B-180608, JUN 28, 1974

B-180608: Jun 28, 1974

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SPECIFICATIONS IN RFP FOR ACQUISITION OF NUMERICAL CONTROL (NC) TAPE PREPARATION SYSTEM INCLUDING MINICOMPUTER AND SOFTWARE WILL NOT BE QUESTIONED BY GAO SINCE IT CANNOT BE CONCLUDED THAT CONTRACTING AGENCY HAS NO REASONABLE BASIS FOR RFP REQUIREMENT THAT SOFTWARE PROVIDE APT COMPATIBLE PROCESSING CAPABILITY. NCCS WAS ACQUIRED BY MANUFACTURING DATA SYSTEMS INCORPORATED (MDSI). THE ITEM BEING PROCURED IS TO BE USED FOR COMPUTER ASSISTED PART PROGRAMMING AND THE PREPARATION OF TAPES FOR NC MACHINE TOOLS. THE PROCURING ACTIVITY IS OBTAINING THE NECESSARY COMPUTER ASSISTANCE AND TAPES FROM A CDC 6600 COMPUTER LOCATED AT PICATINNY ARSENAL (PICATINNY). IT HAS BEEN DETERMINED BY FRANKFORD THAT IN-HOUSE COMPUTER ASSIST CAPABILITY ON ITS OWN MINICOMPUTER IS REQUIRED.

B-180608, JUN 28, 1974

SPECIFICATIONS IN RFP FOR ACQUISITION OF NUMERICAL CONTROL (NC) TAPE PREPARATION SYSTEM INCLUDING MINICOMPUTER AND SOFTWARE WILL NOT BE QUESTIONED BY GAO SINCE IT CANNOT BE CONCLUDED THAT CONTRACTING AGENCY HAS NO REASONABLE BASIS FOR RFP REQUIREMENT THAT SOFTWARE PROVIDE APT COMPATIBLE PROCESSING CAPABILITY, IN VIEW OF ARMY POLICY OF IN-HOUSE NC CONTROL AND BACKUP CAPABILITY WHERE POSSIBLE AND PROCURING AGENCY'S EXISTING APT LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY, SOURCE PROGRAMS, AND POST PROCESSORS.

TO MANUFACTURING DATA SYSTEMS INC.:

BY TELEGRAM DATED FEBRUARY 20, 1974, NCCS WORD, INC. (NCCS), PROTESTED THE ALLEGEDLY RESTRICTIVE SPECIFICATIONS UNDER REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (RFP) NO. DAAA25-74-R-0323, ISSUED BY THE UNITED STATES ARMY, FRANKFORD ARSENAL (FRANKFORD), PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, FOR THE ACQUISITION OF A NUMERICAL CONTROL (NC) TAPE PREPARATION SYSTEM HAVING THREE DIMENSIONAL CONTOURING CAPABILITY, INCLUDING A MINICOMPUTER AND THE NECESSARY SOFTWARE, IN ACCORDANCE WITH FRANKFORD ARSENAL PURCHASE DESCRIPTION FAID- 202. ON OR ABOUT MARCH 1, 1974, NCCS WAS ACQUIRED BY MANUFACTURING DATA SYSTEMS INCORPORATED (MDSI), WHICH HAS CONTINUED THE PROTEST.

THE ITEM BEING PROCURED IS TO BE USED FOR COMPUTER ASSISTED PART PROGRAMMING AND THE PREPARATION OF TAPES FOR NC MACHINE TOOLS, INCLUDING MILLS AND LATHES AT FRANKFORD. CURRENTLY, THE PROCURING ACTIVITY IS OBTAINING THE NECESSARY COMPUTER ASSISTANCE AND TAPES FROM A CDC 6600 COMPUTER LOCATED AT PICATINNY ARSENAL (PICATINNY), DOVER, NEW JERSEY. HOWEVER, THE CDC 6600 CAN ONLY BE USED BY THE PROCURING ACTIVITY ON A REMOTE BATCH BASIS AND, DUE TO THE PRESENT DELAYS IN OBTAINING MACHINE TAPES FROM PICATINNY, IT HAS BEEN DETERMINED BY FRANKFORD THAT IN-HOUSE COMPUTER ASSIST CAPABILITY ON ITS OWN MINICOMPUTER IS REQUIRED. THE PROCURING ACTIVITY WILL CONTINUE TO USE THE CDC 6600 AS A BACKUP FOR THE MINICOMPUTER BEING PROCURED UNDER THE PRESENT RFP.

