B-181170, AUG 8, 1974

B-181170: Aug 8, 1974

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CONTRACTING OFFICER'S REJECTION OF TECHNICAL PROPOSAL TO FURNISH FEASIBILITY MODELS OF SENSOR IN BAND RADIO RELAY EQUIPMENT AS NOT WITHIN COMPETITIVE RANGE FOR NEGOTIATION WAS PROPER EXERCISE OF DISCRETION SINCE TECHNICAL EVALUATION SHOWED PROPOSAL WANTING IN AREAS OF ENGINEERING APPROACH. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF RECORD THAT JUDGEMENT OF ARMY'S TECHNICAL EXPERTS WAS UNREASONABLE. THE HONEYWELL PROPOSAL WAS SUBMITTED TO THE U.S. FOUR WERE JUDGED ACCEPTABLE FOR FURTHER NEGOTIATION AFTER A TECHNICAL EVALUATION WHILE TWO. INCLUDING HONEYWELL'S WERE FOUND TO BE UNACCEPTABLE AND SO TECHNICALLY INFERIOR THAT THEY COULD NOT BE MADE ACCEPTABLE THROUGH NEGOTIATIONS. THAT ITS PROPOSAL WAS UNACCEPTABLE IN THE AREAS OF "ANTENNA BASED ISOLATION TECHNIQUES PROJECTED SENSITIVITY AND TRANSMITTER STABILITY RELATIVE TO THE INCOMING SIGNAL.

B-181170, AUG 8, 1974

CONTRACTING OFFICER'S REJECTION OF TECHNICAL PROPOSAL TO FURNISH FEASIBILITY MODELS OF SENSOR IN BAND RADIO RELAY EQUIPMENT AS NOT WITHIN COMPETITIVE RANGE FOR NEGOTIATION WAS PROPER EXERCISE OF DISCRETION SINCE TECHNICAL EVALUATION SHOWED PROPOSAL WANTING IN AREAS OF ENGINEERING APPROACH, COMPLETENESS, AND UNDERSTANDING, AND THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF RECORD THAT JUDGEMENT OF ARMY'S TECHNICAL EXPERTS WAS UNREASONABLE. THEREFORE, GAO SEES NO NEED TO OBTAIN INDEPENTDENT TECHNICAL OPINION AS REQUESTED BY PROTESTER.

THIS CASE INVOLVES THE LEGAL EFFICACY OF THE ARMY'S REJECTION OF A HONEYWELL, INC., TECHNICAL PROPOSAL AS NOT WITHIN THE COMPETITIVE RANGE.

THE HONEYWELL PROPOSAL WAS SUBMITTED TO THE U.S. ARMY ELECTRONICS COMMAND (ECOM) IN RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR QUOTATIONS RFQ) DAAB07-74Q 0265, WHICH SOLICITED PROPOSALS FOR THREE EXPLORATORY DEVELOPMENT (FEASIBILITY) MODELS OF A SENSOR IN BAND RADIO RELAY (SIRR) AND ANCILLARY ITEMS. OF THE SIX PROPOSALS RECEIVED BY ECOM, FOUR WERE JUDGED ACCEPTABLE FOR FURTHER NEGOTIATION AFTER A TECHNICAL EVALUATION WHILE TWO, INCLUDING HONEYWELL'S WERE FOUND TO BE UNACCEPTABLE AND SO TECHNICALLY INFERIOR THAT THEY COULD NOT BE MADE ACCEPTABLE THROUGH NEGOTIATIONS. ECOM NOTIFIED HONEYWELL BY LETTER OF MARCH 19, 1974, THAT ITS PROPOSAL WAS UNACCEPTABLE IN THE AREAS OF "ANTENNA BASED ISOLATION TECHNIQUES PROJECTED SENSITIVITY AND TRANSMITTER STABILITY RELATIVE TO THE INCOMING SIGNAL," AND THAT NO FURTHER NEGOTIATIONS WITH HONEYWELL WOULD BE CONDUCTED. HONEYWELL THEN REQUESTED AND RECEIVED A DEBRIEFING, FOLLOWING WHICH ITS PROTEST WAS FILED WITH THIS OFFICE.

