 at 5. A protester's mere disagreement with the agency's evaluation provides no basis to question the reasonableness of the evaluators' judgments. See Citywide Managing Servs. Of Port Washington, Inc., B-281287.12, B-281287.13, Nov. 15, 2000, 2001 CPD para. 6 at 10-11.

In addressing Xtreme's protest, we have reviewed the record, including the agency's evaluation materials, Xtreme's proposal, and its arguments challenging the agency's evaluation and selection decision. While we only address the protester's primary challenges, we have considered all of Xtreme's arguments and conclude that none of them have merit. In short, we think the record supports the ratings given the protester's proposal and the agency's selection decisions.

Initially, we note that, although the agency report specifically addresses the protester's challenge to the evaluation of the firm's proposal and provides a detailed analysis of the evaluated weaknesses and deficiencies in that proposal, the protester's comments do not substantively challenge the agency's evaluation results. Rather, the protester argues in a general fashion that it has the knowledge and personnel to perform the requirement. The TOPR, however, required that offerors demonstrate their abilities to perform the requirements in their proposals, and, in our view, Xtreme simply failed to do so.

With respect to CLIN 4020, the TOPR required offerors to identify a specific number and category of employees all of which were considered key. The TOPR further stated that resumes must be provided for all key personnel. The protester does not contend that it proposed sufficient key staff to perform the CLIN (or that it provided resumes for these key personnel), but instead argues that it has the ability to obtain staff and will provide sufficient staff in contract performance. See Protest at 1-2; Comments at 3. This response, however, does not show that the agency's concerns about Xtreme's staffing plan were unreasonable. In short, the TOPR required offerors to detail the personnel to be provided under the contract and to demonstrate a commitment to assign appropriately skilled and experienced personnel.

With respect to CLIN 4030, the protester also failed to address a number of TOPR requirements, including identifying sufficient staff to perform and addressing how it will accomplish contract tasks. Again, the protester does not specifically challenge the agency's evaluation conclusions concerning Xtreme's proposal but simply argues that it has the ability to provide the required services. As noted above, however, this does not demonstrate that the agency's evaluation concerns are unreasonable.

For both CLINs, the agency received no completed past performance questionnaires from any of the protester's references, and found no past performance information for Xtreme in the PPIRS database. The protester contends that it is not listed in the PPIRS because several prime contractors, which subcontracted work to the protester, failed to provide past performance information to the PPIRS, despite repeated requests that they do so. Although Xtreme complains that it was prejudiced by these prime contractors' failure to provide past performance information, Xtreme does not contend that the agency was involved in any way. Xtreme's complaints in this regard simply do not show that the Navy acted unreasonably, or in violation of law or regulation.

The protester also argues that the agency was biased against Xtreme, a small veteran-owned business. The protester, however, presents no evidence supporting this allegation other than its own inference based upon an alleged comment by a procurement official that this requirement was not for small businesses. Rather, as noted above, the record supports the reasonableness of the agency's evaluation of Xtreme's proposal. We find no basis to conclude that the evaluation of Xtreme's proposal was the result of the agency favoring large business concerns, or was otherwise motivated by bias or bad faith on the part of the agency. In this regard, government officials are presumed to act in good faith, and we will not attribute unfair or prejudicial motives to procurement officials on the basis of inference or supposition. See Shinwha Elecs., B-290603 et al., Sept. 3, 2002, 2002 CPD para. 154 at 5 n.6.

In sum, given the protester's failure to demonstrate its ability to satisfy the agency's requirements, we find that the agency's evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the evaluation criteria. Furthermore, given the reasonableness of the evaluation, the record provides no basis to question the agency's decision not to select Xtreme for these task orders. Because the agency found the protester's proposals to be unacceptable in both instances, the agency was not required to consider Xtreme's lower costs in its tradeoff decisions, since it is well established that a technically unacceptable proposal cannot be considered for award. EMSA Ltd. P'ship, B-254900.4, July 26, 1994, 94-2 CPD para. 43 at 5.  (XtremeConcepts Systems, B-402438, April 23, 2010)  (pdf)


The protester challenges the agency's evaluation of both proposals. With regard to TeAM's proposal, IBA contends that the evaluators could not reasonably have assigned a rating of [deleted] under the management approach factor given that once the pages in excess of the solicitation limitations were excluded from the TeAM proposal, the proposal did not include a transition plan or required project milestones. With regard to its own proposal, IBA argues that it should have received ratings of higher than [deleted] under the experience, technical approach, and management approach factors.

In reviewing an agency's evaluation, we will not reevaluate proposals; instead, we will examine the record to determine whether the agency's judgment was reasonable and in accord with the solicitation evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. ESCO Marine, Inc., B-401438, Sept. 4, 2009, 2009 CPD para. 234 at 9. Based on our review of the record here, we agree with the protester that the agency's evaluation of both proposals was unreasonable. Accordingly, we sustain IBA's protest.

Evaluation of TeAM proposal

The TOPR required offerors to provide a 60-day plan for incoming transition as part of their proposals. The TOPR furnished a great deal of detail regarding the required content of this plan, instructing that it was to address the following topics:

  • Coordination with Government representatives,
  • Review, evaluation and transition of current support services,
  • Transition of historic data to new contractor system,
  • Government-approved training and certification process,
  • Transfer of hardware warranties and software licenses,
  • Transfer of all System/Tool documentation to include, at a minimum: user manuals, system administration manuals, training materials, disaster recovery manual, requirements traceability matrix, configuration control documents and all other documents required to operate, maintain and administer systems and tools,
  • Transfer of compiled and uncompiled source code, to include all versions, maintenance updates and patches,
  • Orientation phase and program to introduce Government personnel, programs, and users to the Contractor's team, tools, methodologies, and business processes,
  • Distribution of Contractor purchased Government owned assets, including facilities, equipment, furniture, phone lines, computer equipment, etc.,
  • Transfer of Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) and Government Furnished Information (GFI), and GFE inventory management assistance,
  • Applicable TMA briefing and personnel in-processing procedures,
  • Coordinate with the Government to issue and account for government keys, ID/access cards, and security codes.

TOPR at 2-3. In addition, the TOPR instructed offerors to include a draft Program Management Plan (PMP) as an attachment to their proposals. The solicitation identified four items that "at a minimum" were to be addressed in the draft PMPs; of relevance to this protest, one of the required items was "[i]dentification of milestones where Government information/activity is required and timeline dependencies for subsequent Contractor activities." TOPR at 4.

TeAM included a [deleted] incoming transition plan as an attachment to its non-price proposal; because the TOPR provided that the transition plan was to be submitted as part of the non-price proposal subject to the page limitations imposed thereon, the contracting officer states that she removed the attachment from the copy of TeAM's proposal that she provided to the evaluators for reevaluation. Similarly, the contracting officer states that she removed the final 10 pages of TeAM's [deleted] PMP because the solicitation placed a limitation of 10 pages on this attachment. In their reevaluation, the evaluators attributed [deleted] weaknesses and [deleted] weakness to the TeAM proposal under the management approach factor; [deleted]. The evaluators noted that [deleted]. Evaluation Panel Report, Dec. 10, 2009, at 20. Despite this finding, the evaluators assigned the proposal an overall rating of [deleted] under the management approach factor.

IBA argues that the rating of [deleted] is unreasonable given that TeAM's proposal did not include a transition plan and did not identify project milestones. In response to the first point, the agency maintained that while TeAM's proposal lacked a full transition plan, it did address transition issues and thus merited an [deleted] rating. In particular, the agency pointed to language in the proposal addressing TeAM's [deleted]; acknowledging the phases of the [deleted] to be supported under the task order; discussing TeAM's approach to [deleted]; and referring to TeAM's experience in [deleted]. The protester responded that these references could not reasonably be considered an adequate response to the solicitation requirement for a transition plan addressing the 10 items summarized above.

We agree with the protester. As noted above, the TOPR required contractors to furnish a plan addressing a number of aspects of transition, including the offeror's plans for ensuring that existing data, documentation, source code, and equipment would be successfully transferred to it. The language from TeAM's proposal cited by the agency [deleted]. Because the pared-down version of the TeAM proposal that the evaluators considered during their reevaluation not only failed [deleted], but also failed to otherwise address the required elements [deleted], we do not think that the evaluators could reasonably have considered the proposal to satisfy the solicitation requirement for a transition plan. Absent a basis for finding that the proposal had demonstrated an approach to meeting the requirement, we do not think that it was reasonable for the evaluators to have assigned the TeAM proposal a rating of [deleted] under the management approach factor, because the TOPR provided for the assignment of a rating of [deleted].

The protester also complains that TeAM's draft PMP failed to identify project milestones, as required by the TOPR, and thus failed to reflect an acceptable management approach. In response, the agency argues that while the table in which TeAM identified its project milestones was not considered in the reevaluation (due to enforcement of the solicitation's page limitations), the proposal otherwise adequately identified the milestones [deleted]. Based on our review of the record, we fail to see how the proposal passages cited by the agency adequately identified the project milestones [deleted]. For example, the agency points to TeAM's statement in its PMP that [deleted], TeAM Proposal, Attach. 3 (PMP), at 4. In our view, this statement is not sufficient to incorporate the milestones into the proposal; where, as here, a solicitation requires offerors to furnish detailed information to demonstrate compliance with solicitation requirements, [deleted] is not sufficient to demonstrate that a proposal meets the requirements. VT Griffin Servs., Inc., B‑299869.2, Nov. 10, 2008, 2008 CPD para. 219 at 5.

In sum, in addition to lacking a reasonable basis for concluding that the TeAM proposal complied with the TOPR requirement for a transition plan, we think that the evaluators lacked a reasonable basis for finding that TeAM complied with the solicitation requirement for a PMP setting forth project milestones. Accordingly, we agree with the protester that it was unreasonable for the evaluators to assign TeAM's proposal a rating of [deleted] under the management approach factor.  (Irving Burton Associates, Inc., B-401983.3, March 29, 2010)  (pdf)


Kiewit first contends that it was unreasonable for the agency to reject its proposal on the basis that the protester’s proposed preliminary schedule for performance included what the agency perceived as an unreasonably late date for the issuance of the notice to proceed and start of performance. Since the agency’s anticipated notice to proceed date was not shared with the competitors prior to proposal submission, Kiewit contends that the agency applied an unstated criterion in evaluating its proposal; that its experience supports its schedule’s notice to proceed/ performance start date; and that the firm’s proposal, in any event, included a statement of the firm’s intention to comply with all solicitation requirements. As discussed below, our review of the record provides no basis to question the agency’s evaluation of the proposal.

An offeror has the burden of submitting an adequately written proposal with sufficiently detailed information to clearly demonstrate the merits of its proposal and risks the rejection of its proposal if it fails to do so. See HDL Research Lab, Inc., B‑294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD para. 8 at 5. As stated above, the RFP required evaluation of, among other things, the timeliness of the proposed performance, and offerors were to demonstrate the “ability to schedule and successfully perform the work and to satisfy all solicitation requirements.” RFP at 00110-3. Kiewit’s schedule assumed a notice to proceed/performance start date approximately 3 months from when the agency states that it anticipated issuing the task order (and more than 2 months from the date Kiewit itself assumed the task order would be issued). The protester provided no information in its proposal to explain or support the proposed schedule’s assumption that the notice to proceed and start of performance would not occur until months after issuance of the task order. While the firm argues that it intended the dates it submitted on its proposed schedule to be placeholders for the actual notice to proceed and performance start dates, our review of the record shows there is no explanatory narrative or notation in its proposal to support that intention. Likewise, the proposal does not explain what experience the firm relies on in supporting its anticipation of a delay by the agency in issuing the notice to proceed.

We find reasonable the agency’s evaluation of Kiewit’s unexplained, later than anticipated performance start date and the uncertainty presented by the proposed schedule, in relation to the agency’s anticipated dates for issuance of the task order and the notice to proceed with performance. Although Kiewit contends the agency applied an unstated evaluation criterion in this regard, timeliness of proposed schedule and ability to schedule and successfully perform the work were areas for evaluation. As the agency points out in its report, in light of the delay Kiewit’s proposal assumed between issuance of the task order and start of performance, if the agency promptly issued the task order and notice to proceed, it was uncertain from Kiewit’s proposal whether performance would be completed within the required period. Based on our review of the record, given the insufficiency of the firm’s blanket statement of compliance in light of the uncertainty introduced by Kiewit’s proposed start of performance months after issuance of the task order, and the failure of the firm to demonstrate in its proposal that its proposed dates were mere placeholders for the actual dates the agency’s notice to proceed would trigger, we have no basis to question the reasonableness of the agency’s concerns and its conclusion that the proposal was technically unacceptable.

