B-169908, JUL. 31, 1970

B-169908: Jul 31, 1970

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PROPOSAL ACCEPTABILITY DECISION DENYING PROTEST AGAINST REJECTION OF PROPOSAL FOR LASER TANK GUNNERY TRAINERS FOR NAVAL TRAINING DEVICE CENTER ON BASIS THAT IT WAS TECHNICALLY UNACCEPTABLE. LOW OFFEROR'S PROPOSAL WHICH WAS DETERMINED TO BE TECHNICALLY DEFICIENT AND INCAPABLE OF BEING MADE ACCEPTABLE MUST BE DENIED PROTEST SINCE ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGEMENT MUST BE RELIED ON IN ABSENCE OF SHOWING THAT IT WAS ERRONEOUS. INCORPORATED: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTERS OF MAY 22 AND JUNE 15. YOU STATE THAT FOLLOWING AWARD OF A CONTRACT TO KOLLSMAN YOU WERE ADVISED THAT AWARD WAS WITHHELD FROM HADRON BECAUSE OF TECHNICAL UNACCEPTABILITY OF THE HADRON PROPOSAL. IT IS YOUR CONTENTION THAT THE HADRON PROPOSAL WAS TOTALLY RESPONSIVE AND THAT YOUR COMPANY IS RESPONSIBLE IN ALL AREAS OF THE SUBJECT SOLICITATION.

B-169908, JUL. 31, 1970

BID PROTEST -- PROPOSAL ACCEPTABILITY DECISION DENYING PROTEST AGAINST REJECTION OF PROPOSAL FOR LASER TANK GUNNERY TRAINERS FOR NAVAL TRAINING DEVICE CENTER ON BASIS THAT IT WAS TECHNICALLY UNACCEPTABLE. LOW OFFEROR'S PROPOSAL WHICH WAS DETERMINED TO BE TECHNICALLY DEFICIENT AND INCAPABLE OF BEING MADE ACCEPTABLE MUST BE DENIED PROTEST SINCE ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGEMENT MUST BE RELIED ON IN ABSENCE OF SHOWING THAT IT WAS ERRONEOUS, ARBITRARY, OR NOT MADE IN GOOD FAITH.

TO HADRON, INCORPORATED:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTERS OF MAY 22 AND JUNE 15, 1970, PROTESTING AWARD OF A CONTRACT TO KOLLSMAN INSTRUMENT CORPORATION BY NAVAL TRAINING DEVICE CENTER, ORLANDO, FLORIDA, PURSUANT TO REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS NO. N61339-70-R-0104, DATED NOVEMBER 21, 1969, (RFP) FOR THE PROCUREMENT OF DEVICE 3A110, LASER TANK GUNNERY TRAINERS, TECHNICAL DATA AND OTHER RELATED SERVICES.

YOU STATE THAT FOLLOWING AWARD OF A CONTRACT TO KOLLSMAN YOU WERE ADVISED THAT AWARD WAS WITHHELD FROM HADRON BECAUSE OF TECHNICAL UNACCEPTABILITY OF THE HADRON PROPOSAL. IT IS YOUR CONTENTION THAT THE HADRON PROPOSAL WAS TOTALLY RESPONSIVE AND THAT YOUR COMPANY IS RESPONSIBLE IN ALL AREAS OF THE SUBJECT SOLICITATION. YOU FURTHER STATE THAT NOTWITHSTANDING YOUR LOW BID, "THERE HAS BEEN NO INTIMATION FROM NAVAL TRAINING DEVICE CENTER, FORMALLY OR INFORMALLY, THAT ANY TECHNICAL INSUFFICIENCY EXISTED THOUGH THERE HAVE BEEN NUMEROUS OPPORTUNITIES TO DO SO THROUGH HADRON'S FREQUENT COMMUNICATION WITH NAVAL TRAINING DEVICE CENTER PERSONNEL *** ."

YOU CONCLUDE THAT:

"THEREFORE, WE HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE BUT TO RESPECTFULLY SUBMIT THIS FORMAL PROTEST TO THE SUBJECT NEGOTIATED AWARD, ON THE GROUND THAT HADRON IS LOWER IN PRICE AND FULLY CAPABLE AND QUALIFIED TO PERFORM ALL OF THE REQUIRED TECHNICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TASKS."