THE SOLE ISSUE RAISED BY THIS PROTEST IS WHETHER ECOM'S EVALUATION OF THE HONEYWELL PROPOSAL WAS TECHNICALLY VALID AND CONSISTENT WITH THE SOLICITATION PROVISIONS. HONEYWELL CONTENDS THAT ITS PROPOSAL WAS TECHNICALLY ADEQUATE AND MET ALL REQUIREMENTS OF THE RFQ'S TECHNICAL GUIDELINES, AND THAT ECOM WAS "PREJUDICED IN FAVOR OF AN APPROACH NOT SPECIFICALLY DEFINED IN THE TECHNICAL GUIDELINES." THE ARMY INSISTS THAT HONEYWELL'S PROPOSAL IS TECHNICALLY UNACCEPTABLE AND CLAIMS THAT IN ANY EVENT IT S DECISION IN THIS REGARD IS CLEARLY NOT ARBITRARY AND IS A PROPER EXERCISE OF ADMINISTRATIVE DISCRETION.

THE ORIGINAL TECHNICAL EVALUATION TEAM REPORT CONTAINED THE FOLLOWING NARRATIVE WITH RESPECT TO THE HONEYWELL TECHNICAL PROPOSAL:

"(1) HONEYWELL. IN GENERAL, THE PROPOSAL SUBMITTED BY HONEYWELL DEMONSTRATES A FAIR UNDERSTANDING OF THE TECHNICAL FEATURES INVOLVED IN THE SOLUTION OF THE SIRR PROBLEM. BUT, BECAUSE OF THEIR ANTENNA BASED ISOLATION TECHNIQUE, HONEYWELL'S PROPOSAL MUST BE CONSIDERED UNACCEPTABLE.

"THE PROPOSED ANTENNA IS AN INVERTED DUAL MONOPOLE WITH A COMMON GROUND PLANE, 71" IN DIAMETER AND 48" IN HEIGHT WHEN 'DEPLOYED'. SUCH AN ANTENNA IS JUDGED TO BE NOT ONLY INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE ULTIMATE SIZE OBJECTIVES AND PACKAGING RESTRICTIONS OF THE SIRR BUT, IN AS MUCH AS THEIR ISOLATION TECHNIQUE DEPENDS ON THIS ANTENNA, NEITHER CAN IT BE SUBSTITUTED WITH A MORE SUITABLE TYPE. THE 26 DB OF ANTENNA ISOLATION WHICH IS PLANNED ALSO LEAVES A RATHER STRONG TRANSMITTER LEAKAGE SIGNAL INTO THE RECEIVER FRONT END, A HIGH LEVEL MIXER (NOISE FIGURE: 8 DB, NO PREAMP IS USED), AND A HIGH POWER PROBLEM HONEYWELL PROPOSES TO SWITCH FROM A QUIESCENT-LOW LEVEL DRIVE TO HIGH LEVEL DRIME ONLY WHEN THE RELAY TRANSMITTER IS ACTIVATED. *** HOWEVER, HAVING TO RESORT TO SUCH COMPENSATION IS INDICATIVE OF AN UNSOUND APPROACH AND SIGNIFICANTLY RAISES THE RISK OF UNACCEPTABLE OR UNDESIRABLE PERFORMANCE IN SUCH OTHER AREAS AS SENSITIVITY, 2NTERMODULATION, AND POWER CONSUMPTION. THE PROJECTED SENSITIVITY, -406.7 DBM, IS ALREADY BELOW THE REQUIRED 110 DBM.

"NO DISCUSSION IS PROVIDED CONCERNING THE EFFECT OF TRANSMITTED NOISE IN THE RECEIVER CHANNEL AND THE NEED TO ELIMINATE OR MINIMIZE SAME.

"THE TRANSMITTER STABILITY OF 5 PPM IS RELATIVE TO THE INCOMING SIGNAL AND AS SUCH IS UNACCEPTABLE. THIS REQUIRES A BANDWIDTH OF 30 KHZ TO RECEIVE THE RELAYED DATA AND HENCE IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE PHASE III RECEIVER TO USED DURING TEST. FURTHER, THE RECEIVER LOCAL OSCILLATOR STABILITY WAS NOT DISCUSSED OR TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT IN DETERMINING THE NECESSARY BANDWIDTH. THE PROPOSED TECHNIQUE OF SWITCHING AMONG FOUR OSCILLATORS AT A 4 KHZ RATE ALSO IS JUDGED A GIGH RISK AREA. DISCUSSION IS PROVIDED TO JUSTIFY THE SELECTED SWITCHING RATE AGAINST THE REQUIRED OSCILLATOR TURN-ON TIME OR SIGNAL DETECTION TIME. DISREGARDING SIGNAL DETECTION, TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY MICROSECONDS IS CONSIDERED AN INSUFFICIENT PERIOD OF TIME FOR THE OSCILLATOR TO ACHIEVE ITS NOMINAL FREQUENCY STABILITY AND POWER LEVEL WHEN STARTING FROM A OFF STATE."