The protest is denied.  (Kiewit Texas Construction L.P., B-402090; B-402090.2, January 12, 2010)  (pdf)


The RFQ expressly required technical submissions from each vendor demonstrating the ability to perform based on the vendor's qualifications, experience, past performance, and work plan and schedule information. The record shows that a substantial amount of required information was not submitted by John Blood; the protester does not refute the agency's item-by-item list of missing information in his quotation. Rather, the protester generally contends the agency should have concluded that his ability to perform was demonstrated by this quotation's reference to 30 years of thinning experience, and because the protester allegedly showed an understanding of the requirements in speaking with agency personnel about the work prior to submitting a quotation.

A vendor is responsible for demonstrating affirmatively the merits of its quotation and risks rejection if it fails to do so. See HDL Research Lab, Inc., B‑294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD para. 8 at 5. Further, no matter how competent a vendor may be, the technical evaluation must be based on information included in the firm's quotation. See Watson Indus., Inc., B-238309, Apr. 5, 1990, 90-1 CPD para. 371 at 3-4. Since the RFQ here required the vendors to include specific technical information for evaluation, we consider reasonable the agency's determination that the protester's failure to submit the information rendered its quotation technically marginal, at best, and presented substantial performance risk. Given these agency findings, we have no basis to question the reasonableness of the agency's selection of the higher-priced, but technically superior, lower risk quotation from Lara Brothers.  (John Blood, B-402133, January 15, 2010)  (pdf)


Argon argues that the agency unreasonably determined that its proposal did not establish compliance with the MTBOMF1 requirement. In considering protests challenging the evaluation of proposals, we will not reevaluate proposals; rather, we will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s evaluation conclusions were reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation and applicable procurement laws and regulations. Engineered Elec. Co. d/b/a/ DRS Fermont, B‑295126.5, B-295126.6, Dec. 7, 2007, 2007 CPD para. 4 at 3-4. We find the agency reasonably concluded that Argon’s proposal did not establish compliance with the MTBOMF requirement.

It is undisputed that Argon’s initial proposal contained no information whatsoever relating to the ability of its CPS to meet the solicitation’s MTBOMF1 requirement. Argon’s response to the ensuing discussion questions included an estimate of MTBOMF expressed in terms of hours ([deleted]), but was silent as to the temperature at which the estimate could be achieved. The agency appears to have considered this information sufficient, but any such conclusion was unwarranted, since MTBOMF was not expressed in terms of number of hours at the specified temperature of 25C. The information thereafter provided by Argon in its FPR was similarly noncompliant with the requirements of the RFP; the MTBOMF hourly figure ([deleted]) failed to meet the minimum requirement of 15,000 hours, and was expressed at a temperature (55C) that was outside the specified operating parameters for the CPS.

Argon asserts that the agency should have applied the “Arhenius” model or equation, which allegedly has led to a rule of thumb that a 10C change in operating temperature results in a doubling (or halving) of reliability predictions; according to the protester, using this approach would have allowed the agency to project the MTBOMF of Argon’s proposed CPS at 25C using the data provided for MTBOMF at 55C. Protest, May 11, 2009, exh. 4, at 2-3. This argument is without merit. The agency has produced evidence both that its evaluators were unaware of this rule of thumb, and that the model’s reliability is both suspect, and dependent upon having various data that were not included in Argon’s proposal. AR, exh. 13, at 2-4. Argon has not shown otherwise. In any case, an offeror is responsible for submitting an adequately written proposal and bears the risk that, if it fails to do so, its proposal may be rejected as unacceptable. L-3 Communications EOTech, Inc., B-311453, B-311453.2, July 14, 2008, 2008 CPD para. 139 at 4. Argon could not provide inadequate MTBOMF information in response to the specific RFP requirement and then rely on the agency to evaluate the information based on an approach not referenced in the RFP (or, for that matter, in the protester’s proposal).  (Argon ST, Inc., B-401387, August 6, 2009)  (pdf)

---------------------------

1 mean time between operation mission failure.


The TOPR1 provided for the issuance of a task order to the vendor whose proposal provided the “best value” to the government considering technical support (with subfactors for technical expertise, services, and quality control) and price. TOPR at 6. As relevant here, under the technical expertise subfactor vendors were required to address staffing levels, including a detailed description of the staffing outline for all positions. Id. The solicitation, as issued, included historical workload data to assist vendors in developing their staffing plans, but after receiving and evaluating initial quotations the agency provided vendors with the government’s estimated minimum staffing. Army E-mail, Mar. 17, 2009. The Army also sent each vendor discussion questions concerning specific weaknesses in their proposals. Following the receipt and evaluation of final proposal revisions, both Altech’s and GC&E’s proposals were rated acceptable for each non-price factor. Altech proposed a price of $15,386,930.68, and GC&E a price of $18,933,348.40. The agency selected Altech’s proposal for issuance of the task order.

GC&E asserts that the agency misled it into increasing its price unnecessarily. Specifically, the protester states that it initially offered to perform with a staff of 40, but that it increased its staff to 51 after the agency provided the minimum staffing estimate showing a staff of 51. GC&E states it believed the estimate reflected the agency’s minimum requirements, and that it only learned after award that the estimate was not intended to establish a minimum. GC&E asserts that this increase in its proposed staffing resulted in a substantial increase in its price, and concludes that, had it not increased its staffing, it would have received the task order.

This argument is without merit. The e-mail transmitting the staffing estimate advised vendors that, “The staffing provided is not the solution, but represents the Government’s minimum staffing to perform the requirements of the PWS.” Army E‑mail, Mar. 17, 2009. Vendors questioned this statement, and the Army responded to all vendors that, “The minimum staffing provided is only an estimate. It is the contractor’s responsibility to determine how to staff to support the requirements of the PWS.” Questions and Answers, Mar. 20, 2009. Since the response expressly stated that the minimum staffing was only an estimate, and provided that vendors were to determine their own staffing, there was no reasonable basis for GC&E to treat the estimate as a minimum requirement; if GC&E believed that its initially proposed staffing was adequate to perform the requirements of the task order, it should have been clear that it was free to leave its staffing unchanged.  (GC&E Systems Group, Inc., B-401315; B-401315.2, July 9, 2009)  (pdf)

-----------------------------

1 task order proposal request.


SPAAN challenges the agency’s evaluation of the firm’s proposal under the technical understanding/approach, management approach, and past performance factors and contends that its proposal should have been found to be one of the most highly rated and included in the competitive range. With respect to the evaluation of its proposal under the technical understanding/approach factor, SPAAN disagrees that it did not adequately discuss how the firm would ensure technical quality in performing the contract and that it had not adequately discussed its quality assurance plan. In this regard, SPAAN cites certain pages of its proposal as assertedly demonstrating the firm’s approach to ensuring technical quality. See Protester’s Comments at 12-13. SPAAN also argues that, as it indicated in its proposal, SPAAN, as the incumbent contractor, had successfully integrated its quality assurance plan with the agency’s quality control and quality assurance requirements, which SPAAN contends satisfies the RFP’s requirement to describe how the firm would ensure technical quality. SPAAN concludes that, absent DOE’s allegedly unreasonable evaluation, the firm’s proposal would have received more than the two points it received under this factor.

DOE contends that SPAAN’s proposal addressed a “traditional program management-based approach to the work (e.g., implementing internal project controls, schedule control, tracking performance indicators)” and identified the work to be performed but did not substantively address how the firm would ensure technical quality. See AR, Tab 5, Initial SEB Report at 43. In this regard, DOE also notes that, despite the solicitation’s explicit instructions, SPAAN failed to provide an outline or summary of its quality assurance plan and that it is an offeror’s obligation to prepare a proposal that adequately addresses the solicitation’s requirements.

We agree with DOE that an offeror bears the burden of submitting an adequately written proposal, and that it runs the risk that the firm’s proposal will be evaluated unfavorably when it fails to do so. See American Ordnance, LLC, B-292847 et al., Dec. 5, 2003, 2004 CPD para. 3 at 4. Here, we find from our review of SPAAN’s technical proposal, including those parts to which SPAAN cites in its comments, that SPAAN provided little discussion of how it would ensure technical quality (that is, little discussion of how SPAAN would ensure the “appropriateness, accuracy, completeness” of its work products, as required by the RFP). We also find that SPAAN did not provide an outline or summary of its quality assurance plan, although this too was required by the RFP. Given these shortcomings in SPAAN’s proposal, we cannot say that DOE acted unreasonably in assessing these failures to be a significant proposal weakness.

Although its true that SPAAN referenced in its proposal the firm’s incumbent performance, including its integration of a quality assurance plan, we disagree with SPAAN’s apparent belief that, because the firm, as the incumbent contractor, had successfully implemented a quality assurance plan in its prior contract, DOE should accept SPAAN’s experience in this regard in lieu of an adequately written proposal addressing all of the solicitation’s requirements. See HealthStar VA, PLLC, B‑299737, June 22, 2007, 2007 CPD para. 114 at 2; Interactive Commc’n Tech., Inc., B‑271051, May 30, 1996, 96-1 CPD para. 260 at 2. In this regard, offerors’ past performance was evaluated under another evaluation factor, for which SPAAN’s proposal received credit for its performance of the incumbent contract.  (SPAAN Tech, Inc., B-400406; B-400406.2, October 28, 2008) (pdf)


Sauer essentially argues that the agency unreasonably evaluated its proposal. Specifically, Sauer contends that the RFP only required offerors to describe in narrative form how the offeror could meet the contract requirements and that the RFP permits the AWS certification requirement to be met through a narrative description and that Sauer did mention in its narratives that AWS standards were used on prior projects.

In reviewing a protest against an agency’s proposal evaluation, our role is limited to ensuring that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation and applicable statutes and regulations. National Toxicology Labs., Inc., B-281074.2, Jan. 11, 1999, 99-1 CPD para. 5 at 3. An offeror is responsible for submitting an adequately written proposal, and runs the risk that its proposal will be evaluated unfavorably where it fails to do so. Carlson Wagonlit Travel, B-297016, Mar. 6, 2001, 2001 CPD para. 49 at 3. Based on our review of the record, the agency’s evaluation of Sauer’s proposal as a “No Go” was reasonable given Sauer’s lack of documentation demonstrating its performance of projects involving AWS certification.

Although the RFP allowed offerors to describe in narrative form their ability to satisfy the RFP’s requirements, the RFP emphasized the importance of providing information sufficiently detailed to clearly describe the offeror’s capabilities to successfully complete the project. The RFP also warned that proposals that did not include substantial evidence of the offeror’s experience, qualifications and production capability would be considered unacceptable. With respect to the welding and weld testing experience requirements, the RFP clearly required offerors to provide “documentation showing AWS certification for this type of work.” Moreover, the RFP specifically provided that offerors providing documentation of completion of projects similar in scope and size and AWS certification for similar work would be considered to have satisfied the minimum requirements of the RFP.

Sauer’s proposal did not provide any documentation to demonstrate that its prior experience involved welding work that required AWS certifications. Rather, Sauer merely described its prior projects and stated that “[w]eldment required certified welders and weld testing of full pen welds to AWS standards.” Sauer Proposal Section 2, Experience at 1. Sauer’s explanation that it performed weld testing to AWS standards is not the same as establishing that it performed welding work that required AWS certifications or documentation to that effect. In contrast, other offerors provided copies of the AWS certification for the individual employees that performed the work on their prior contracts. Given that the RFP was very specific concerning the requirement for documentation showing AWS certification on prior projects, the agency reasonably concluded that Sauer’s proposal was unacceptable based on Sauer’s lack of documentation concerning AWS certification with respect to any of its prior projects.  (Sauer, Incorporated, B-400709, December 22, 2008) (pdf)


In its pre-oral presentation evaluation, the AEEB assigned a notable weakness to the protester’s submission under factor 6, stating that the “Offeror did not clearly explain [how] it would adapt to increasing capacity of this contract. The Offeror stated that they would be operating at 50% capacity in 6 months and 80% capacity in 12 months.” AR, Tab 6, AEEB Report, at 6.

As noted above, offerors were provided at the oral presentations with a list of questions to which they should respond. The last of HGL’s questions stated: “The proposal includes an estimate that key staff will have 50% availability in 6 months and 80% availability at the end of the year. Please describe the personnel and companies included in this estimate.” Id. at 4. In its post-oral presentation analysis, the AEEB stated that “during the oral presentation, HGL was asked to explain a statement in the written document regarding capacity (that HGL would be able to provide service at 50% at 6 months, 80% in 12) and did not satisfactorily explain how this would work to the AEEB.” AR, Tab 11, AEEB Final Report, at 3.