INCLUDED IN THE PURCHASE DESCRIPTION OF THE SYSTEM BEING PROCURED IS THE "SOFTWARE NECESSARY TO PROVIDE APT COMPATIBLE PROCESSING CAPABILITY." APT (AUTOMATIC PROGRAMMED TOOLS) IS A UNIVERSAL AND HIGHLY VERSATILE PART PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE DEVELOPED FOR COMPUTER ASSISTED PART PROGRAMMING FOR NC MACHINES AND HAS THE WIDEST APPLICATION AND BROADEST CAPABILITY OF ANY PARTS PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE. THERE ARE OVER 20 DIFFERENT PART PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES FOR COMPUTER ASSISTED PROGRAMMING FOR NC MACHINES, MOST OF WHICH ARE NOT COMPATIBLE WITH APT. THE PROCURING ACTIVITY IS CURRENTLY PROGRAMMING IN APT ON THE CDC 6600 AT PICATINNY. THE APT SYSTEM BEING USED CAN ONLY BE EFFECTIVELY OPERATED ON SUCH A LARGE SCALE COMPUTER.

ALL PARTIES TO THIS PROTEST CONCEDE THAT THE PROPRIETARY UNIAPT SYSTEM DEVELOPED BY THE UNITED COMPUTING CORPORATION (UNITED) IS THE ONLY EXISTING SYSTEM WITH AN "APT COMPATIBLE" LANGUAGE OPERATING ON A MINICOMPUTER CAPABLE OF MEETING THE RFP'S REQUIREMENTS. HOWEVER, THE ARMY NOTES THAT UNITED IS NOT THE ONLY POSSIBLE SOURCE FOR THIS SYSTEM, INASMUCH AS MINICOMPUTER SUPPLIERS COULD SUBMIT ACCEPTABLE PROPOSALS BY PURCHASING THE NECESSARY SOFTWARE FROM UNITED. INDEED, WE NOTE THAT THE PROCURING ACTIVITY SOLICITED SEVERAL OF THESE SUPPLIERS, ALTHOUGH ONLY UNITED SUBMITTED A PROPOSAL BY THE CLOSING DATE FOR RECEIPT OF PROPOSALS, FEBRUARY 22, 1974.

THE PROTESTER CONTENDS THAT THE REQUIREMENT FOR "APT COMPATIBILITY" OVERLY RESTRICTS COMPETITION, ESPECIALLY IN VIEW OF THE FACT THAT UNIAPT IS THE ONLY EXISTING SYSTEM ACCEPTABLE UNDER THIS RFP. THE PROTESTER CONTENDS THAT ITS PROPRIETARY SYSTEM, ACTION CENTRAL, CAN ALSO SATISFY THE GOVERNMENT'S MINIMUM NEEDS. IN SUPPORT OF THIS CONTENTION, THE PROTESTER MAKES A COMPARISON OF ACTION, APT, AND UNIAPT, WHICH PURPORTS TO SHOW THE SUPERIORITY OF THE ACTION SYSTEM IN SEVERAL RESPECTS. IT IS FURTHER CONTENDED THAT "APT COMPATIBILITY" IS ACTUALLY A MYTH, IN THAT THE VARIOUS VERSIONS OF APT, SUCH AS UNIAPT, ARE ACTUALLY NOT COMPATIBLE WITH ONE ANOTHER.