IN RESPONSE TO HONEYWELL'S PROTEST, A MUCH MORE DETAILED TECHNICAL DISCUSSION OF HONEYWELL'S PROPOSAL WAS PREPARED AND INCLUDED WITH THE ARMY'S ADMINISTRATIVE REPORT. THIS DISCUSSION REITERATED THE ECOM POSITION THAT THE PROPOSAL WAS UNACCEPTABLE AND THAT NOTHING SHORT OF A "COMPLETELY NEW DESIGN" COULD MEET THE SOLICITATION REQUIREMENTS.

HONEYWELL, IN TURN, RESPONDED WITH A DETAILED REBUTTAL OF THAT DISCUSSION, CLAIMING THAT IT HAD PROPOSED A SOLUTION BASED ON THE TECHNICAL GUIDELINES WHICH, WITH PROPER DEVELOPMENT, WAS "COMPATIBLE WITH LONG-RANGE PROGRAM OBJECTIVES," AND INVITED AN INDEPENDENT TECHNICAL REVIEW OF ITS PROPOSAL TO VERIFY ITS CLAIM OF TECHNICAL ACCEPTABILITY.

THE RFQ IDENTIFIED SEVERAL FACTORS FOR THE EVALUATION OF TECHNICAL PROPOSALS. THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR WAS STATED TO BE ENGINEERING APPROACH, WHICH ENCOMPASSED THE EXTENT TO WHICH PROPOSALS MET REQUIREMENTS OF THE TECHNICAL GUIDELINES, THE FEASIBILITY OF THE PROPOSED APPROACHES, UNDERSTANDING OF PROBLEMS, AND COMPLETENESS. THESE LAST THREE SUBFACTORS WERE EXPLAINED AS FOLLOWS:

"(B) FEASIBILITY OF APPROACH: SOUNDNESS OF APPROACH AND THE EXTENT TO WHICH SUCCESSFUL PERFORMANCE IS CONTINGENT UPON UNTRIED AND UNPROVEN DEVICES AND TECHNIQUES WHICH MAY REQUIRE EXCESSIVE DEVELOPMENT.

"(C) UNDERSTANDING OF PROBLEMS: EXTENT OF WHICH THE PROPOSAL DEMONSTRATES CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF ALL TECHNICAL FEATURES INVOLVED IN THE SOLUTION OF THE PROBLEMS. QUOTERS MUST IDENTIFY TECHNICAL UNCERTAINTIES AND PROVIDE SPECIFIC PROPOSALS FOR THEIR RESOUTION

"(D) COMPLETENESS: EXTENT TO WHICH TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED AND ARE DEFINED AND SATISFIED ***."

THE ARMY REPORTS THAT AT THE APRIL 24TH DEBRIEFING A "COMPROMISE" WAS REACHED WITH RESPECT TO THE STABILITY AREA OF HONEYWELL'S PROPOSAL, BUT THAT IT CONTINUED TO REGARD AS UNACCEPTABLE THE ISOLATION SENSITIVITY AREA OF THE PROPOSAL. ACCORDING TO THE ARMY, SOLUTIONS TO TWO PROBLEMS WERE PARAMOUNT FOR A PROPOSAL TO THE ACCEPTABLE. HONEYWELL'S PROPOSED TECHNIQUE FOR SOLVING THE FIRST PROBLEM WAS REGARDED AS A STRONG POINT. HOWEVER, THE ARMY'S TECHNICAL EVALUATORS FOUND THAT THE HONEYWELL PROPOSAL FAILED TO RECOGNIZE THE SECOND AND "MORE DIFFICULT" PROBLEM OF PREVENTING "DESENSITIZATION AND HANG-UP CAUSED BY TRANSMITTER NOISE AND/OR SPURIOUS OUTPUTS WHICH FALL AT THE RECEIVE FREQUENCY." THE EVALUATORS BELIEVED THAT HONEYWELL'S PROPOSED 26 DB OF ISOLATION WAS "BOTH INSUFFICIENT AND OF QUESTIONABLE STABILITY *** TO PERMIT REAL-TIME OPERATION WITHOUT DESENSITIZING THE RECEIVER AND GENERATING A HANG-UP CONDITION" AND THAT ANY APPROACH SUCH AS HONEYWELL'S WHICH DID NOT SOLVE THE NOISE/SPUR PROBLEM WAS UNACCEPTABLE. THE EVALUATORS ALSO CONCLUDED HONEYWELL'S APPROACH WOULD NOT PROVIDE THE DESIGN GOAL OF 135 DB OR THE MINIMUM 120 DB SPECIFIED IN THE TECHNICAL GUIDELINES. THIS CONCLUSION WAS SUPPORTED BY A DETAILED ANALYSIS BASED ON HONEYWELL'S OWN FIGURES.