AN ADVANCE SYNOPSIS OF THE PROCUREMENT WAS PUBLISHED IN THE COMMERCE BUSINESS DAILY, ISSUE NO. PSA-4926, DATE: WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 1969. THE SYNOPSIS INVITED INTERESTED FIRMS, HAVING CAPABILITIES IN THE FIELD OF HELIUM NEON LASERS TO SUBMIT COMPLETE INFORMATION TO THE INDICATED PURCHASING OFFICE. THE SYNOPSIS INCLUDED A GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE NATURE OF THE ITEM SOUGHT AND STATED THAT THE SPECIFIC TASK WOULD REQUIRE THE DEVELOPMENT, FABRICATION AND TESTING OF THREE DEVELOPMENT MODELS OF DEVICE 3A110, LASER TANK GUNNERY TRAINER, FABRICATION OF SEVEN MODELS FOR ENGINEERING TEST/SERVICE TEST AND UP TO FIFTY ADDITIONAL MODELS FOR FIELD EVALUATION. THE SYNOPSIS ALSO RECITED THAT RESPONDENTS WOULD BE EVALUATED ON THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE IN NINE STATED AREAS.

THE RFP WAS ISSUED ON NOVEMBER 21, 1969, SOLICITING FROM EIGHT FIRMS A DETAILED TECHNICAL AND COST PROPOSAL ON A FIRM FIXED PRICE BASIS FOR THE SERVICES AND MATERIALS DESCRIBED IN ENCLOSURES ACCOMPANYING THE SOLICITATION. ENCLOSURE 3 TO THE RFP STATED IN DETAIL THE TECHNICAL PROPOSAL REQUIREMENTS, AND CONTAINED THE STATEMENT:

"CRITICAL AREA: A TECHNICAL PROPOSAL MAY BE CONSIDERED UNACCEPTABLE IF AN UNSATISFACTORY RATING IS RECEIVED IN THE DESIGN APPROACH PROPOSED FOR THE PLASMA TUBE, WHICH HAS BEEN DESIGNATED A CRITICAL AREA." A BID CONFERENCE WAS HELD AT THE NAVAL TRAINING DEVICE CENTER ON DECEMBER 11, 1969, WHICH WAS ATTENDED BY THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THREE COMPANIES - HADRON, KOLLSMAN INSTRUMENT CORPORATION AND HUGHES AIRCRAFT COMPANY. PROPOSALS ON A FIRM FIXED PRICE BASIS WERE RECEIVED FROM EACH OF THESE THREE COMPANIES. THE TECHNICAL PROPOSAL PORTION OF EACH PROPOSAL WAS FORWARDED TO THE SOURCE SELECTION EVALUATION PANEL FOR EVALUATION.

THE SOURCE SELECTION EVALUATION PANEL EVALUATED THE TECHNICAL PROPOSALS AND PRESENTED ITS TECHNICAL PROPOSAL EVALUATION REPORT TO THE SOURCE SELECTION AUTHORITY ON MARCH 31, 1970. THE REPORT RATED THE PROPOSALS SUBMITTED BY KOLLSMAN AND HADRON AS UNACCEPTABLE AND THE HUGHES PROPOSAL ACCEPTABLE. THE SOURCE SELECTION AUTHORITY AFTER REVIEWING THE BACK-UP MATERIAL TO SUPPORT THE RATINGS DIRECTED THAT KOLLSMAN BE REQUESTED TO CLARIFY ITS PROPOSAL SINCE THE PROPOSAL APPEARED TO BE REASONABLY SUSCEPTIBLE OF BEING MADE ACCEPTABLE. THE SOURCE SELECTION AUTHORITY FURTHER DIRECTED THAT NO DISCUSSIONS BE HELD WITH HADRON SINCE THE HADRON TECHNICAL PROPOSAL WAS CONSIDERED INCAPABLE OF BEING MADE ACCEPTABLE BY CLARIFICATION DISCUSSIONS. IT IS REPORTED THAT THE HADRON PROPOSAL WAS UNACCEPTABLE IN THE FOLLOWING AREAS:

(1) SYSTEM ANALYSIS

(2) DESIGN APPROACH

(A) PLASMA TUBE

(B) CONTROL CIRCUIT

(C) POWER SUPPLY

(3) CONFIGURATION

(4) TEST PLANS AND REPORTS

(5) RELIABILITY

IN THIS CONNECTION, A REPORT STATES THAT:

"HADRON PROPOSES TO UTILIZE UNIVERSITY LABORATORIES MODEL 30-360-1 OR 33- 360-1 PLASMA TUBE AND A POWER SUPPLY OF THEIR OWN DESIGN. HADRON'S SYSTEM ANALYSIS IS DEFICIENT IN SEVERAL IMPORTANT RESPECTS, LEADING TO ERRORS IN THE DESIGN APPROACH. SUFFICIENT TEST DATA IS NOT PRESENTED TO SHOW THAT THE PLASMA TUBE WILL MEET THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE SPECIFICATION IN THE AREAS OF POWER OUTPUT, PLASMA TUBE LIFE AND MTBF, BEAM ALINEMENT, OPERATING TEMPERATURE, STORAGE TEMPERATURE AND ALTITUDE. THE PROPOSED OPTICAL SYSTEM (OVER SEVEN INCHES LONG) IS EXCESSIVELY LARGER AND MORE CUMBERSOME THAN NECESSARY. THE PROPOSED POWER SUPPLY HAS A NUMBER OF DEFICIENCIES, SUCH AS: THE POWER SUPPLY MODULES ARE NOT GROUPED IN CONVENIENT, SEPARATE FUNCTIONAL UNITS AS REQUIRED BY THE SPECIFICATION; THE MODULES DO NOT PLUG-IN; THE 'LASER ON' LAMP DOES NOT INDICATE THAT THE PLASMA TUBE IS FUNCTIONING; THE DUTY CYCLE REGULATOR DISSIPATES AN EXCESSIVE AMOUNT OF POWER; REGULATION IS INDEPENDENT OF LOAD CURRENT CAUSING THE PLASMA TUBE TO BE OPERATED WITH EXCESSIVE POWER DISSIPATION. THERE ARE SEVERAL CONFIGURATION DEFICIENCIES: THE PROPOSED OPTIONAL FRONT SUPPORT BRACKET, USED IN THE VIBRATION CALCULATIONS, IS NOT ACCEPTABLE; THE PLASMA TUBE ASSEMBLY CONNECTION TO THE POWER SUPPLY IS LOCATED IN THE WORST POSSIBLE PLACE FOR STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY AND ALINEMENT; AND THE OPTICAL SYSTEM IS OVERLY COMPLICATED BY THE USE OF TWO CONCENTRIC TUBES. THE WEIGHT OF THE PROPOSED MULTI-PURPOSE CASE FAR EXCEEDS THE WEIGHT LIMITATIONS OF MIL-C-4150 FOR A GROUP I CASE OF THE REQUIRED SIZE. HADRON'S DESCRIPTION OF TEST PLANS AND REPORTS IS COMPLETELY INADEQUATE, AND AN EXCESSIVE NUMBER OF DEFICIENCIES ARE FOUND IN THE AREAS OF BOTH STANDARDIZATION AND RELIABILITY. HADRON DOES NOT APPEAR TO HAVE A REAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF THESE IMPORTANT AREAS OF THE TECHNICAL APPROACH."

ON APRIL 8 AND 9, 1970, HADRON ADVISED THE CONTRACTING OFFICER THAT THEY HAD ACQUIRED ADDITIONAL TALENT THAT WOULD HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF THEIR PROPOSAL AND THAT NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT AND IMPROVED HADRON CAPABILITIES SHOULD BE BROUGHT TO THE GOVERNMENT'S ATTENTION. AN UPDATING SESSION WAS REQUESTED, GRANTED AND HELD ON APRIL 23, 1970. THE INFORMATION PRESENTED WAS EVALUATED AND WAS NOT CONSIDERED TO OFFER ANY TECHNICAL BREAKTHROUGH OR MAKE THE PRO PROPOSAL ACCEPTABLE.

