B-153290, MAY 6, 1965

B-153290: May 6, 1965

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SMITH: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF FEBRUARY 3. PROTESTING THAT THE SPECIFICATIONS FOR THE FIRE ALARM AND EVACUATION SYSTEM IN NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION INVITATION FOR BIDS SC 2733 ARE RESTRICTIVE OF COMPETITION. YOU CONTEND THAT THE SPECIFICATIONS ARE RESTRICTIVE BECAUSE YOU ATTEMPTED TO OBTAIN THE EQUIPMENT REQUIRED FROM SEVEN DIFFERENT FIRE ALARM MANUFACTURERS WITHOUT ANY SUCCESS AND YOU UNDERSTAND THAT ONLY THE ADT COMPANY CAN MEET ALL THE SPECIFICATIONS. THE PROPRIETARY MANUFACTURER WILL BE ABLE TO BID WITHOUT COMPETITION FOR THE MAINTENANCE CONTRACT FOR THE SYSTEM. BIDS RESPONDING TO THE SUBJECT INVITATION WERE OPENED ON FEBRUARY 4. THERE WERE SIX BIDDERS WHICH RESPONDED TO THE INVITATION.

B-153290, MAY 6, 1965

TO MR. T. F. SMITH:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF FEBRUARY 3, 1965, PROTESTING THAT THE SPECIFICATIONS FOR THE FIRE ALARM AND EVACUATION SYSTEM IN NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION INVITATION FOR BIDS SC 2733 ARE RESTRICTIVE OF COMPETITION.

YOU CONTEND THAT THE SPECIFICATIONS ARE RESTRICTIVE BECAUSE YOU ATTEMPTED TO OBTAIN THE EQUIPMENT REQUIRED FROM SEVEN DIFFERENT FIRE ALARM MANUFACTURERS WITHOUT ANY SUCCESS AND YOU UNDERSTAND THAT ONLY THE ADT COMPANY CAN MEET ALL THE SPECIFICATIONS. YOU SUGGEST THAT, IF THE CONTRACTING AGENCY PROCURES A PROPRIETARY SYSTEM, THE PROPRIETARY MANUFACTURER WILL BE ABLE TO BID WITHOUT COMPETITION FOR THE MAINTENANCE CONTRACT FOR THE SYSTEM. FURTHER, YOU MAINTAIN THAT THE STANDARD FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS OF THE ANNUNCIATOR TYPE CAN MUCH MORE READILY PROTECT THE BUILDINGS INVOLVED THAN THE CODED TYPE CALLED OUT IN THE SPECIFICATIONS.

BIDS RESPONDING TO THE SUBJECT INVITATION WERE OPENED ON FEBRUARY 4, 1965. THERE WERE SIX BIDDERS WHICH RESPONDED TO THE INVITATION. NONE OF THE BIDDERS IS THE ADT COMPANY. THE TWO LOWEST BIDDERS WERE CONTACTED TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER THEY FOUND THE SPECIFICATIONS RESTRICTIVE. ONE BIDDER FURNISHED THE NAMES OF THREE EQUIPMENT SUPPLIERS FROM WHICH IT WAS ABLE TO OBTAIN QUOTATIONS ON THE SPECIFICATIONS AND THE OTHER BIDDER FURNISHED THE NAMES OF SIX. THEREFORE, YOUR CONTENTION THAT THE SPECIFICATIONS ARE RESTRICTIVE TO THE POINT THAT ONLY THE ADT COMPANY CAN MEET THE REQUIREMENTS IS REFUTED BY THE FACTS. MOREOVER, SINCE THE EQUIPMENT FOR THE SYSTEM IS OBTAINABLE FROM A NUMBER OF SOURCES, THE POSSIBILITY THAT THERE WILL NOT BE ADEQUATE COMPETITION FOR THE MAINTENANCE CONTRACT WHICH WILL EVENTUALLY BE LET OUT ON BIDS IS REMOTE.