The protester argues that the agency unreasonably took one sentence in its submission out of context, when the submission, read as a whole, repeatedly asserted that HGL would be prepared to fulfill the contract requirements at the inception of contract performance. We disagree.

An offeror has the responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information, which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation requirements and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency, CACI Techs., Inc., B-296946, Oct. 27, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 198 at 5, and that contains all the information that was requested or necessary to demonstrate its capabilities in response to the solicitation. HealthStar VA, PLLC, B-299737, June 22, 2007, 2007 CPD para. 114 at 2. A protester’s mere disagreement with the evaluation, as noted above, provides no basis to question the reasonableness of the evaluators’ judgments. See CH2M Hill, Ltd., supra.

In our view, based on the reference in HGL’s submission to “50% availability in six months and up to 80% availability within 12 months” of its “key personnel and technical staff,” it was not unreasonable for the agency to seek confirmation from HGL regarding the availability of the personnel proposed for the contract. To that end, four of the 15 oral presentation questions presented to HGL by the agency concerned staffing, including the last question, quoted above, which was specifically directed at obtaining clarification of the statement in the protester’s SF 330 regarding staffing availability. The record shows, however, that the protester failed to persuade the agency that it would have the key individuals with which it intended to staff the contract ready at the inception of performance, and that it was prepared to deal with the staffing contingencies that might arise. Because HGL did not provide the confirmation the agency was seeking, it was reasonable for the agency to characterize this area as a notable weakness and ultimately rely on it as the primary discriminator between the two strong submissions from HGL and ITSI.  (HydroGeoLogic, Inc., B-311263; B-311263.2, May 27, 2008) (pdf)


The evaluation of proposals is a matter within the discretion of the procuring agency, since the agency is responsible for defining its needs and deciding on the best methods of accommodating them. We will question the agency’s technical evaluation only where the record shows that the evaluation does not have a reasonable basis or is inconsistent with the RFP. Pacifica Servs., Inc., B-280921, Dec. 7, 1998, 98-2 CPD para. 137 at 3. Since an agency’s evaluation is dependent upon the information furnished in a proposal, it is the offeror’s responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal for the agency to evaluate. Id. Here, based upon our review of the record, we find that the agency’s evaluation of LOGMET’s proposal as unacceptable was reasonable and consistent with terms of the RFP.

As noted above, LOGMET submitted documentation pertaining to two individuals for the SCBA technician position. The resume of one of the proposed individuals (Technician A) listed as one of his qualifications that he was “SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) Trained.” AR, Tab 13. Technician A’s resume also furnished a summary of his work experience (positions held, job duties, and supervisors’ names) and the names of three references. Technician B’s resume consisted of a job description for an SCBA technician position at a local fire department, with his name inserted at the top. In other words, rather than a typical resume summarizing the candidate’s qualifications, training, and experience, this “resume” furnished only a description of the essential functions to be performed and the skills/knowledge required for performance of a particular SCBA technician position.

The Air Force explains that it could not determine from the proffered documentation that the proposed individuals had the requisite work experience or certifications to perform the SCBA technician position. With regard to Technician A, the agency explained that the evaluators could not assume that “SCBA trained” meant that the individual had received training in the maintenance of SCBA equipment since “SCBA trained” could reasonably be interpreted as signifying simply that the individual had received training in the use of SCBA gear. The agency further noted that none of Technician A’s work experience was in positions that required the performance of duties similar to those of an SCBA technician. With regard to Technician B, the agency explained that while the position description was a reasonably accurate summary of the skills and training required of an SCBA technician, there was no evidence that the proposed individual actually possessed those skills and training. In this connection, the “resume” furnished no information regarding the employee’s experience and/or training that would qualify him for the position.

In response to the agency’s argument that the evaluators could not reasonably assume that the phrase “SCBA trained” in Technician A’s resume indicated that he was trained in maintenance of SCBA equipment, the protester contends that the solicitation did not furnish any explanation as to the services to be provided--or the equipment to be maintained--by an SCBA technician. To the extent that the protester is arguing that the RFP did not make clear that the SCBA technician would be performing maintenance on SCBA equipment--and thus that experience in performing and/or certification to perform maintenance on SCBA equipment was required--we think that, given that this was a solicitation for maintenance services, offerors reasonably should have understood that one of the functions to be performed by an SCBA technician was maintenance of SCBA equipment.

The protester also argues that if the evaluators had questions regarding the nature of Technician A’s SCBA training, they should have contacted one of the references listed on his resume, who was identified as a “Firefighter/EMT--Paramedic.” We disagree. First, as noted above, it is the offeror’s responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal, and contracting agencies are not obligated to go in search of needed information that the offeror has omitted or failed to present. Delphinus Eng’g, Inc., B-296902, B-296902.2, Sept. 20, 2005, 2006 CPD para. 7 at 8. Second, there was nothing in Technician A’s resume to suggest that the firefighter/EMT whom he listed as a reference had any involvement in furnishing him with SCBA training. In fact, there was no indication in the resume that the firefighter/EMT had been associated with the proposed technician in any professional capacity.

With regard to Technician B, the protester argues that the documentation that it submitted demonstrates that the candidate secured employment with a local fire department as an SCBA technician, and thus he may be presumed to possess the qualifications, training, and experience necessary for such a position. We do not think that it is apparent from the documentation furnished by the protester that Technician B in fact secured or performed the job described. Further, even assuming that he did fill the position described, there is no information confirming that he had the experience or qualifications for it, nor is there any information regarding the tenure of his employment at the job.

In sum, we think that the agency had a reasonable basis for finding that the protester failed to demonstrate that it had a qualified individual to fill the position of SCBA technician, and, as a consequence, for determining the protester’s proposal technically unacceptable.  (LOGMET, B-400535, October 30, 2008) (pdf)


Our Office has long recognized that, as a general matter, it is an offeror’s responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal with sufficient information for the agency to evaluate and determine compliance with the solicitation’s requirements. Interstate Gen. Gov’t Contractors, Inc., B-290137.2, June 21, 2002, 2002 CPD para. 105 at 5; Better Serv., B-256498.2, Jan. 9, 1995, 95-1 CPD para. 11 at 2. With regard to the role of the agency, our Office has held that in evaluating a proposal, an agency is under no obligation “to decipher a poorly organized proposal,” Shumaker Trucking and Excavating Contractors, Inc., B-290732, Sept. 25, 2002, 2002 CPD para. 169 at 5, or to reach favorable conclusions regarding the merits of a proposal or the compliance of the proposal with a solicitation’s requirements where the information supporting such conclusions is “not readily apparent,” DATEX, Inc, B-270268.2, Apr. 15, 1996, 96-1 CPD para. 240 at 6, “not clearly delineated,” Joint Mgmt. & Tech. Servs., B-294229; B-294229.3, Sept. 22, 2004, 2004 CPD para. 208 at 5, or not set forth with the requisite degree of precision required by the RFP. Ace Info. Sys., B-295450.2, Mar. 7, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 75 at 8; United Def. LP, B-286925.3 et al., Apr. 9, 2001, 2001 CPD para. 75 at 19. Nor is an agency required to “deduce[]” that a proposal meets certain requirements where the proposal lacks the level of detail the RFP requires, SOS Interpreting, Ltd., B-287505, June 12, 2001, 2001 CPD para. 104 at 11-12, or accept a proposal that the agency finds is unclear or ambiguous regarding its merits or compliance with the solicitation’s requirements. Ace Info. Sys., supra at 7; Innovative Commc’s Techs., Inc., B-291728; B-291728.2, Mar. 5, 2003, 2003 CPD para. 58 at 5-7; JAVIS Automation & Eng’g, Inc., B-290434; B-290434.2, Aug. 5, 2002, 2002 CPD para. 140 at 6 (it is not the agency’s obligation to fill in gaps in an offeror’s proposal during the evaluation process).

As indicated above, the RFP advised that in completing the functional requirements matrix, which included the solicitation’s provisions regarding intellectual property/data rights, offerors were to “provide a description of how the proposed solution meets the requirements stated.” RFP at 69. As recognized by the agency in evaluating the protesters’ proposals, the protesters did not do this. That is, the protesters, rather than providing “a description” of how their proposals evidenced compliance with the solicitation’s provisions regarding intellectual property/data rights, chose to state simply that “[d]ata rights are governed by the applicable provisions of the Avue Master Subscription Agreement,” and then set forth certain provisions of the Avue Master Subscription Agreement. This approach left it to the agency to “deduce” whether the Avue Master Subscription Agreement evidenced compliance with the solicitation provisions regarding intellectual property/data rights.

As set forth above, the agency found that the provisions of the Avue Master Subscription Agreement included in the proposals were unclear in a number of areas with regard to data rights, or too narrowly defined the intellectual property/data that would be considered the agency’s, and that it appeared from the Master Subscription Agreement that the intellectual property/data rights provisions in the RFP would not be met. Although the protester clearly disagrees with the agency’s determinations, based upon our review of the record, we have no basis to question the reasonableness of the agency’s evaluation. Simply put, it was the protesters’ obligation to submit proposals with adequately detailed information in such a manner as to allow for a meaningful review by the agency, Shumaker Trucking and Excavating Contractors, Inc., supra, and the protesters, who did not provide any explanation in their proposals regarding the proposals’ compliance with the solicitation’s intellectual property/data rights provisions, failed to do so.  (Avue Technologies Corp.; Carahsoft Technology Corp., B-298380.4, June 11, 2007) (pdf)


As we have often stated, an offeror must submit an adequately written proposal or it runs the risk of having its proposal rejected as unacceptable. Dynamic Mktg. Servs., Inc., B-279697, July 13, 1998, 98-2 CPD para. 84 at 6. Here, the complaint raised by L-3 concerning the endurance-live fire test was the result of its failure to identify how its locking nut was to be tightened, and not because of agency error. Under these circumstances, we cannot find the agency’s testing approach unreasonable.

L-3 nevertheless asserts that its test failure was not design related, but was the result only of a “minor informational deficiency” that could have been corrected easily by asking L-3 whether a tool was required to properly tighten the nut. L-3 contends that given this minor issue and the fact that this was the only one of the “essential criteria” that its sample failed to satisfy, the agency should allow L‑3 to correct the informational deficiency and repeat the pass/fail test, especially because the failure to do so resulted in the establishment of a competitive range of one. Supp. Protest and Comments at 9.

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) permits an agency to limit the competitive range to only the “most highly rated proposals” and does not require that discussions be held with offerors that are not included in the competitive range. FAR sections 15.306(c)(1), (d)(1). We have held that there is nothing inherently improper in a competitive range of one where the agency has a reasonable basis for its competitive range determination. M&M Investigations, Inc., B‑299369.2, B-299369.3, Oct. 24, 2007, 2007 CPD para. 200 at 3. As indicated above, this RFP clearly established the ground rules for testing the samples as well as the consequences--“elimination from further consideration for award”--for offerors whose proposed bid sample failed any one of the 15 “essential criteria.” Given these ground rules, we cannot find unreasonable the agency’s decision to exclude L-3’s proposal and bid sample from the competitive range where, as here, the proposal failed an “essential criteria” test and the only complaint about this failure is related to L-3’s inadequately drafted proposal, and not because of agency error or flawed testing. See California Microwave, Inc., B-229489, Feb. 24, 1988, 88-1 CPD para. 189 at 6.  (
L-3 Communications EOTech, Inc., B-311453; B-311453.2, July 14, 2008) (pdf)


As explained in detail below, we find that HHS’s evaluation of PPDG’s proposal, and the subsequent decision to exclude the proposal from the competitive range, were reasonable and consistent with the solicitation. The record reflects that the proposal, in large part, either parroted back in whole or part the RFP’s requirements, with a statement of PPDG’s intent to meet the requirements, or simply lacked the required information or detail for the agency to determine that PPDG understood the RFP’s requirements. Although it is true that proposals were limited to 35 pages in length, and therefore exhaustive detail could not be provided, our review of the record confirms the reasonableness of the agency’s judgment that PPDG failed to provide the level of detail that reasonably could be expected, within the page limitation stated in the RFP. Although we do not specifically address here all of the protester’s arguments concerning the evaluation of its proposal, we have fully considered all of them and find that they afford no basis to question the agency’s evaluation.  (Professional Performance Development Group, Inc., B-311273; B-311273.2, June 2, 2008) (pdf)