THE PROPOSAL SUBMITTED BY HUGHES AIRCRAFT COMPANY, ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY ACCEPTABLE WAS OUTSIDE THE COMPETITIVE RANGE PRICE WISE, AND SO FAR IN EXCESS OF THE AMOUNT BUDGETED FOR THE PROJECT THAT IT WAS CONSIDERED IMPOSSIBLE TO NEGOTIATE TO A REASONABLE PRICE LEVEL.

KOLLSMAN WAS ABLE TO CLARIFY FEATURES OF ITS PROPOSAL AT A CLARIFICATION CONFERENCE ON APRIL 9, 1970 AND AS CLARIFIED, ITS TECHNICAL PROPOSAL WAS FOUND ACCEPTABLE. PRICE NEGOTIATION WAS UNDERTAKEN AND A CONTRACT WAS AWARDED TO KOLLSMAN INSTRUMENT CORPORATION ON MAY 20, 1970.

AT THE OUTSET IT MUST BE STATED THAT THERE HAS BEEN NO QUESTION AS TO THE RESPONSIBILITY OR CAPABILITY OF HADRON. NOR WAS THERE ANY QUESTION AS TO PRICE. THE PRICE FACTOR WAS NOT CONSIDERED BECAUSE HADRON DID NOT OFFER AN ACCEPTABLE TECHNICAL PROPOSAL. COST IS NOT THE SOLE CRITERION IN A NEGOTIATED PROCUREMENT; IN PROPER CASES, AS HERE, OTHER FACTORS MAY WELL OVERRIDE THE FACTOR OF PRICE IN CONDUCTING A NEGOTIATION.

AS TO THE REJECTION OF THE HADRON PROPOSAL, WE ARE NOT IN A POSITION TO JUDGE WHETHER YOUR PROPOSAL READILY COULD HAVE BEEN MADE ACCEPTABLE BY FURTHER DISCUSSIONS. THE ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGMENT MUST BE RELIED UPON IN THIS AREA. OUR COMMENTS IN B-164302, DATED JULY 11, 1968, INVOLVING A SIMILAR SITUATION ARE APPLICABLE HERE:

"BASICALLY YOUR PROTEST IS OF A TYPE WHICH HAS BEEN THE SUBJECT OF DECISIONS BY THIS OFFICE ON MANY OCCASIONS, IN THAT IT CONCERNS WHETHER THE DEFICIENCIES IN YOUR PROPOSAL WERE OF A MINOR NATURE, AND WHETHER AN OPPORTUNITY TO CORRECT THE PROPOSAL SHOULD HAVE BEEN AFFORDED. IN SUCH MATTERS IT HAS BEEN THE CONSISTENT POSITION OF THIS OFFICE THAT QUESTIONS OF WHETHER TECHNICAL PROPOSALS ARE DEFICIENT, AND WHETHER DEFICIENT TECHNICAL PROPOSALS ARE REASONABLY SUSCEPTIBLE OF BEING MADE ACCEPTABLE, ARE ESSENTIALLY MATTERS REQUIRING THE JUDGMENT OF SCIENTIFIC OR ENGINEERING PERSONNEL TRAINED IN THE PARTICULAR FIELD CONCERNED. OUR OFFICE MUST ORDINARILY ACCEPT THE CONSIDERED JUDGMENT OF THE PROCURING AGENCY'S SPECIALISTS AND TECHNICIANS AS TO THE ADEQUACY OF A TECHNICAL PROPOSAL, UNLESS IT IS CLEARLY SHOWN THAT THE AGENCY ACTION WAS ERRONEOUS, ARBITRARY, OR NOT MADE IN GOOD FAITH. 40 COMP. GEN. 35."

ON THE RECORD BEFORE US WE FIND NO BASIS TO QUESTION THE REJECTION OF YOUR PROPOSAL. ACCORDINGLY, YOUR PROTEST IS DENIED.