AMC HAS ESTABLISHED THE APT LANGUAGE AS AN INTERIM STANDARD FOR COMPUTER ASSISTED PROGRAMMING FOR NC MACHINES AT AMC INSTALLATIONS. IN LINE WITH THIS DETERMINATION, THOSE AMC INSTALLATIONS WHICH USE A GENERALIZED PART PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE, USE AN APT OR APT COMPATIBLE SYSTEM. THE ARMY FURTHER STATES THAT MANY OF ITS PART PROGRAMMERS AT FRANKFORD AND OTHER AMC INSTALLATIONS HAVE BEEN USING APT IN WRITING SOURCE PROGRAMS FOR COMPUTER ASSISTANCE FOR NC MACHINES. MOREOVER, AMC HAS ESTABLISHED A TRAINING COURSE IN APT WHICH HAS ALREADY TRAINED APPROXIMATELY 150 AMC PART PROGRAMMERS.

THE ARMY CONTENDS THAT THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT REASON FOR HAVING A GENERALIZED COMPUTER ASSIST LANGUAGE, SUCH AS APT, IS TO PRECLUDE THE INEFFICIENCY OF HAVING THE PART PROGRAMMERS WRITE MANUSCRIPTS IN THE INDIVIDUAL MACHINE TOOL TAPE FORMATS. THE ARMY STATES THAT MANY OF THESE BENEFITS OF USING ONE GENERALIZED LANGUAGE WOULD BE LOST IF A LANGUAGE NOT COMPATIBLE WITH APT WERE USED AT FRANKFORD, SINCE PART PROGRAMMERS WOULD THEN HAVE TO BE PROFICIENT IN THE OTHER NC LANGUAGE USED AS WELL AS APT.

UNIAPT IS BASICALLY THE SAME LANGUAGE AS APT, EXCEPT THAT UNIAPT HAS SOME ADDITIONAL WORDS, WHICH ACCOUNT FOR SOME EXTRA CAPABILITIES NOT GENERALLY AVAILABLE WITH THE APT LANGUAGE. ALSO, UNIAPT LACKS SOME APT WORDS, SINCE UNIAPT IS USED ON A MINICOMPUTER RATHER THAN A LARGE SCALE COMPUTER.

ON THE OTHER HAND, IT IS CONCEDED THAT FRANKFORD'S PART PROGRAMMERS, MANY NOW TRAINED IN APT, WOULD HAVE TO BE RETRAINED IN COMPACT II, THE LANGUAGE NEEDED TO OPERATE MDSI'S ACTION CENTRAL SYSTEM, IF THAT SYSTEM IS PROCURED. ALTHOUGH MDSI MINIMIZES THE TIME AND EFFORT NEEDED FOR THIS RETRAINING, CLAIMS COMPACT II IS EASIER TO LEARN THAN APT AND STATES THAT IT OFFERS THIS TRAINING FREE OF CHARGE, THE FACT REMAINS THAT, DUE TO THE PART PROGRAMMER'S LACK OF FAMILIARITY AND EXPERIENCE WITH COMPACT II, MORE TIME AND EXISTING APT PROFICIENCY WOULD BE LOST IN BECOMING PROFICIENT IN COMPACT II THAN WILL BE LOST IN TRAINING IN AN "APT COMPATIBLE" LANGUAGE. MOREOVER, SINCE THE PROCURING ACTIVITY INTENDS TO CONTINUE USING THE PICATINNY CDC 6600 AS A REMOTE BACKUP SYSTEM, THIS WOULD MEAN THE PROCURING ACTIVITY'S PART PROGRAMMERS WOULD HAVE TO BE PROFICIENT IN BOTH APT AND COMPACT II, IF THE ACTION CENTRAL SYSTEM WERE PROCURED.

THE ARMY FURTHER CONTENDS THAT THE POST-PROCESSORS (SOFTWARE WHICH CONVERTS THE GENERALIZED COMPUTER CUTTER LINE (CL) OUTPUT TO THE INDIVIDUAL MACHINE TOOL TAPE FORMAT) FOR THE NC MACHINES AT FRANKFORD ARE ALL APT POST-PROCESSORS. ALTHOUGH NEW POST-PROCESSORS MUST BE PROCURED UNDER THIS RFP, THE EXISTING APT POST-PROCESSORS WILL REMAIN IN THE CDC 6600 TO BACKUP THE UNIAPT SYSTEM BEING PROCURED AND TO ALLOW COMPUTER ASSISTANCE FOR THOSE PROGRAMMING PROBLEMS TOO COMPLEX FOR UNIAPT. IF THE ACTION CENTRAL SYSTEM WERE PROCURED, THEN EITHER THE PART PROGRAMMERS WOULD HAVE TO BECOME FAMILIAR WITH TWO GENERALIZED COMPUTER LANGUAGES OR NEW EXPENSIVE POST-PROCESSORS WOULD HAVE TO BE PROCURED FOR THE CDC 6600.