Mangi asserts that, although it did not propose a solution like that envisioned in RFP sect. 2, its proposal addressed all RFP requirements. It notes, for example, that its proposal set forth Mangi’s extensive experience, including the preparation of some 350 EAs and EISs, and explained its analytical process. This process included developing a description of the proposed action and alternatives; identifying connected and cumulative actions, potential types of effects, priorities, and allocations; determining data, study needs, scoping issues, and alternatives and public involvement; conducting its analyses in accordance with its analytic process, documenting the results, and providing an innovative concordance analysis to show the ways in which each EA differs from the other ones in structure, analysis, schedule, and conclusions. Mangi Supplemental Comments at 4-5. With regard to its proposed subcontractors, Mangi notes that it clearly proposed that it would be responsible for the EAs and that the subcontractors would serve as specialty consultants; this recognized that performance would be based mainly on existing knowledge, literature reviews, and other appropriate material. Id. at 5-6. Since Mangi itself, not its subcontractors, was to be responsible for producing the 20 EAs, Mangi asserts that it was improper for the agency to criticize its proposal for failing to provide evidence of adequate management oversight of its subcontractors with regard to production of the EAs.In considering a protest of an agency’s proposal evaluation, our review is confined to determining whether the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation and applicable statutes and regulations. United Def. LP, B‑286925.3 et al., Apr. 9, 2001, 2001 CPD para. 75 at 10‑11.  This aspect of the evaluation was unobjectionable. While the agency was well aware that Mangi itself had extensive NEPA experience, as noted, the agency was concerned with the number of completed projects and its proposed subcontractors’ apparent lack of NEPA experience. Further, while the agency recognized that the proposal stated that Mangi would perform the bulk of the work, it found that this was not so clear from a complete reading of the proposal. For example, immediately after stating that Mangi and its personnel would play a “major role in the centralized planning, conduct and documentation of the EAs,” Mangi’s proposal stated that its “[s]ubcontractors and their personnel familiar with each state will substantially assist with the state-by-state scoping, planning, data gathering and analysis within the systematic [Mangi] approach.” Mangi Proposal at 23. This language led the agency to question whether Mangi might rely heavily on its proposed subcontractors, which was problematic because it appeared that they lacked NEPA experience. Here, as with the other areas of its proposal evaluated as weak or deficient, while Mangi may have attempted to cover the requirements of the RFP, the agency found that its proposal failed to do so in a clear and understandable manner. We think the agency’s conclusion was reasonable, and that it reasonably downgraded Mangi’s proposal on this basis. See HDL Research Lab, Inc., B-294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD para. 8 at 5 (an offeror is responsible for affirmatively demonstrating the merits of its proposal and risks rejection of its proposal if it fails to do so).  (B-299721.4, The Mangi Environmental Group, Inc., January 24, 2008.  (The Mangi Environmental Group, Inc., B-299721.4, January 24, 2008) (pdf)


In responding to the sample task orders, offerors were asked to identify the composition of the contractor team that would be used to perform the task. This required listing the prime contractor, the lead subcontractor (if not the prime) and all other companies that would be involved. Offerors were then instructed to describe how the proposed contractor team would perform the sample task by indicating which company would perform which parts of the team effort. In addition, the RFP required that the proposal describe up to three team examples of experience. VetTech in its response to Task Order 1, listed itself, Cepeda Systems & Software Analysis, Inc. (CSSA) and Sparta, Inc. as the team members VetTech proposed to support this task order, however, the task-related experience examples provided by VetTech identified the experience of individuals employed by Computer Sciences Corporation, MagnaCom and CSSA. VetTech Proposal, Vol. IV, at IV-1-2. The agency found VetTech’s response deficient because VetTech failed to provide the related experience of individuals employed by team members proposed to support the task orders. Consequently, the agency could not determine whether VetTech’s proposed team members themselves had the required task-related experience.  Likewise, with Task Order 2, VetTech listed CSC, Sparta and VetTech as the team members to support this task order, however, VetTech only identified the experience examples as those of the “VetTech team member” and did not identify which specific team member possessed the task-related experience. Id. at IV-2-2. In its protest to our Office, VetTech argues that there was no requirement that the proposed individuals with task-specific experience had to be employed by the companies designated to support the tasks, and thus its proposal met the RFP requirement. We disagree with VetTech’s assertion. While VetTech argues that there was no requirement to provide this information, the RFP did require that the offeror identify at least three team examples of task-related experience. VetTech’s proposal was unclear as to which team members would be performing the work and failed to provide the task specific experience of the team member.

It is incumbent upon the protester to submit a response to the sample task orders that clearly demonstrated that it understood the requirement and proposed a plan, with appropriate team members, that detailed its ability to satisfactorily perform the task. An offeror has the responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information, which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation requirements and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency. CACI Techs., Inc., B-296946, Oct. 27, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 198 at 5. In this regard, an offeror must affirmatively demonstrate the merits of its proposal, and risks the rejection of its proposal if it fails to do so. HDL Research Lab, Inc., B-294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD para. 8 at 5. Where a protester challenges an agency’s evaluation of a proposal’s technical acceptability, our review is limited to considering whether the evaluation is reasonable and consistent with the terms of the RFP and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. National Shower Express, Inc.; Rickaby Fire Support, B‑293970, B-293970.2, July 15, 2004, 2004 CPD para. 140 at 4-5. On this record, we find no basis to question the reasonableness of the agency’s determination that VetTech’s proposal failed to meet the solicitation requirements. (Veterans Technology, LLC, B-310303.2, January 7, 2008) (pdf)


Benchmade also challenged the agency’s use of SF 26 to make a split award. The protester argues that because the agency did not obtain the awardee’s consent to use SF 26 and its signature on it, there was no legally binding agreement between those two parties. The language of the RFP, noted above, put prospective offerors on notice that the agency considered it proper to make a split award using the SF 26; in fact, Benchmade’s own contract for the other knife under the RFP was issued using SF 26 as well. Benchmade raised this challenge to the terms of the RFP in a supplemental protest filed May 29, 2007, well past the solicitation closing date of November 17, 2006; this protest ground is therefore untimely. See 4 C.F.R. sect. 21(a)(1) (2007). Benchmade’s argument that the language of the RFP was too speculative to form the basis of a protest is unpersuasive, given the agency’s clearly stated position in the RFP that it reserved the option to make a split award using SF 26. (Benchmade Knife Co., Inc., B-299366.3, B-299366.4, July 16, 2007) (pdf)


The agency explains that Beck’s proposal was downgraded--it received 10 of the 50 available points--for a number of weaknesses, only one of which was its failure to propose any use of helicopters. In this regard, the RFP notified offerors that some of the project sites were in very rugged terrain with deep drainages and steep slopes, RFP sect. C.1.4.1, and called for offerors to inspect the sites prior to submitting proposals. RFP sect. L, para. 52.237-1. The agency explains that its policy is not to specify the type of aircraft to be used, and the RFP clearly provided that the tools and equipment used for application of herbicides was at the contractor’s discretion. RFP sect. C.5.1.2. The agency considered fixed-wing aircraft appropriate for some of the applications here, but believed that helicopters would be better suited to others. Beck’s maintains that it can accomplish all of the work with fixed-wing aircraft, and that it thus was improper to downgrade its proposal for this reason. However, Beck’s brief technical proposal--a cover letter and list of references--did not address in any detail the firm’s experience or ability to make fixed-wing applications over all types of terrain to be encountered under the contract. Further, as noted by the agency, Beck’s proposal was downgraded for a variety of weaknesses--not just the failure to propose the use of helicopters--including its overall lack of detailed information. The RFP required offerors to provide evidence of their ability to perform the project, cautioning them that sufficient information had to be presented to enable the agency to evaluate the firms’ qualifications. RFP sections L.1.1, L.1.2. In this regard, it called for offerors to submit resumes that included a narrative description of the offeror’s noxious weed control background, experience and performance on its three most recent jobs, and related work experience. RFP sect. L.2.3. While Beck’s proposal identified, for example, experience with various noxious weeds, it included no resumes or other narrative describing Beck’s noxious weed control background. Likewise, while the proposal stated that Beck’s pilot was qualified to read maps, and proposed to use the global positioning system (GPS)--as required by RFP sect. C.3.6--it included no information explaining how its GPS would translate ground information or who would operate it. We find nothing unreasonable in the agency’s conclusion that applications by helicopter may be necessary under the contract--and its downgrading of Beck’s proposal accordingly. Likewise, since Beck’s did not address other areas of the RFP in its limited proposal, there is no basis for us to object to the agency’s downgrading the proposal on that basis under the technical capabilities factor. An offeror has the burden of submitting an adequately written proposal and runs the risk that its proposal will be evaluated unfavorably where it fails to do so. Carlson Wagonlit Travel, B‑287016, Mar. 6, 2001, 2001 CPD para. 49 at 3, 6.  (Beck's Spray Service, Inc., B-299816,August 9, 2007) (pdf)


Throughout Wizdom’s protest, there appear express and implicit assertions that the agency should have considered information that Wizdom believes is, or should have been, general knowledge regarding Wizdom’s experience, capabilities, or how Wizdom intended to perform this contract. In this regard, an offeror/vendor bears the responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal/quotation that includes sufficiently detailed information to affirmatively demonstrate that the offeror/vendor will comply with the solicitation requirements. ADC, Ltd., B-297061, Oct. 14, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 178 at 5. To the extent Wizdom’s protest is based on the premise that the agency should have considered information that was not provided within Wizdom’s quotation, the protest is without merit.  (Wizdom Systems, Inc., B-299829, August 3, 2007) (pdf)


GTI argues that the TEC’s determination that its proposed IP telephones were not currently available in the United States was improper. The protester contends that its proposal made no representation with respect to the availability dates for its OpenStage telephones,[5] and, as a result, the agency evaluators could not reasonably conclude that GTI’s proposed telephones were unavailable without first confirming the matter with either GTI or the telephone’s manufacturer. Comments, May 14, 2007, at 9. GTI’s argument here reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the proposal process. It is an offeror’s responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information, which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation requirements and allows for a meaningful review by the procuring agency. CACI Techs., Inc., B-296946, Oct. 27, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 198 at 5. An offeror is responsible for affirmatively demonstrating the merits of its proposal and risks the rejection of its proposal if it fails to do so. HDL Research Lab, Inc., B-294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD para. 8 at 5. Here, since it was GTI’s responsibility to establish the timely availability of its proposed IP telephones--not, as the protester argues, the evaluators’ responsibility to establish unavailability--and GTI admittedly failed to do so, we find the agency’s evaluation to be entirely reasonable. (Government Telecommunications, Inc., B-299542.2, June 21, 2007) (pdf)


Our review of HealthStar’s proposal indicates that the assignment of these two weaknesses was well-founded. Nevertheless, HealthStar, the incumbent contractor, complains that it was not evaluated in a reasonable manner because the agency should have considered its knowledge of its incumbent contract performance in evaluating these areas. In its protest filings addressing the patient-focused care weakness, HealthStar details in its protest a plethora of patient-focused services, which were admittedly not identified in its proposal due to page constraints. With regard to the other significant weakness, HealthStar asserts that its proposal stated that all professional staff were licensed, in good standing, credentialed in the Veterans Administration system, and that copies, while not included in its proposal, were available on file in the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System or would be provided upon request; again, HealthStar asserts that the agency was aware of these licenses because of its incumbent status, which were not submitted due to the page limitations. An offeror’s technical evaluation is dependent upon the information furnished; there is no legal basis for favoring a firm with presumptions on the basis of its incumbent status. It is the offeror’s burden to submit an adequately written proposal; an offeror, including an incumbent contractor, must furnish, within its proposal, all information that was requested or necessary to demonstrate its capabilities in response to the solicitation. Computerized Project Mgmt. Plus, B-247063, Apr. 28, 1992, 92-1 CPD para. 401 at 3. Based on this record, the agency’s assignment of the two weaknesses to HealthStar’s proposal because it did not provide the information requested by the RFP was reasonable.  (HealthStar VA, PLLC, B-299737, June 22, 2007) (pdf)