WHILE YOU CONTEND THAT THE BUILDINGS INVOLVED CAN BE PROTECTED BY STANDARD FIRE ALARMS OF THE ANNUNCIATOR TYPE MUCH MORE READILY THAN THE CODED TYPE, THE AGENCY HAS DETERMINED THAT THE LATTER TYPE IS BETTER SUITED TO ITS NEED TO PROTECT PROPERTY, LABORATORIES, EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES OF ENORMOUS VALUE. THE ADVANTAGES OF A CODED SYSTEM OVER AN ANNUNCIATOR SYSTEM ARE STATED TO BE AS FOLLOWS:

"A CODED TYPE OF SYSTEM GIVES PRECISE INFORMATION AS TO THE EXACT LOCATION OF THE STATION ACTUATED. IT IS THE TYPE OF SYSTEM USED UNIVERSALLY IN MUNICIPAL APPLICATIONS AND THE MOST PRACTICAL SYSTEM FOR MULTI-BUILDING INSTALLATIONS WHERE THE NUMBER OF STATIONS MAY BE SEVERAL HUNDRED. THIS TYPE OF SYSTEM CAN READILY BE EXPANDED AS ADDITIONAL BUILDINGS ARE COMPLETED.

"THE TYPE OF ANNUNCIATOR FIRE ALARM SYSTEM WITH AN ANNUNCIATOR IN THE LOBBY OF EACH BUILDING IS INADEQUATE FOR OUR APPLICATION. TOO MUCH VALUABLE TIME CAN BE LOST BY FIRE-FIGHTING PERSONNEL HAVING TO STOP IN THE LOBBY OF A BUILDING TO ASCERTAIN THE LOCATION OF A FIRE. IN ADDITION TO THE LOCAL BUILDING ANNUNCIATORS, WE CONSIDERED A CENTRAL ANNUNCIATOR STATION FOR ALL THE BUILDINGS AT THE CENTER. THIS APPROACH WAS REJECTED AS IMPRACTICAL FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS. THE EQUIPMENT WOULD BE BULKY AND SPACE CONSUMING; IT WOULD BE DIFFICULT TO PLAN AN ORDERLY EXPANSION AS BUILDINGS ARE ADDED; THE LARGE NUMBER OF ANNUNCIATOR DROPS WOULD BE CONFUSING. IN ADDITION, THIS TYPE SYSTEM IS MORE COSTLY THAN THE CODED SYSTEM PROPOSED SINCE A HARD WIRED CIRCUIT IS REQUIRED FOR EACH ANNUNCIATOR DROP, AND TRANSMISSION OF PRECISE INFORMATION TO THE LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENT IS MORE DIFFICULT.'

IN 36 COMP. GEN. 251, 252, OUR OFFICE STATED:

"THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR DRAFTING PROPER SPECIFICATIONS WHICH REFLECT THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT AND FOR DETERMINING FACTUALLY WHETHER ARTICLES OFFERED BY BIDDERS MEET THOSE SPECIFICATIONS IS PRIMARILY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES. 17 COMP. GEN. 554. WHILE IT IS THE DUTY OF THIS OFFICE TO DETERMINE WHETHER SPECIFICATIONS AS WRITTEN ARE UNDULY RESTRICTIVE OF COMPETITION, THE FACT THAT A PARTICULAR BIDDER MAY BE UNABLE OR UNWILLING TO MEET THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR SUPPLYING THE GOVERNMENT'S NEED IS NOT SUFFICIENT TO WARRANT A CONCLUSION THAT THE SPECIFICATIONS ARE UNDULY RESTRICTIVE. 30 COMP. GEN. 368; 33 ID. 586. THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT THAT THE UNITED STATES PURCHASE EQUIPMENT MERELY BECAUSE IT IS OFFERED AT A LOWER PRICE, WITHOUT INTELLIGENT REFERENCE TO THE PARTICULAR NEEDS TO BE SERVED; NOR IS THE GOVERNMENT TO BE PLACED IN THE POSITION OF ALLOWING BIDDERS TO DICTATE SPECIFICATIONS WHICH WILL PERMIT ACCEPTANCE OF EQUIPMENT WHICH DOES NOT, IN THE CONSIDERED JUDGMENT OF THE CONTRACTING AGENCY, REASONABLY MEET THE AGENCY'S NEEDS.'