WE AGREE WITH THE PROTESTER THAT TOTAL COMPATIBILITY WITHIN THE VARIOUS APT DIALECTS AND SYSTEMS DOES NOT EXIST. HOWEVER, THE EXISTING SOURCE PROGRAMS FOR THE VARIOUS PARTS PREPARED IN APT AT FRANKFORD CAN BE READILY USED UNDER THE UNIAPT SYSTEM FOR PREPARING THE SAME OR SIMILAR PARTS OR FOR INCORPORATING ENGINEERING CHANGES. THIS WOULD NOT BE THE CASE IF THE ACTION CENTRAL SYSTEM WERE PROCURED, WHERE COMPLETELY NEW PROGRAMS WOULD THEN HAVE TO BE WRITTEN.

MOREOVER, THE ARMY CLAIMS THAT IT NEEDS MUTUAL BACKUP SERVICE CAPABILITY AMONG AMC INSTALLATIONS IN ORDER TO BALANCE WORKLOADS, GAIN MAXIMUM UTILIZATION OF NC MACHINES AND MAKE POSSIBLE THE USE OF CENTRALIZED PROCESSING WHERE IT IS FEASIBLE. ALTHOUGH AMC INSTALLATIONS HAVE APPARENTLY NOT OFTEN INTERCHANGED SUCH WORK OR PERFORMED SUCH BACKUP SERVICE IN THE PAST, THE ARMY HAS CLEARLY ENDORSED THIS PRACTICE AS A DESIRABLE GOAL AND RECOGNIZED THE NECESSITY OF AT LEAST HAVING THIS KIND OF CAPABILITY WHERE IT IS POSSIBLE. SUCH BACKUP SERVICE WOULD ONLY BE EFFECTIVE IF SOURCE PROGRAMS ARE PROGRAMMED ON SOME COMMON BASIS, THAT IS IF THEY ARE APT OR COMPATIBLE WITH APT. THIS KIND OF CAPABILITY WOULD NOT EXIST FOR FRANKFORD, IF IT USED AN NC SYSTEM NOT COMPATIBLE WITH APT.

IT CONSISTENTLY HAS BEEN HELD BY OUR OFFICE THAT THE DRAFTING OF SPECIFICATIONS TO MEET THE GOVERNMENT'S MINIMUM NEEDS IS PROPERLY THE FUNCTION OF THE PROCURING AGENCY. 38 COMP. GEN. 190 (1958); B-174140, B- 174205, MAY 16, 1972; B-178288, MAY 24, 1973. WE WILL NOT QUESTION THE AGENCY'S DETERMINATIONS IN THIS REGARD UNLESS THERE IS A SHOWING THAT THE DETERMINATIONS HAVE NO REASONABLE BASIS. B-169868, SEPTEMBER 17, 1970; B- 174775, MARCH 29, 1972; B-176708, FEBRUARY 2, 1973. MOREOVER, WE HAVE HELD THAT WHERE THE LEGITIMATE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT CAN ONLY BE SATISFIED BY A SINGLE SOURCE, THE LAW DOES NOT REQUIRE THAT THESE NEEDS BE COMPROMISED IN ORDER TO OBTAIN COMPETITION. B-172903, JULY 6, 1971; B- 178288, SUPRA. ALSO, WE HAVE HELD THAT THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT THAT AN AGENCY PURCHASE EQUIPMENT MERELY BECAUSE IT IS OFFERED AT A LOWER PRICE WITHOUT INTELLIGENT REFERENCE TO THE PARTICULAR NEEDS TO BE SERVED. 174775, SUPRA.