Mathews Associates, Inc. protests the rejection of its proposal submitted in response to request for proposals (RFP) No. W15P7T-06-R-N204, issued by the Department of the Army’s Communications-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command to procure loudspeakers and battery boxes for use in the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System. Mathews argues that the Army unreasonably rejected its proposal after concluding that every page of the proposal exceeded the solicitation’s specified margin limitations. The solicitation instructions limited proposals to 25 pages, specified the margin settings and font sizes to be used, and required that proposals be submitted electronically. As the Army notes, there is no dispute here that every page of the protester’s proposal exceeded the margin limitations in the solicitation, and that the solicitation clearly advised that no page that exceeded the margin, font, or page limitations would be read. In addition, while conceding the relative technical ease with which reformatting could be accomplished, the Army raises several concerns about the impact of a decision holding that it was required to reformat the protester’s proposal, or allow the protester to do so. Among the concerns the Army raises is the potential dispute between it and Mathews about how the reformatting should be accomplished. In the Army’s view, any reformatting should only involve a change to the margin settings in the electronic document, which, it claims, would add four pages to the proposal. In the protester’s view, the Army should not only change the margins in its submission, but should make some additional changes to spacing and headings that would allow the proposal to meet the 25-page deadline. Alternatively, the protester argues that the Army should change the margins and simply not read the portion of the proposal that exceeds the page limitation. In our view, the protest here is rendered a closer call than it might have been several years ago because of the nature of electronic submissions. For example, in 1991 our Office considered a protest from an offeror that had disregarded both a solicitation’s page limitation and the requirement that proposals be double-spaced. After 59 pages of the protester’s 117-page submission were not read--with the expected negative result on its competitive posture--the protester argued that it “could retype the proposal using double space in a few days.” Our Office held that the agency was not required to give the protester a few more days to retype its proposal. All Star Maint., Inc., B-244143, Sept. 26, 1991, 91-2 CPD para. 294 at 4. In contrast, the agency here would not be required to wait for a reformatted proposal, and could, in fact, complete the reformatting itself in a matter of minutes, without the offeror’s involvement. The question before us, however, is not what the agency could do, but what it was required to do. Viewed in this light, we do not think the Army was required to reformat, or allow Mathews to reformat, the proposal. We note first that, as in All Star Maint., Inc., the solicitation requirements at issue in this protest are clear, and were not contested by the protester. In addition, there is no dispute about the facts of this case--the proposal here did not contain a single page that complied with the solicitation’s margin requirements. Simply put, we know of no reason why an agency should be required to allow an offeror to reformat its proposal when the solicitation’s requirements were so clear. While the protester asserts that reformatting--or allowing the protester to reformat--its proposal does not appear to pose a significant risk of unfairness to other offerors, that view does not translate into a requirement that the agency take such action, given the RFP’s clear instructions regarding formatting and the consequences of not complying with those instructions. In addition, we think the record here supports the agency’s contention that the approach urged by Mathews raises the possibility of further disputes about the manner in which the reformatting is accomplished. In our view, the agency should not be forced to assume the risk of such potential disruptions to the procurement due to the reformatting made necessary by Mathews’ failure to comply with the unequivocal requirements of the RFP. Finally, we recognize that many of our prior cases, cited by both the Army and the protester, involve situations where agencies took less severe action than in this case. See, e.g., Client Network Servs., B-297994, Apr. 28, 2006, 2006 CPD para. 79 at 8 (agency reasonably downgraded proposal for failing to comply with the solicitation’s formatting requirements). On balance, however, we think there is nothing unfair, or unduly burdensome, about requiring offerors to assume the risks associated with submitting proposals that do not comply with clearly stated solicitation formatting requirements. Id.; Coffmann Specialties, Inc., B-284546, B‑284546.2, May 10, 2000, 2000 CPD para. 77 at 3. (Mathews Associates, Inc., B-299305, March 5, 2007) (pdf)


It is an offeror’s responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information, which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation requirements and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency. Ace Info. Solutions, Inc., B-295450.2, Mar. 7, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 75 at 8; Communications Data Sys. Assocs., B-223988, Oct. 29, 1986, 86-2 CPD para. 491. Procuring agencies have considerable discretion in evaluating technical proposals and, in reviewing protests challenging an agency’s evaluation of technical requirements, our Office will not reevaluate offerors’ proposals; rather, our review is limited to considering whether the agency’s evaluation of competing proposals was reasonable, consistent, and in accord with law, regulation and the terms of the solicitation. L-3 Communications Westwood Corp., B-295126, Jan. 19, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 30 at 5. A protester’s mere disagreement with an agency’s judgment is not sufficient to establish that the agency acted unreasonably. Purification Indus., Inc., B-261984, Sept. 20, 1995, 95-2 CPD para. 143 at 5. Here, the portion of CACI’s proposal responding to the “E.5” requirement only addressed “reconstruction” efforts on a particular contract performed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. In pursuing this protest, CACI expressly recognizes that the “reconstruction” efforts described in its proposal necessitated the engineering and professional service that the solicitation sought, acknowledging that “an engineering firm had to design this work and make sure that it was environmentally safe, that necessary permits were obtained, and that health risks were minimized.” Protester’s Comments, Sept. 6, 2005, at 15. Rather than discussing the capabilities the solicitation sought, CACI’s proposal merely referred to construction activities (installation of generators, replacement of blast doors, and burial of electrical lines)--work the PWS expressly provided could only be “incidental” to contract performance. On this record, we find no basis to question the reasonableness of the agency’s determination that CACI’s proposal failed to meet the solicitation requirements. (CACI Technologies, Inc., B-296946, October 27, 2005) (pdf)


Offerors bear the responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal with sufficiently detailed information to establish that their proposals will meet the solicitation requirements. G&M Indus., B-290354, July 17, 2002, 2002 CPD para. 125 at 4. An offeror is responsible for affirmatively demonstrating the merits of its proposal and risks the rejection of its proposal if it fails to do so. Knoll, Inc.; Steelcase, Inc., B-294986.3, B-294986.4, Mar. 18, 2005, 2005 CPD para. 63 at 3. Based on our review of ADC’s proposal, we conclude that the agency reasonably determined that ADC did not specifically address how it would meet the required human resource requirements in the SOO. ADC’s proposal does not explain in detail its approach to performing the SOO requirements; at most, ADC’s proposal affirms that it has the capability to meet the agency’s needs, citing as evidence its experience in performing background clearance work, which ADC now contends should have been considered analogous to, or encompassed within, the scope of human resource requirements in the SOO. See AR, Tab 16, ADC Proposal, at 7-9; Protest at 8-9. Accordingly, we believe that the agency reasonably determined that ADC’s proposal was technically unacceptable. (ADC, Ltd., B-297061, October 14, 2005) (pdf)


With regard to the descriptive information not considered by DOE, as noted above, Sayres provided this information as an attachment to its proposal. Because these pages exceeded the proposal page limit established by the RFP, the agency did not consider them. Sayres contends that the RFP contemplated that descriptive information such as this would be excluded from the proposal page limit as it was contemplated by the Reference Information Sheets. Although the Reference Information Sheets did in fact contain a block where offerors were to provide a "description of work," Sayres completed this block. The pages not considered, about which Sayres complains, were separate from these forms and contained information such as how Sayres' past performance satisfied the past performance subfactors, which information was required by the RFP to be contained within the 20 pages of the proposal. See RFP L.16(b)(2), (c)(3). Furthermore, in an amendment to the RFP, offerors were advised that past performance descriptions were to be part of the proposal and were subject to the proposal page limit. RFP amend. 1, Q&A 28 ("Are past performance descriptions included in the 20 page limit for Vol. 2? . . . Yes"). Since the agency's failure to consider this information was consistent with the RFP's requirement, and consistent with how it treated other offerors whose proposals exceeded the page limit, we find no basis to question DOE's evaluation in this regard. See Centech Group, Inc. , B-278904.4, Apr. 13, 1998, 98-1 CPD 149 at 5. (Sayres & Associates Corporation, B-295946; B-295946.2, April 25, 2005) (pdf)


LB&B's proposal under the staffing and authority factor by failing to take into account awardee's failure submit all required information for its proposed [deleted]. In this regard, the RFP instructed offerors to submit an organizational chart showing the names and titles of proposed key managerial and supervisory personnel and describing their respective authorities and responsibilities, as well as their qualifications and experience. RFP at 247, 2.B.1. In addition, offerors were to submit resumes for the on-site project manager and all other on-site supervisors, as well as indicate if those persons were in the offeror's employ or "if not, what commitments have been made to hire them." RFP at 248-250. Offerors were required to furnish a dedicated [deleted], who were considered "supervisory employees," Statement of Work, 12.1.A.1, 12.1.B.4.A. LB&B's revised proposal did not name its proposed [deleted], and did not identify their authorities or responsibilities, describe their qualifications, resumes, or include employment commitment information. However, LB&B proposed to hire the [deleted] under the current contract, and GSA was acquainted with these individuals and their job performance, and possessed their resumes from the protester's and another offeror's proposals. GSA found LB&B's proposal acceptable based on this information. The protester maintains that this was improper. An agency is not bound by the "four corners" of an offeror's proposal in the evaluation of proposals and may use other information of which it is aware. Forest Regeneration Servs. LLC , B-290998, Oct. 30, 2002, 2002 CPD 187 at 6. Since the agency here was aware of the resumes and qualifications and experience information omitted from LB&B's proposal, those omissions were of no import. While LB&B's proposal also did not include a description of the [deleted] responsibilities, LB&B's organizational chart did show [deleted]. AR, Tab 15, at B-2. Park Tower's proposal went further than LB&B's, specifically stating [deleted] (AR, Tab 11 at SP 7; Tab 14, 3.B), and that [deleted] (AR, Tab 11 at SP 9; Tab 14, 3.B). In our view, the listed responsibilities are fairly self-evident from the nature of the contract and the titles of the positions, and reasonably could be viewed by the agency as adding little substantive value relative to LB&B's proposal, particularly given that LB&B was proposing the individuals who were currently performing the [deleted] responsibilities. This being the case, even had the evaluators downgraded LB&B's proposal for omitting this information, there is no reason to believe it would have had any significant impact on LB&B's score or the source selection. (Park Tower Management Ltd., B-295589; B-295589.2, March 22, 2005) (pdf)


In sum, HUD found that DIY's proposal was disorganized and contained insufficient detail to demonstrate that DIY fully understood the requirements. AR, Tab 4, Initial TEP Report, at 192-193, 203, 206. While DIY disagrees with the agency's conclusions, it does not in any meaningful way rebut them, and has not otherwise shown that the evaluation was unreasonable. Under these circumstances, we have no reason to object to the agency's evaluation. Since the evaluation is unobjectionable, and DIY's standing relative to the other offerors therefore remains the same as when the agency made its competitive range determination, we have no reason to question the agency's excluding DIY's proposal from the competitive range. Wahkontah Servs., Inc., B-292768, Nov. 18, 2003, 2003CPD 214 at 7. (DIY, Inc., B-293105.13, February 7, 2005) (pdf)


In evaluating HDL's proposal, the evaluators found seven weaknesses and eight deficiencies, including five deficiencies under the design subfactor. The deficiencies, and many of the weaknesses, were principally based on the firms failure to satisfy various informational requirements in its proposal. For example, despite the RFP's requirement for detailed information, HDL's proposal lacked any information on its parts obsolescence program; did not address the required stacking requirement; did not address expedited returns; and did not make clear its maximum/available facilities production capacity or identify the labor force necessary for support of full production. An offeror is responsible for affirmatively demonstrating the merits of its proposal and risks the rejection of its proposal if it fails to do so. Arctic Slope World Servs. , B-284481, B-284481.2, Apr. 27, 2000, 2000 CPD 75; DBA Sys., Inc., B241048, Jan.15, 1991, 911 CPD 36 at 4. In our view, the agency reasonably concluded that these and other deficiencies and weaknesses were sufficient to render HDL's proposal unacceptable under the technical factor and only susceptible to being made acceptable under the management factor. Since the RFP provided that proposals must be found acceptable under all subfactors in order to be in line for award, the agency properly rejected HDL's proposal. HDL suggests that the agency should have conducted discussions to provide HDL an opportunity to correct the identified deficiencies. However, there generally is no obligation for an agency to conduct discussions where, as here, the RFP specifically instructs offerors of the agency's intent to award a contract on the basis of initial proposals. FAR 15.306(a)(3); Colmek Sys. Engg , B291931.2, July 9, 2003, 2003CPD 123 at 7. The contracting officers discretion in deciding not to hold discussions is quite broad. Our Office will review the exercise of that discretion only to ensure that it was reasonable based on the particular circumstances of the procurement. Id. We find no circumstances here that call into question the agency's decision not to engage in discussions. (HDL Research Lab, Inc., B-294959, December 21, 2004) (pdf)