WITH REGARD TO THE STATUTORY REQUIREMENT FOR NEGOTIATIONS WITH OFFERORS WITHIN THE COMPETITIVE RANGE, 10 U.S.C. 2304(G), WE HAVE OFTEN STATED THAT THE DETERMINATION OF COMPETITIVE WILL NOT BE DISTURBED IN THE ABSENCE OF A CLEAR SHOWING THAT SUCH DETERMINATION WAS AN ARBITRARY ABUSE OF DISCRETION. 48 COMP. GEN. 314 (1968); B-176077(5), JANUARY 26, 1973. THIS IS PARTICULARLY THE CASE WHERE THE PROCUREMENT INVOLVES EQUIPMENT OF A HIGHLY TECHNICAL OR SCIENTIFIC NATURE AND THE DETERMINATION MUST BE BASED ON EXPERT TECHNICAL OPINION. 46 COMP. GEN. 606 (1967). HERE, ALTHOUGH HONEYWELL HAS PROVIDED DETAILED TECHNICAL ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF ITS PROTEST, WE ARE UNABLE TO CONCLUDE THAT THE CONTRACTING AGENCY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN FINDING HONEYWELL'S PROPOSAL UNACCEPTABLE. IT APPEARS TO US THAT THE PROPOSAL WAS EVALUATED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SPECIFICATIONS AND THE STATED EVALUATION CRITERIA AND WAS FOUND TO BE WANTING IN TECHNICAL APPROACH, UNDERSTANDING, AND COMPLETENESS. ALTHOUGH HONEYWELL ASSERTS THAT IT WAS NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE A DETAILED DESIGN IN ITS PROPOSAL, BUT ONLY A DEMONSTRATION THAT ITS PROPOSAL WAS "TECHNICALLY REASONABLE," WE THINK IT IS CLEAR THAT THE ARMY DID NOT VIEW THE PROPOSAL AS TECHNICALLY REASONABLE BUT INSTEAD AS ONE THAT PRESENTED A SIGNIFICANT RISK THAT THE DESIRED OBJECTIVES WOULD NOT BE ATTAINED. WHILE HONEYWELL OBVIOUSLY DOES NOT AGREE WITH THAT VIEW, THERE IS NOTHING IN THE RECORD TO INDICATE THAT THE REJECTION OF HONEYSELL'S PROPOSAL WAS THE RESULT OF ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE REASONABLE JUDGMENT OF THE ARMY'S TECHNICAL EXPERTS. ALTHOUGH IT IS POSSIBLE THAT SOME OTHER TECHNICAL EXPERTS MAY DISAGREE WITH THE ARMY, WE DO NOT BELIEVE IT IS APPROPRIATE FOR THIS OFFICE TO QUESTION THE ARMY'S TECHNICAL JUDGMENT WHEN THAT JUDGMENT HAS A REASONABLE BASIS, MERELY BECAUSE THERE MAY BE DIVERGENT TECHNICAL OPINIONS AS TO THE VIABILITY OF A PROPOSED APPROACH. ACCORDINGLY, WE SEE NO NEED TO OBTAIN AN INDEPENDENT TECHNICAL OPINION AS SUGGESTED BY HONEYWELL AND WE ARE UNABLE TO ACCEPT HONEYWELL'S CLAIM THAT ITS PROPOSAL SHOULD HAVE BEEN REGARDED AS ACCEPTABLE.

FOR THE FOREGOING REASONS, THE PROTEST IS DENIED.