Control Systems Research, Inc.
B-299546.2: Aug 31, 2007
Control Systems Research, Inc., (CSR) protests the award of a contract by the Department of the Army to Atmospheric Technology Services Company (ATSC) under request for proposals (RFP) No. W9113M-06-R-0001, for meteorological support services (MSS) at the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll/Reagan Test Site (USAKA/RTS).
We deny the protest.
B-299546.2, Control Systems Research, Inc., August 31, 2007
DOCUMENT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE
The decision issued on the date below was subject to a GAO Protective Order. This redacted version has been approved for public release.
Control Systems Research, Inc., (CSR) protests the award of a contract by the Department of the Army to Atmospheric Technology Services Company (ATSC) under request for proposals (RFP) No. W9113M-06-R-0001, for meteorological support services (
The USAKA/RTS is located on
The solicitation was issued on
A site visit was held for the prospective offerors on July 17 to 19. On July 20, the RFP package was updated to address questions generated by the site visit. CO Statement at 2; RFP amend. 2. Proposals were due on July 31.
Three proposals were received in response to the RFP. CSR's proposal was evaluated as acceptable in the technical and management areas with an unknown risk past performance rating and a total evaluated probable cost of $13,183,734. ATSC's proposal was evaluated as exceptional for the technical and management areas with a low risk past performance rating and a total evaluated probable cost of $17,295,557. Based upon a cost/technical tradeoff, the agency concluded that ATSC's proposal represented the best value to the government and decided to make award to that firm. AR, Tab 12a, Source Selection Decision (
CSR filed a pre-award protest with our Office on
The agency then reevaluated the source selection documents and issued a new source selection decision wherein ATSC was again selected for contract award. AR, Tab 12B, Amended Source Selection Decision (
It is true that CSR is the lowest cost but that is where the benefit that CSR brings to the table ends. In a best value determination I am to perform a comparative cost/technical trade off and determine whether the non cost strengths of the higher priced offerors warrant the price premium. In this case ATSC is Technically and Managerially superior to CSR. Of the 11 personnel they provided resumes for, 10 have degrees in their field and 8 have experience either in forecasting in an ITCZ or maintaining equipment in a corrosive marine environment. The functional mix of employees ATSC proposed are qualified to perform the functions assigned to them and ATSC has expertise and past performance data directly relating to customers typically found at USAKA/RTS.
After a debriefing, this protest to our Office followed.
CSR first challenges its unknown risk past performance rating. As indicated above, CSR's unknown risk past performance rating was assigned because the agency determined that it had no relevant performance history. CSR argues that the agency in evaluating past performance improperly restricted relevant past performance to meteorological support experience with MRTFB ranges conducting missile defense and space launch operations. CSR asserts that its proposal showed substantial relevant past performance in meteorological support for aviation operations, which, according to CSR, are similar to the mission support requirements required under this solicitation. Therefore, the protester contends that a rating of unknown risk for its past performance was inappropriate because CSR's proposal reflected that the firm had a relevant past performance record.
We review agency determinations regarding whether past performance references are relevant for reasonableness and consistency with the RFP evaluation criteria. Bevilacqua Research Corp., B-293051, Jan. 12, 2004, 2004 CPD para. 14 at 6;
The RFP provided with respect to the past performance area that the currency and relevance of the offerors' past performance would be evaluated and called for offerors to provide a list of contracts during the last 3 years for efforts similar to this
Providing meteorological mission support services; Providing meteorological data reduction and analysis services; and Operating and maintaining electronic instrumentation in a corrosive marine environment.
The record supports the agency's conclusion that the type of meteorological support needed for USAKA/RTS is different in a significant way than the meteorological support for ordinary CONUS aviation operations. While CSR has expressed disagreement with the materiality of some of the agency's stated differences between these meteorological services, it has not, in our view, shown that these differences are not legitimate or immaterial; indeed, CSR did not rebut that the agency's point that additional sensor packages are necessary for the meteorological support services. CSR's Comments at 12-14. Additionally, none of CSR's past performance references cite corporate experience in operating and maintaining electronic instrumentation in a corrosive marine environment. We thus find the agency reasonably rated CSR's past performance as unknown risk.