Carpetmasters proposal listed nine experience/past performance references; of those, only six listed janitorial and/or grounds keeping, and of those six, only two were within the 3-year time frame. AR, ex. 6, Carpetmaster Proposal, at 12-13. Those two references within the time frame were for janitorial and campground cleanup for the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers, and various janitorial contracts for the City of Las Vegas. Id. at 13. Neither of these references, however, listed all of the information required under the RFP, omitting contract numbers, dates of performance other than years, contract values, and details regarding the work, other than general descriptions ( e.g. , janitorial work). See id. at 15. The agency determined that the Corps and Las Vegas references were relevant and credited Carpetmaster with providing two of the three required experience references. SAR, attach. 4, Technical Ratings Summaries; SAR, attach. 3, Technical Proposal Notes, at 2-3. Based on Carpetmasters failure to provide three relevant experience references, the agency severely downgraded its proposal. SAR, attach. 2, Technical Evaluation Team Report, at 2. The protester primarily argues that its reference for various janitorial contracts with the City of Las Vegas should have been interpreted and credited as more than a single experience reference. We disagree. It is an offerors responsibility to submit a proposal with adequately detailed information to allow a meaningful review by the agency. Interstate Gen. Govt Contractors, Inc. , B-290137.2, June 21, 2002, 2002 CPD 105 at 5. Here, Carpetmasters reference for various janitorial contracts with the City of Las Vegas did not provide the information requested under the RFP. Although the agency found that the reference to the various Las Vegas janitorial contracts merited credit as a single reference, we do not believe that the agency acted unreasonably, given the lack of detailed information, in declining to credit the reference as multiple, relevant contracts. (Carpetmaster, B-294767, November 4, 2004) (pdf)


The solicitation here provides for a best-value-type evaluation; therefore, it is the vendor's burden to submit a quotation that is adequately written and establishes the merits of the quotation, or run the risk of the agency rejecting the quotation as technically unacceptable. RVJ Int'l, Inc. , supra , at 6; see Cybernet Sys. Corp. , B292600, Sept. 30, 2003, 2003 CPD 171 at 3-4. An agency may exclude from further consideration a response to a solicitation that contains significant informational deficiencies, whether the deficiencies are attributed to omitted information or merely inadequate information addressing fundamental factors. Cybernet Sys. Corp. , supra.  We conclude that the agency reasonably determined that Verizon's technical quotation was unacceptable for failure to include adequate evidence as required under the RFQ demonstrating the qualifications of the staff that would perform the contract.   We further find that the Marine Corps reasonably determined that Verizon's quotation did not satisfy the RFQ requirement to demonstrate the qualifications of its staff. The SOW estimate for total labor hours per year would require more than one FTE in 3 of the 11 labor categories, i.e. , fiber technician, inside plant technician and outside plant technician. Verizon, however, furnished only 10 resumes for 11 labor categories. Verizon did not submit a resume for the CAD drafter labor category, and it submitted only 1 resume for each of the 3 labor categories that would require multiple FTEs. In addition, the 10 resumes submitted did not identify names of staff members. Although the resumes did identify employment histories, they generally lacked depth of detail, with 7 of the 10 resumes submitted including only a half page or less of text. Verizon Technical Quotation at 43-55. (Verizon Federal, Inc., B-293527, January 15, 2004) (pdf)


It is incumbent on an offeror to submit a complete and adequately detailed technical proposal for the agency to evaluate. Dimensions Int'l/QSOFT, Inc. , B-270966, B270966.2, May 28, 1996, 96-1 CPD 257 at 5. No matter how competent an offeror's past performance may have been, an agency may reasonably base an offeror's technical evaluation entirely on the information submitted with the proposal. Id. This is particularly true where the requirements for the contract being competed differ from requirements that were previously performed. Here, the fact that CHS's past performance was rating "outstanding does not eliminate CHS's obligation to provide adequate explanation and detail substantively addressing the agency's various concerns regarding performance of the contract requirements being competed here. To the extent CHS is protesting that the agency was required to consider its past performance as, in essence, a proxy for providing the otherwise-required information in its proposal, the protest is without merit. (Comprehensive Health Services, Inc., B-292858.3; B-292858.6; B-292858.7, April 27, 2004) (pdf)


Where protester submitted proposal that failed to comply with requirement that type be no smaller than 12 pitch, agency's reformatting of the proposal into required type size--as a result of which, proposal exceeded the 30-page limit--was unobjectionable, where agency's reformatting approach was reasonable.  (Integrated Technology Works, Inc.-Teltara, Inc., B-286769.5, August 10, 2001)


Agency reasonably downgraded proposal that failed to comply with solicitation's formatting requirements, including limits on the number of pages and projects to address particular evaluation subfactors.  (Coffman Specialties, Inc., B-284546; B-284546.2, May 10, 2000)

Comptroller General - Listing of Decisions

For the Government For the Protester
New Independent Systems, Inc. B-413246: Sep 15, 2016 DKW Communications, Inc. B-412652.3, B-412652.6: May 2, 2016  (pdf)
Federal Management Partners, Inc. B-413155.7, B-413155.13: Aug 30, 2016 CORTEK, Inc. B-412047, B-412047.2, B-412047.3: Dec 17, 2015  (pdf)
LOGMET LLC B-412220.2: Dec 23, 2015  (pdf) North Wind, Inc.; Earth Resources Technology, Inc., B-404880.4; B-404880.5; B-404880.6, November 4, 2011  (pdf)
Lockheed Martin Corporation B-411365.2: Aug 26, 2015  (pdf) Irving Burton Associates, Inc., B-401983.3, March 29, 2010  (pdf)
IMPRES Technology Solutions, Inc.; Metis Intellisystems, LLC; Futron Inc.; Patriot Comm; Ideal Systems Solutions, Inc., B-409890, B-409890.2, B-409890.3, B-409890.4, B-409890.5: Aug 5, 2014  (pdf)  
American Systems Corporation, B-409632: Jun 23, 2014  (pdf)  
Watts-Obayashi, Joint Venture; Black Construction Corporation, B-409391, B-409391.2, B-409391.3: Apr 4, 2014  (pdf)  
Wolf Creek Federal Services, Inc., B-409187, B-409187.2, B-409187.3: Feb 6, 2014  (pdf)
 
 
Compuline International, Inc., B-408379, Jul 19, 2013  (pdf)  
Herman Construction Group, Inc., B-408018.2, B-408018.3, May 31, 2013  (pdf)  
Security Management and Integration, B-407742, Jan 30, 2013  (pdf)
 
 
LC Engineers, Inc., B-407754, Jan 31, 2013  (pdf)  
RightStar Systems, B-407597, Jan 16, 2013  (pdf)  
Strategic Resources, Inc., B-406841.2, Nov 27, 2012  (pdf)  
LOGMET LLC, B-407061, Oct 17, 2012  (pdf)  
J5 Systems, Inc., B-406800, Aug 31, 2012  (pdf)  
Onsite OHS, B-406449, May 30, 2012  (pdf)  
Outreach Process Partners, LLC,  B-405529,  November 21, 2011  (pdf)  
Propagation Research Associates, Inc., B-405362, October 20, 2011  (pdf)  
F&S Environmental, LLC, B-405232; B-405232.2; B-405232.3, September 22, 2011  (pdf)  
GEA Engineering, P.C., B-405318, October 13, 20110  (pdf)  
DPK Consulting, B-404042; B-404042.2, December 29, 2010  (pdf)  
Adelaide Environmental Health Associates, Inc., B-404164, January 13, 2011  (pdf)  
1-A Construction & Fire, LLP, B-404128, January 7, 2011  (pdf)  
Tetra Tech Tesoro, Inc., B-403797, December 14, 2010  (pdf)  
TechStart, LLC, B-403515, November 10, 2010  (pdf)  
Moura's Cleaning Service, Inc., B-402741.4,September 7, 2010  (pdf)  
JBlanco Enterprises, Inc., B-402905, August 5, 2010  (pdf)  
Richcon Federal Contractors, Inc., B-403223, August 12, 2010 (pdf)  
URS Group, Inc., B-402820, July 30, 2010  (pdf)  
XtremeConcepts Systems, B-402438, April 23, 2010)  (pdf)  
Kiewit Texas Construction L.P., B-402090; B-402090.2, January 12, 2010  (pdf)  
John Blood, B-402133, January 15, 2010  (pdf)  
Argon ST, Inc., B-401387, August 6, 2009  (pdf)  
GC&E Systems Group, Inc., B-401315; B-401315.2, July 9, 2009  (pdf)  
SPAAN Tech, Inc., B-400406; B-400406.2, October 28, 2008 (pdf)  
Sauer, Incorporated, B-400709, December 22, 2008 (pdf)  
HydroGeoLogic, Inc., B-311263; B-311263.2, May 27, 2008 (pdf)  
LOGMET, B-400535, October 30, 2008 (pdf)  
Avue Technologies Corp.; Carahsoft Technology Corp., B-298380.4, June 11, 2007 (pdf)  
L-3 Communications EOTech, Inc., B-311453; B-311453.2, July 14, 2008 (pdf)  
Professional Performance Development Group, Inc., B-311273; B-311273.2, June 2, 2008 (pdf)  
The Mangi Environmental Group, Inc., B-299721.4, January 24, 2008 (pdf)  
Veterans Technology, LLC, B-310303.2, January 7, 2008 (pdf)  
Benchmade Knife Co., Inc., B-299366.3, B-299366.4, July 16, 2007 (pdf)  
Beck's Spray Service, Inc., B-299816,August 9, 2007 (pdf)  
Wizdom Systems, Inc., B-299829, August 3, 2007 (pdf)  
Government Telecommunications, Inc., B-299542.2, June 21, 2007 (pdf)  
HealthStar VA, PLLC, B-299737, June 22, 2007 (pdf)  
Mathews Associates, Inc., B-299305, March 5, 2007 (pdf)  
CACI Technologies, Inc., B-296946, October 27, 2005 (pdf)  
ADC, Ltd., B-297061, October 14, 2005 (pdf)  
Sayres & Associates Corporation, B-295946; B-295946.2, April 25, 2005 (pdf)  
Park Tower Management Ltd., B-295589; B-295589.2, March 22, 2005 (pdf)  
DIY, Inc., B-293105.13, February 7, 2005 (pdf)  
HDL Research Lab, Inc., B-294959, December 21, 2004 (pdf)  
Carpetmaster, B-294767, November 4, 2004 (pdf)  
Verizon Federal, Inc., B-293527, January 15, 2004 (pdf)  
Comprehensive Health Services, Inc., B-292858.3; B-292858.6; B-292858.7, April 27, 2004 (pdf)  
Integrated Technology Works, Inc.-Teltara, Inc., B-286769.5, August 10, 2001  
Coffman Specialties, Inc., B-284546; B-284546.2, May 10, 2000  

U. S. Court of Federal Claims - Key Excerpts

For the tailoring services Solicitation, the Technical Capability factor was the more important of the two non-price factors. AR at 101. After the second round of discussions, the TET gave Tech Systems and CHC the same overall factor rating of Satisfactory with Low risk. AR at 633. The subfactor ratings for the two were nearly identical, with CHC receiving a Superior rating for its Staffing Plan; Tech Systems receiving a Superior rating under Equipment and an assessment of Moderate risk associated with its Staffing Plan; and all other ratings being Satisfactory with Low risk. Id. The TET found the proposals of these two offerors to be “essentially equal for value offered with technical capability.” AR at 638. The SSA agreed with this assessment. AR at 665.

Although both plaintiff and awardee received indistinguishable ratings from the evaluators, their technical proposals differed greatly in substance and style. Plaintiff, the incumbent providing tailoring services at TRACEN, initially submitted a thirty-two page technical proposal volume (including a cover sheet and table of contents) replete with a corporate logo, seventeen photographs, and several tables. See AR at 307-38. It begins with two pages containing an “Introduction” and “Contract Goals,” AR at 310-11, and then covers each of the five subfactors, AR at 312-37, ending with a one-page conclusion. AR at 338. Except for the page covering the Equipment subfactor, AR at 324, each subfactor section contains multiple subheadings, and these sections range in length from two to twelve pages. See AR at 336-37 (Accession Personnel Loading); AR at 312-23 (Performance Process). In short, the submission is recognizable as the usual proposal for a government contract, the type of professional product one would expect from a corporation, like plaintiff, which has won numerous government contracts. See AR at 362 (describing experience).

Court House Cleaners’ technical proposal, on the other hand, was a modest, unadorned product of a word processor, initially three and one-half and ultimately ten pages (counting four sample spreadsheets) in length. See AR at 270-73, 289-94, 301-04. About three pages were devoted to the Performance Process subfactor, AR at 289-92, while some subfactors received little more than a paragraph of text. See AR at 292-93 (Staffing Plan); AR at 293-94 (Accession Personnel Loading). Nothing but the subfactors is addressed in the proposal, and the proposal is worded in a concise, simple and straight-forward manner. Consider, for instance, the Performance Process subfactor -- which the Solicitation defines as a description of “performance processes and systems from receipt of accession personnel for service events or unscheduled tasks to completion of alteration and/or tailoring services.” AR at 99. The CHC proposal describes, in order, the steps from taking inventory of coats, distributing name tapes, sewing name tapes, and replacing coats on a rack, AR at 289; and the steps by which pants and coats are fitted, altered, and pressed -- including marking with chalk, pinking edges, and the order in which seams, sleeves, and buttons are adjusted. AR at 289-91.