ON THE BASIS OF THE PRESENT RECORD, WE CANNOT SAY THAT THERE IS NO REASONABLE BASIS FOR THE RFP'S APT COMPATIBILITY REQUIREMENT. SINCE WE HAVE FOUND THAT THE APT COMPATIBILITY REQUIREMENT IS OTHERWISE JUSTIFIED, IT IS NOT NECESSARY FOR US TO MAKE ANY COMPARISON OF THE RELATIVE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THE UNIAPT AND ACTION CENTRAL SYSTEMS.

THE PROTESTER HAS ALSO OBJECTED TO PARAGRAPH 3.3.2.2 OF THE PURCHASE DESCRIPTION WHICH REQUIRES THE CORE MEMORY OF THE MINI-COMPUTER TO BE SUFFICIENT TO MANAGE THE NC PROCESSING ACTIVITIES WHILE CONCURRENTLY EXECUTING REAL-TIME TASKS, SUCH AS VERIFICATION OF NC MACHINE TAPES. THE PROTESTER CONTENDS THAT THIS REQUIREMENT WILL INCREASE THE SYSTEM'S COST BY MORE THAN $20,000 JUST TO ELIMINATE THE 5 TO 10 SECONDS IT WOULD TAKE TO TRANSFER THE DATA TO THE DRAFTING MACHINE UNDER A MORE ECONOMICAL AND SIMPLER SYSTEM.

THE ARMY DISPUTES THE VALIDITY OF THE CLAIM THAT A SIMPLER SYSTEM CAN PERFORM THIS FUNCTION IN LESS THAN 10 SECONDS. MOREOVER, THE ARMY STATES:

"THE CORE MEMORY AND SOFTWARE (REQUESTED) REPRESENT COMPONENTS OF AN EXPANDIBLE SYSTEM FOR FUTURE IMPLEMENTATION OF INTERACTIVE GRAPHICS AND EVENTUALLY DIRECT NUMERICAL CONTROL. THE IMPLIED EXCESSIVE COST WILL IN FACT RESULT IN CONSIDERABLE COST SAVINGS TO THE GOVERNMENT AS THESE PLANNED CAPABILITIES ARE INSTALLED AT A LATER DATE."

IN VIEW OF THIS EXPLANATION AND ON THE BASIS OF THE PRESENT RECORD, WE CANNOT SAY THAT NO REASONABLE BASIS EXISTS FOR THIS REQUIREMENT.

NCCS INITIALLY PROTESTED THE RFP'S REQUIREMENT FOR THREE AXIS SIMULTANEOUS CONTOURING CAPABILITY, BASICALLY STATING THAT IT WAS UNNECESSARY IN VIEW OF ACTION'S OTHER CAPABILITIES. AT THIS TIME, NCCS ADMITTED THAT THE ACTION SYSTEM COULD ONLY CONTOUR WITH TWO AXES SIMULTANEOUSLY. MDSI LATER CLAIMED THAT IT COULD MEET THIS THREE AXIS REQUIREMENT. HOWEVER, THE ARMY DISPUTES THE ABILITY OF THE ACTION CENTRAL SYSTEM TO MEET THIS REQUIREMENT IN ALL CASES. IN ANY CASE, THE RECORD AS TO MDSI'S CAPABILITIES IN THIS REGARD IS CONFLICTING. HOWEVER, WE NEED NOT RESOLVE THIS PARTICULAR ISSUE IN VIEW OF OUR CONCURRENCE WITH THE RFP'S APT COMPATIBILITY REQUIREMENT, WHICH MDSI'S OFFERED SYSTEM ADMITTEDLY CANNOT MEET, AND INASMUCH AS MDSI'S CONTENTION THAT IT CAN COMPLY WITH THE THREE AXIS SIMULTANEOUS CONTOURING REQUIREMENT SEEMINGLY SHOWS ITS CURRENT LACK OF OBJECTION TO THIS PARTICULAR REQUIREMENT.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, THE PROTEST OF NCCS/MDSI IS DENIED.