CSR's also challenges the agency's evaluation of its proposal under the management and technical areas. The evaluation of a technical proposal is primarily the responsibility of the contracting agency, since the agency is responsible for defining its needs and the best methods of accommodating them, and it must bear the burden of any difficulties resulting from a defective evaluation. Federal Envtl. Servs., Inc., B-260289, B-260490,
CSR argues that the considerable meteorological experience of its key personnel was not reasonably evaluated. The RFP stated the following with regard to the personnel experience factor of the technical area:
The Government will evaluate the educational and work experience of each offeror's key personnel to determine the extent to which they are relevant or related to:
a. Providing meteorological mission support services;
b. Performing meteorological measurements near the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)
c. Performing meteorological data reduction and analysis
d. Operating and maintaining range weather instrumentation electronic instrumentation in a corrosive marine environment.
RFP at 68.
As stated above, the agency deemed meteorological experience with missile mission support to be relevant to the meteorological work to be performed under this contract at USAKA/RTS, and the protester's proposal was downgraded because none of CSR's key personnel had such experience. AR, Tab 12B, Amended Source Selection Decision (
With regard to the remainder of the technical area as well as the management area, CSR essentially contends that the RFP work is simply for meteorological services and the agency's evaluation gave unreasonable weight to the alleged differences with respect to the solicited meteorological services. As stated above, we find the agency could find these differences significant. Thus, it could reasonably downgrade CSR's proposal for failing to recognize or address these differences in its proposal.
Finally, CSR objects to the award selection decision. Where, as here, the RFP allows for a price/technical tradeoff, the selection official has discretion to select a higher-priced, but technically higher rated proposal, if doing so is reasonably found to be justified. BTC Contract Servs., Inc., B-295877,
The protest is denied.
Gary L. Kepplinger
 The ITCZ is the region that circles the earth, near the equator, where the trade winds of the Northern and Southern Hemisphere come together, which causes unique and varying weather patterns. See http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov.
 The first of the technical factors was significantly more important than the second factor.
 The protester argues that contrary to the terms of the RFP, when its representative arrived in
 The solicitation advised offerors that adjectival ratings of exceptional, good, acceptable, and unacceptable would be assigned for each evaluation area and factor. AR, Tab 9, Source Selection Evaluation Plan, at 7-8. The past performance area would receive an adjectival rating of either low risk, moderate risk, high risk, and unknown risk.
 The high ratings for ATSC's proposal were in part based on the fact that the proposed key ATSC employees had performed all aspects of meteorological support services for USAKA/RTS while they were employed by a predecessor firm on this contract. Agency Report (AR), Tab 8, ATSC's Proposal, vol. V, at 10. While CSR questions ATSC's low risk past performance rating because that firm had limited meteorological experience, an agency can consider key personnel in evaluating past performance. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) sect. 15.305(a)(2)(iii); Trailboss Enters., Inc., B-297742,
 The third offeror's proposal had a significantly higher total evaluated probable cost of [REDACTED]. This proposal was evaluated as exceptional for the technical area, and good for the management area, and received a low risk past performance rating.
 The agency acknowledged that CSR had a wealth of past performance with regard to meteorological forecasting and observation. AR, Tab 12B, Amended Source Selection Decision (
 CSR argues that the reevaluation was simply a smokescreen by the contracting officer to complete negotiations and award this contract to ATSC unencumbered by the GAO. CSR's Comments at 23. CSR also makes a number of other allegations of bias and bad faith by agency officials in favor of ATSC. Government officials are presumed to act in good faith and any argument that contracting officials are motivated by bias or bad faith must be supported by convincing proof; we will not attribute unfair or prejudicial motives to procurement officials on the basis of inference or suppositions. ACC Constr. Co., Inc., B-289167,
 CSR complains about the content and scheduling of the debriefing. We will not consider these issues because the scheduling and conduct of a debriefing is a procedural matter that does not involve the validity of an award. The Ideal Solution, LLC, B-298300,
 According to agency, there is no network of sensors outside of the Kwajalein Atoll, and the nearest sources of additional weather data are
 CSR contends that requiring experience in providing meteorological support of missile testing and space operations is unnecessarily restrictive because such experience can only be acquired at the USAKA/RTS. CSR's Comments at 11. However, the agency maintains that similar experience could have been acquired at another MRTFB, such as Vandenberg Air Force Base,
 These four subfactors were equally weighted. RFP at 71.
 For example, one of the reasons CSR's proposal was downgraded, which has not been contested by CSR, is that it appears that CSR has no familiarity with the Universal Documentation System used for all customers of USAKA /RTS. AR, Tab 12B, Amended Source Selection Decision, at 2.
 FAR sect. 15.305(a)(2)(iv) provides, In the case of an offeror without a record of relevant past performance or for whom information on past performance is not available, the offeror may not be evaluated favorably or unfavorably on past performance.
 CSR made a number of other nonmeritorious contentions which we did consider but did not expressly discuss in this decision.