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Monday, December 16, 2013

Multi protestor pile up on procurement highway

The following article comes from Federal News Radio, by Jason Miller. It's pretty impressive in scale, and the apparent readiness of the government to deal with the onslaught of protests, until that is the government shut down. 

After getting a very negative reaction in a recent Guam legislative hearing proposing the introduction of ADR techniques in local procurement processes, such as debriefings, the willingness to respond with written debriefs to each protestor in this pile-on caught my eye.

27 vendors protest awards under DHS $22B IT services contract
A downpour of protests hit the Government Accountability Office this week over the Homeland Security Department's decision to award 15 companies a spot under the one of the unrestricted portions of its EAGLE II IT services multiple-award contract. GAO has until March 19 to decide on the protests.

Ralph White, GAO's managing associate general counsel, said it's too early to determine any trends for why the companies filed protests. He said, however, all of the losing bidders have to be protesting DHS' evaluation of their proposal and conclusion as to why they shouldn't get an award.

The government shutdown delayed the debriefings to the unsuccessful bidders. DHS said it sent out "comprehensive written debriefings" on Nov. 29 to all those unsuccessful bidders who requested it. "Each debriefing included a detailed summary of the evaluation of the offeror's proposal, responses to the offeror's questions and the rationale for why the offeror was or was not selected for award. Additionally, DHS has a procurement ombudsman and industry liaison within the DHS Office of the Chief Procurement Officer with an open door policy to meet with industry."

One vendor source who received one of those debriefs said DHS' email was less than comprehensive. The source, who requested anonymity because their company still hoped to win work with the agency, said the debriefs didn't provide any details of the company's weaknesses. Instead, it just focused on the strengths. "I think DHS' goal was not to highlight any problems so you can't protest the perceived weaknesses," the source said. "This isn't done a lot. I think the old Immigration and Naturalization Service did it years ago for an IT services contract."

DHS calculated the total price based on labor rates submitted by each vendor multiplied by the applicable evaluation hours over all seven years for both work at the contractor site and work at the government site. DHS also added the costs for materials, subcontracts and other direct costs, including travel, for all seven years to get the total price of the bid.

DHS pushed back against the idea that it was only after lowest price. "Proposals were evaluated on the following non-price factors in descending order of importance: corporate experience, past performance, program management, staffing, and small business participation approach (for other than small businesses). Past performance was the second most important non-price evaluation factor after corporate experience," said DHS Chief Procurement Officer Nick Nayak.

"DHS conducted a comprehensive evaluation of past performance, including the receipt and evaluation of questionnaires from offerors' references. The combination of these non-price factors was considered significantly more important than price; however, under all best value awards, price is a key consideration in assessing the value to the government and the taxpayer."

In all, DHS evaluated 639 proposals, comprised of more than 20,000 pages of technical documents and past performance questionnaires and 2 million labor and indirect rates, across all nine distinct EAGLE II solicitations over the last 31 months. Nayak said it cost DHS an estimated $9.26 million to prepare for and execute EAGLE II. He said the agency expects to save more than $240 million through the use of the contract over seven years.

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