In contrast, plaintiff’s proposal begins with an introduction that uses the word “process” several times, pledges TSI “will expertly manage the process,” and explains the “process includes managing fluctuating workloads, strict adherence to USCG regulations and quality standards, precise inventory control, accurate record keeping, and effective communication.” AR at 310-11. It then identified “Contract Goals” -- one paragraph which boils down to doing the work properly and on time, and another discussing how plaintiff “plans to embrace the concept of successful partnering with TRACEN representatives and contracting officials.” AR at 311. The Performance Process subfactor discussion begins with two sections, totaling a page and onethird, describing plaintiff’s experience, including a summary of the work done on the incumbent contract. The proposal then contains eight pages under the “Processes and Systems” heading, which breaks out work into subsections on measurements; marking for hems; fitting; special tailoring needs; the times required for alterations; and pressing; and adds a sentence on organization and a few sentences on record keeping. AR at 313-20. Tech Systems was careful to frequently use the words “process” and “system” in connection with its tasks, which included such details as whether recruits “stand in a line, facing forward,” AR at 314, or “stand ‘at relaxed attention’ and with ‘eyes on the boat.’” AR at 315; see also AR at 316. These processes and systems consisted of actions such as one person measuring and announcing data, which a second person records, AR at 314; measuring trousers and marking them with chalk, and using a “custom-made tool” to mark hem length, AR at 315; checking coats for chest, shoulder and back fit, length of coat and sleeves, and vent appearance, and sometimes trying different sizes, AR at 316; and identifying particularly short, tall, large and small recruits when they first arrive so they can be fitted for all uniforms at that time (a “process” that is described as trying on the closest fitting garments and seeing if these contain enough material). AR at 317-18. Plaintiff did not initially include any of the steps involved in actually altering garments, which were among the revisions provided during the first round of discussions. See AR at 376-79.

Because of the stark difference in approaches to the procurement, plaintiff is strongly of the opinion it is inconceivable that it could have received the same rating as CHC for Technical Capability. See Pl.’s Br. at 36-41; Pl.’s Reply at 10-12. It attributes this result to the evaluators’ failure to understand the essential nature of the services being procured, and consequent deviations from the Solicitation requirements. According to Tech Systems, management of the tasks to be performed was the primary requirement of the Solicitation. Although the RFP described the procurement’s purpose as being “to obtain Contractor furnished fitting, alteration/tailoring and garment pressing services,” or “tailoring services” for short, AR at 51, 104, 212, plaintiff seemingly construed this to be a procurement to obtain the management of tailors. Tech Systems bases this, in part, on the magnitude of services required, see Pl.’s Br. at 6; Tr. at 5, 10-11 -- proposals were to be priced based on tailoring for 3,415 male and 1,400 female Coast Guard recruits in the base year of the contract, and increasing by twenty-five percent for the four option years. AR at 247-48. This tailoring was to be estimated based on various tasks, such as sewing name tapes on coats 19,260 times, or hemming 5,745 men’s trousers and 1,380 women’s slacks. AR at 186. Offerors were provided a schedule for the arrival of recruits -- or an “Accession Personnel Loading Plan” -- showing recruiting events occurring during forty-four weeks of the fiscal year, with the number of personnel needing services (active or reserve Coast Guard recruits and Petty Officer trainees) varying from 60 to 150 per week. See AR at 115-16. Hence, plaintiff maintains the contract involves a lot of logistics and planning in order to perform the fluctuating amount of tailoring services. See Pl.’s Br. at 6; Pl.’s Reply at 8.

Tech Systems also rests its claim that the evaluators misunderstood the nature of the contract on the designation of the contract as performance-based, and the fact that the contracting officer documented the finding that the contract was not for personal services. Pl.’s Br. at 6-7, 30; Pl.’s Reply at 8-9; Tr. at 5, 9-12, 18; see also AR at 10 (non-personal services finding); AR at 107, 215, 236 (¶ 1.14 of PWS). On this point, however, the Court does not find either of these to be significant. The FAR requires the documentation of the non-personal services finding, 48 C.F.R. § 37.103(a)(3)(ii), and provides that performance-based contracting is “the preferred method for acquiring services.” 48 C.F.R. § 37.102(a). These routine aspects of government services contracts -- that the government will not directly supervise the work being performed, see 48 C.F.R. § 37.104(c)-(d), and does not tell the contractor how to achieve the result desired, see 48 C.F.R. § 37.101 -- do not invariably require a large amount of management or planning, and no case law to the contrary has been brought to the Court’s attention.

The final piece of plaintiff’s argument concerning the nature of the contract is based on the tasks to be performed under the RFP and the subfactor descriptions. In this regard, the Court notes that Tech Systems does not appear to be contending that the Coast Guard’s Solicitation “‘entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem,’” Ala. Aircraft, 586 F.3d at 1376 (quoting Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass’n, 463 U.S. at 43), but rather that, properly construed, the RFP requires the technical proposal to contain a large amount of detail on corporate and project management. See Pl.’s Br. at 7-8, 14-15, 40-41. Plaintiff cites such aspects of the PWS as the need for a “Project Manager,” identified as one of the “key” personnel, Pl.’s Br. at 7, 14; see also AR at 212-13, 233-34, who is to provide quarterly progress reports summarizing work performed, see AR at 214, 235, and the mandate that the contractor “develop a quality control inspection system covering all contract services and assuring that all work will conform to contract requirements.” AR at 215, 236 (¶ 1.13 of PWS); see Pl.’s Br. at 7. Tech Systems also contends that the Technical Capability subfactors require elaborate descriptions of management systems -- since offerors must demonstrate such things as “the performance processes and systems from receipt” of recruits “to completion of alteration and/or other tailoring services”; a “staffing plan . . . to provide the necessary staffing to perform alterations and/or tailoring” based on the events schedule; a “QC plan that shows the technical capability to provide a high quality of services and has procedures for accomplishing and verifying actions taken to correct noted deficiencies”; and “procedures to implement and manage significant volume variances” based on the schedule for weekly arrival of recruits and trainees. See Pl.’s Br. at 13 (quoting from RFP’s evaluation instructions, AR at 102).

Perhaps conditioned by its past experiences with competitive government procurements, Tech Systems read words such as “processes,” “systems,” “plan,” and “procedures” and seemingly jumped to the conclusion that the Coast Guard expected the technical proposal to contain detailed discussions of management approach or corporate support. But the PWS itself does not at all stress management functions. The “Project Manager” was described as the “single point of contact” for the contract and “responsible for all work performed” -- but the contractor did not have to identify this person until five working days before the contract start date, and the stated qualification for the position was the ability “to read, write, speak and understand English.” AR at 212-13, 233-34 (¶ 1.3.1 of PWS). The information required in the quarterly progress reports -- a summary of work performed, “including an assessment of technical progress, schedule status, and any Contractor concerns or recommendations for the previous quarterly period,” AR at 214, 235 (¶ 1.10 of PWS) -- does not seem to imply the need for any particular management philosophy. Nor does the need to keep track of such things as the running total of recruits served, payments received, or expenditures. See id. The quality control inspection system was described as something to be developed, AR at 215, 236 (¶ 1.13 of PWS), presumably while performing the contract.

Moreover, the “Requirements” section of the PWS does not contain one mention of the word “manage” or any derivation of it, instead discussing fitting, alteration, and tailoring services, garment-pressing and measuring. See AR at 218-21, 239-42 (§ 5 of PWS). The closest it comes to matters implicating management is the need to “coordinate changes to scheduled events with the COTR for approval” and to complete Made-to-Measure forms “in coordination with the COTR.” AR at 218-20, 239-41 (¶¶ 5.1.2, 5.1.8 of PWS). And the performance requirements summary depicting “the deliverables considered by the Coast Guard to be most important for the successful performance of the contract” has three objectives -- meeting the Uniform Fitting and Alteration Manual guidelines 100 percent of the time; limiting negative impacts on the training schedule to no more than one in the base year and over every two option years; and not damaging, losing or misplacing uniforms. AR at 222. The progress reports are not mentioned, nor are the mechanics of the quality control system (as opposed to their fruits). Id.

Despite the absence of any emphasis on management in the PWS, plaintiff construes the technical proposal as if the exposition of management techniques was its purpose. But the Coast Guard did not choose to include a management or corporate support factor or subfactor in the RFP, despite their common usage in government procurements. Cf. Bannum, Inc. v. United States, 404 F.3d 1346, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (evaluating a management factor); Banknote Corp. of Am., Inc. v. United States, 365 F.3d 1345, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (evaluating a “Supplier Capabilities-Management Capabilities” factor); Info. Tech. & Applications Corp. v. United States, 316 F.3d 1312, 1317 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (evaluating a “Program Management and Integration” subfactor); JWK Int’l Corp. v. United States, 279 F.3d 985, 987 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (evaluating a management factor); Fort Carson, 71 Fed. Cl. at 574 (evaluating a management subfactor); Beta Analytics, 67 Fed. Cl. at 387 (evaluating a corporate support subfactor); Orion Int’l Techs. v. United States, 66 Fed. Cl. 569, 570 (2005) (evaluating a “technical/management” factor, containing a “proposed management plan” subfactor). Tech Systems may have preferred that the evaluation proceed along the lines of the much-criticized “essay-writing contest,”in which offerors are graded based on artificial abstractions: the use of labels such as “process” and “system” to describe their ordinary work; the frequent invocation of pledges to “manage” well; and the packaging of obvious tasks into systematic lists.11 But the Coast Guard can hardly be faulted for focusing on the work offerors proposed to do, rather than the prose of their written proposals, in conducting a procurement for tailoring services.

Accordingly, the Court rejects plaintiff’s contention that it was irrational for the Coast Guard to not have focused on management in evaluating offerors’ technical proposals. It may well be the case that Tech Systems is correct in believing that proper management is essential to performing the volume of tailoring work required by the contract. But this is a matter left to the discretion of the government, see Ala. Aircraft, 586 F.3d at 1376, which could reasonably believe that knowing how to tailor the garments to meet Coast Guard standards is the essence of the contract, and trust that a tailor with this experience can figure out how much effort is required to provide services for as many as 150 recruits per week. Plaintiff’s challenge to the Technical Capability factor ratings will be reviewed by scrutinizing the evaluations for objective inaccuracies or subjective inconsistencies. See USfalcon, 92 Fed. Cl. at 462. On this latter point, the Court determines that the SSA consistently followed the TET ratings of Satisfactory with Low risk for Tech Systems and CHC, accurately reciting (nearly verbatim) the relative advantages the TET found for each. See AR at 638, 662, 665.  (Tech Systems, Inc., v. U. S., No. 10-877C. May 11, 2011)  (pdf)


Essentially, SES argues that the Air Force acted arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to reconcile SES’s successful performance of USAMS I task orders and the “unacceptable” rating for SES’s USAMS II proposal. Id. at 15. Plaintiff argues that its knowledge and ability to perform the required A&AS services for the three mission areas is demonstrated by its superior performance of A&AS task orders related to the same mission areas under the predecessor contract, USAMS I. Id. Quoting objectives from its USAMS I task order RFP, SES concludes that this task order “demonstrates its accepted expertise under USAMS I for the Strategic Deterrence mission area and the Global Strike mission area.” Id. at 15-17. Given the asserted interplay and overlap of the mission areas, SES concludes that the USAMS I task order demonstrates SES’s expertise in the third “unacceptable” mission area, Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction. Id. at 17. To support this argument, Plaintiff explains that, in accordance with the RFP, it made repeated references to its incumbent contractor status in Volume II, providing 13 instances. Id. at 27-28. Further, SES argues that its Volume II Cross-Reference Index indicated that ten pages of Volume III, Past Performance, should be reviewed for the Volume II, Mission Capability, Sub-factor 2, Technical Requirements, evaluation. Id. at 28.

The Air Force, however, acted reasonably in finding SES’s incumbent status an insufficient substitute for demonstrating its ability to perform the three mission areas in its proposal. “[I]t is well established that all offerors, including incumbents, are expected to demonstrate their capabilities in their proposals.” Int’l Res. Recovery, 60 Fed. Cl. at 6 (agency rejection of incumbent proposal was reasonable when incumbent failed to submit a mobilization plan in accordance with RFP, claiming it already was mobilized as the incumbent) (citation omitted); see also PGBA, LLC v. United States, 60 Fed. Cl. 196, 209-10 (2004) (record supported lowered rating for technical subfactor based on the incumbent’s “less-than-thorough proposal”), aff’d 389 F.3d 1219 (2004). Offerors are charged with preparing an adequately written proposal. Westech Int’l, Inc. v. United States, 79 Fed. Cl. 272, 296 (2007) (citation omitted).

Thus, SES was required to demonstrate its capabilities within the proposal, and could not rely upon its incumbent contract performance as a substitute for information omitted from its proposal. See Int’l Res. Recovery, 60 Fed. Cl. at 6; PGBA, LLC, 60 Fed. Cl. at 209-10. SES was charged with adequately drafting its proposal to ensure compliance with the RFP. See Westech Int’l, 79 Fed. Cl. at 296. Further, as SES did not include a comparison between the USAMS I task order and the USAMS II mission areas in its proposal, the Air Force reasonably did not consider such a comparison. See Int’l Res. Recovery, 60 Fed. Cl. at 6.

The Solicitation specifically warned SES that it would be evaluated solely on the contents of its proposal, rather than on extraneous information such as the task orders that it is currently performing under USAMS I. SES was on notice that it was required to submit a proposal that directly addressed its expertise in the mission areas, and could not rely solely on its past and current performance on USAMS I. While SES was free to “cite directly applicable past or present performance[,]” it was required to provide a “concise description of how [it] plan[ned] to implement and manage the efforts described in the PWS . . . .” AR 499. The RFP was unambiguous in requiring that each offeror submit a “stand-alone” proposal, specifically noting that “[i]nformation required for proposal evaluation that is not found in its designated volume will be assumed omitted from the proposal.” AR 497. Further, SES was to assume that the Air Force had no prior knowledge regarding its experience, such as its performance on USAMS I, because the evaluation would be conducted based upon SES’s proposal. See AR 494-95. The RFP thus required SES to address directly its ability to perform tasks involving the three mission areas to ensure that the technical evaluators would consider the information. Failure to do so, as SES ultimately did, would result in an assumption that such information did not exist. See AR 497.  (Software Engineering Services, Corporation, v. U. S. and Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., ITT Corporation, Advance Engineering & Sciences Division, CSSS.Net; No. 08-795C, Filed under seal,  February 3, 2009; Reissued for publication,  February 5, 2009) (pdf)


Solicitation Prescribed Method for Transmission of Proposal Revisions

Under the terms of the solicitation, e-mail was not an authorized method of transmission for proposal revisions. The solicitation explicitly directed paper copies to be delivered by hand or mailed for initial proposals, or delivered by facsimile for proposal revisions. Nevertheless, all three offerors used e-mail, a method not authorized, as the form of transmission for proposal revisions and other substantive responses to the agency. Proposal revisions were submitted via e-mail by Labatt, USF, and BEK in response to the agency’s July 30, 2007 letter to the offerors. All three of these e-mail submissions were substantive changes to the initial proposals, were a major part of the final proposals submitted by each offeror and, therefore, were used for the final evaluation and award selection by the agency. Solicitation amendment no. 0004 provided an opportunity for the offerors to submit additional information regarding the areas of experience and past performance, and amendment no. 0005 changed the time to respond to amendment no. 0004. USF and BEK responded to amendment nos. 0004 and 0005 by e-mail. Amendment no. 0006 called for supplemental information on experience and past performance, which all parties agreed at the oral argument constituted a substantive proposal revision. Labatt, USF, and BEK responded to amendment no. 0006 via e-mail. Amendment no. 0007 also was substantive in that offerors were required to acknowledge and accept material changes to the solicitation, such as the government’s minimum ordering requirements and the government’s maximum obligation. Although USF and BEK responded to amendment no. 0007 via Federal Express, Labatt used e-mail to respond.

FAR 15.208(a) provides that “[o]fferors may use any transmission method authorized by the solicitation (i.e., regular mail, electronic commerce, or facsimile).” 48 C.F.R.§ 15.208(a) (2007). The solicitation in the present case provided for mail and handcarrying of proposals, and facsimile copies of proposal revisions, but not for the use of email.

In A & D Fire Protection, Inc., the solicitation stated that bid bonds were to be submitted by mail or hand delivery, and that facsimile or e-mail submissions were not permitted. A & D Fire Protection, Inc. v. United States, 72 Fed. Cl. 126, 137 (2006). There was circumstantial evidence that if A & D submitted a bid bond it had done so by facsimile copy. Id. The A & D court noted that, without a bid bond, an offeror’s proposal “must be considered nonresponsive.” Id. The A & D court continued, analogizing to offerors’ proposals:

Proposals submitted by means forbidden by a solicitation’s terms must be rejected, because they are nonresponsive. See, e.g., Integrated Bus. Solutions, Inc., B-292,239, 2003 CPD ¶ 122, 2003 WL 21659403 (Comp. Gen. July 9, 2003) (upholding the rejection of a proposal sent by email because email transmission was not permitted by the solicitation); G.D. Searle & Co., B-247,077, B-247,146, 92-1 CPD ¶ 406, 1992 WL 94903 (Comp. Gen. Apr. 30, 1992) (upholding the rejection a proposal sent by facsimile because facsimile transmission was not permitted by the solicitation).

Id. at 139; see also GROH GmbH, B-291980, 2003 CPD ¶ 53, 2003 WL 1564331, at *2 (Comp. Gen. Mar. 26, 2003) (proposal sent by facsimile was rejected where proposals were required to be submitted in paper media and facsimile copies were unauthorized). After review of the solicitation, the FAR, and case authority, the court similarly concludes that in the present case e-mail was not an authorized method of transmission for proposal revisions in the solicitation, that all offerors used e-mail to submit proposal revisions, and that deviation from the solicitation renders the proposal revisions from all offerors unable to be considered by the agency.

Defendant argues that the method of transmission falls under language in FAR
clause 52.212-1(g), a clause contained in the contract, which provides that the government may “waive informalities and minor irregularities in offers received.” By way of support, defendant cites to the United States Court of Claims case of Excavation Construction, Inc. v. United States, 204 Ct. Cl. 299, 494 F.2d 1289 (1974), which approved the waiver of two errors by the agency in an offeror’s proposal as minor informalities. The waived errors in Excavation Construction were an incorrect date on an acknowledgment of the receipt of an amendment to the solicitation, cured by a subsequent acknowledgment of a supplementary amendment with the correct date, and use of the original solicitation number on a bid bond, mooted by other indicia in the bid bond which made clear the project to which the bond related. Id., 204 Ct. Cl. at 303-07, 494 F.2d at 1291-93. The present deviation from the solicitation by the offerors in the case under review by this court is not similar to or as minor as the clerical, corrected errors found in the Excavation Construction case. See also JWK Int’l Corp. v. United States, 49 Fed. Cl. 371, 396 (2001) (two pages added to a proposal were considered a minor informality which the agency could waive pursuant to the solicitation), aff’d, 279 F.3d 985 (Fed. Cir.), reh’g denied (Fed. Cir. 2002); Griffy’s Landscape Maintenance LLC v. United States, 46 Fed. Cl. 257, 258-261 (2000) (the government had the duty to inquire as to missing, but easily available insurance contact information when dealing with a recurrent contractor); AABCO, Inc. v. United States, 3 Cl. Ct. 109, 120 (1983) (the omission of a zero in front of four digits, as a result of ambiguous solicitation instructions, was considered a correctable, minor irregularity).

Defendant does not cite a case in its favor discussing deviation from the solicitation in methods of transmission. For its part, the court adheres to the clear and unambiguous solicitation language; to FAR 15.208(a), which states, “[o]fferors may use any transmission method authorized by the solicitation (i.e., regular mail, electronic commerce, or facsimile”; and to the cases cited above, which have rejected proposals submitted via methods unauthorized by the solicitation.

Defendant nevertheless argues that, “The decision of whether a deviation or error constitutes a waivable informality is one of discretion [in the government].” In this regard, the court in Geo-Seis, addressing not method of transmission, but late submission of proposals, observed that,

adopting the government’s construction of the ”late is late” rule would allow the government arbitrarily to claim in some circumstances that the rule precludes it from considering a late proposal and in other circumstances to assert that the rule is not a bar to issuing amendments to the solicitation that would permit such consideration.

Geo-Seis Helicopters, Inc. v. United States, 77 Fed. Cl. 633, 645-46 (2007). Similarly, acceding to government discretion to declare the method of transmission to be a minor informality would potentially create uncertainty and confusion, permit potential manipulation of the procurement process, and allow for unequal treatment and competitive advantage/disadvantage to selected offerors. Defendant’s view appears to be that the language explicitly written by the government into the solicitation regarding the method of submission of proposals and revisions can be altered by the agency at will, even without notifying the offerors, and even after offers have been submitted in final form. However, the solicitation did not authorize e-mail submissions of proposal revisions and the agency did not amend the solicitation along these lines. As the author of the solicitation, presumably the government had a purpose to require a particular form of proposal or revision submission. The solicitation defines the terms by which the procurement is to be conducted with equal applicability to all parties, as required for procurement integrity and fairness. After the fact, unilateral revisions, without amendment and notification to the offerors before final submissions, violate the fundamental fairness of the procurement process and in this case the FAR.

Defendant also tries to argue that since the agency requested that the responses to solicitation amendment no. 0004 be sent by e-mail, the agency “effectively amended the solicitation to permit submission by such means.” However, the acceptability of e-mail was made known to the parties only for amendment no. 0004, and not for the rest of the procurement. In particular, the agency did not suggest to the offerors, even informally, that e-mail was acceptable for the proposal revisions called for by the agency’s earlier, July 30, 2007 proposal revision letter, to which all offerors had responded with substantive changes made part of their final offers via e-mail. Informal agency action purporting to authorize email responses was limited to this one amendment of the seven amendments issued, and did not formally amend the solicitation language or method of submission. As noted above, the proposal revisions in response to the agency’s July 30, 2007 letter, transmitted by an unauthorized method, remained a material part of the procurement and were used to evaluate the proposals and to make the award.

(sections deleted at p. 14 and restarted at p. 20)

The court finds that the method of e-mail transmission of proposal revisions employed by all the offerors in the procurement in question was not authorized by the solicitation. The court concludes that Labatt has succeeded on the merits of its protest. There is a public interest in saluting the language of solicitations, and if the agency desires to change that language, to do so by formal amendment, in order to reduce confusion and to ensure that changes are applied equally to all prospective offerors. The record reflects that e-mail permeated the procurement process, but only Labatt was informed that its use was unauthorized. Agency discretion to waive solicitation requirements, at different times in the same procurement, and perhaps towards one offeror, but not another, renders the procurement process subject to manipulation and unfair competitive advantage. The government issued the solicitation and prescribed the methods of transmission and, at the end of the day, the agency issued seven amendments on other matters, and could have amended the method of transmission and obviated this litigation by a timely, formal amendment, but did not do so. Instead, the agency sent mixed signals, using e-mail itself and accepting e-mail responses from all the offerors. But for the first time, at the end of the process, and only as to Labatt, the agency stated: “Your proposal revision concerning the above referenced solicitation was received by e-mail transmission on May 20, 2008, at 4:27 P.M. E-mail transmission was not an authorized method of transmission in the above referenced solicitation.” Apparently, the agency, after using and accepting e-mail, had at this late point in the procurement decided to enforce the submission terms of the solicitation against one offeror, despite the fact that substantive proposal revisions, which were evaluated by the agency and upon which selection for award was made, and which remained as a material part of this procurement, were submitted earlier via e-mail, not only by Labatt, but awardee USF, as well as competitor BEK. Under these facts and circumstances, the court looks to and enforces the terms of the solicitation. At the conference on September 17, 2008, the court issued a permanent injunction, effective September 17, 2008. The agency award to USF, and the procurement, are vacated. Labatt should be permitted to compete on any rebid of the procurement.  (Labatt Food Service, Inc., v. U. S., No. 08-597C, September 25, 2008) (pdf)

U. S. Court of Federal Claims - Listing of Decisions

For the Government For the Protester
Tech Systems, Inc., v. U. S., No. 10-877C. May 11, 2011  (pdf) Labatt Food Service, Inc., v. U. S., No. 08-597C, September 25, 2008 (pdf)
Software Engineering Services, Corporation, v. U. S. and Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., ITT Corporation, Advance Engineering & Sciences Division, CSSS.Net; No. 08-795C, Filed under seal,  February 3, 2009; Reissued for publication,  February 5, 2009  (pdf)  
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