B-181845, DEC 12, 1974

B-181845: Dec 12, 1974

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DOES NOT REQUIRE REEVALUATION OF PROPOSAL SINCE RECORD SHOWS THAT AGENCY'S DECISION TO EVALUATE PROPOSAL ON BASIS OF ORIGINAL RESUMES WAS REASONABLE AND FURTHER. THAT INFORMAL EVALUATION WAS MADE WHICH WOULD NOT HAVE AFFECTED THE ULTIMATE SOURCE SELECTION. INC.: THIS IS A PROTEST AGAINST THE ALLEGED FAILURE OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA) TO PROPERLY EVALUATE PROPOSALS TO PROVIDE OFF-SITE COMPUTER PROGRAMMING AND ANALYSIS SUPPORT TO NASA'S COMMUNICATION DIVISION. NINE PROPOSALS WERE RECEIVED IN RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS NO. 5- 95802/713. (PMI) AND SPERRY UNIVAC SUBMITTED TWO OF THE THREE PROPOSALS WHICH WERE FOUND TO BE IN THE COMPETITIVE RANGE. UNIVAC'S PROPOSAL WAS TECHNICALLY EVALUATED SIX POINTS HIGHER THAN THE PMI PROPOSAL.

B-181845, DEC 12, 1974

CONTRACTING AGENCY'S FAILURE TO FORMALLY EVALUATE PROPOSAL BASED ON USE OF NEWLY SUBMITTED RESUMES, BECAUSE OFFEROR DID NOT INDICATE CLEAR INTENT TO USE PERSONNEL REFLECTED BY NEW RESUMES, DOES NOT REQUIRE REEVALUATION OF PROPOSAL SINCE RECORD SHOWS THAT AGENCY'S DECISION TO EVALUATE PROPOSAL ON BASIS OF ORIGINAL RESUMES WAS REASONABLE AND FURTHER, THAT INFORMAL EVALUATION WAS MADE WHICH WOULD NOT HAVE AFFECTED THE ULTIMATE SOURCE SELECTION.

PROGRAMMING METHODS, GTE INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC.:

THIS IS A PROTEST AGAINST THE ALLEGED FAILURE OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA) TO PROPERLY EVALUATE PROPOSALS TO PROVIDE OFF-SITE COMPUTER PROGRAMMING AND ANALYSIS SUPPORT TO NASA'S COMMUNICATION DIVISION.

NINE PROPOSALS WERE RECEIVED IN RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS NO. 5- 95802/713, ISSUED BY NASA'S GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER ON DECEMBER 10, 1973. THE FEDERAL SYSTEMS DIVISION OF PROGRAMMING METHODS, GTE INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. (PMI) AND SPERRY UNIVAC SUBMITTED TWO OF THE THREE PROPOSALS WHICH WERE FOUND TO BE IN THE COMPETITIVE RANGE. BOTH PROPOSALS CONTAINED RESUMES OF CERTAIN KEY AND TECHNICAL PERSONNEL WHO WOULD BE USED TO PERFORM THE CONTRACT. NASA REGARDED TWO RESUMES IN EACH PROPOSAL AS INDICATING A WEAKNESS WITH RESPECT TO THE INDICATED EXPERIENCE LEVELS, AND QUESTIONED THE OFFERORS DURING NEGOTIATIONS ABOUT THE USE OF THOSE PARTICULAR PERSONNEL. BOTH FIRMS THEN PROVIDED ADDITIONAL RESUMES. NASA TREATED THE NEW UNIVAC RESUMES AS SUBSTITUTES FOR THE ORIGINAL ONES AND EVALUATED THE FINAL UNIVAC PROPOSAL ON THE BASIS OF SUBSTITUTED PERSONNEL. HOWEVER, IT REGARDED THE PMI SUBMISSION AS AN OFFER TO FURNISH BACKUP OR ALTERNATE PERSONNEL RATHER THAN REPLACEMENTS FOR THOSE ORIGINALLY PROPOSED. IT THEREFORE EVALUATED PMI'S FINAL PROPOSAL ON THE BASIS OF THE RESUMES INITIALLY SUBMITTED. UNIVAC'S PROPOSAL WAS TECHNICALLY EVALUATED SIX POINTS HIGHER THAN THE PMI PROPOSAL, AND NASA'S SOURCE SELECTION OFFICIAL DETERMINED THAT SINCE THERE WAS NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE IN COST BETWEEN THE UNIVAC AND PMI PROPOSALS, THE UNIVAC PROPOSAL SHOULD BE SELECTED FOR ITS "SMALL, BUT PERCEPTIBLE ADVANTAGE." PMI CLAIMS THAT NASA SHOULD HAVE EVALUATED ITS PROPOSAL ON THE BASIS OF THE NEW RESUMES, AND THAT THE IMPROPER EVALUATION BASED ON THE ORIGINAL RESUMES AFFECTED THE SELECTION PROCESS. IT THEREFORE REQUESTS THAT NASA BE REQUIRED TO REEVALUATE ITS PROPOSAL.

THE RECORD REVEALS THAT BY LETTER OF MARCH 4, 1974, NASA INVITED BOTH UNIVAC AND PMI TO MAKE ORAL PRESENTATIONS AND TO ANSWER CERTAIN QUESTIONS REGARDING THEIR PROPOSALS. BOTH OFFERORS WERE ASKED TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL INFORMATION REGARDING THE EXPERIENCE OF TWO PROGRAMMERS PROPOSED FOR USE ON THE CONTRACT. IN ADDITION, THE LETTER TO UNIVAC REQUESTED "FURTHER RATIONALE" TO JUSTIFY THE PROPOSED USE OF THE PROGRAMMERS IN THE EVENT THEY DID NOT HAVE EXPERIENCE IN ADDITION TO THAT INDICATED ON THE RESUME. BY LETTER OF MARCH 12, 1974, UNIVAC RESPONDED THAT IT BELIEVED IT HAD PROVIDED SUFFICIENT RATIONALE FOR PROPOSING TO USE THE TWO PROGRAMMERS, BUT THAT "OWING TO THE DEPTH OF EXPERIENCE SHOWN IN *** ITS PERSONNEL STAFFING RESOURCES CHARTS *** TWO ADDITIONAL RESUMES ARE PROVIDED HEREWITH THAT FULLY MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS." DURING THE ORAL PRESENTATION WHICH FOLLOWED ON MARCH 18, 1974, UNIVAC, IN RESPONSE TO A QUESTION REGARDING THE NEW RESUMES, STATED "WE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE BETTER TO SIMPLY SUBSTITUTE, SINCE WE DID HAVE THE RESOURCES TO DO SO."

PMI, HOWEVER, IN BOTH ITS LETTER OF RESPONSE TO NASA AND DURING ITS ORAL PRESENTATION ON MARCH 19, 1974, RESPONDED TO NASA'S QUESTION BY ATTEMPTING TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL INFORMATION WITH RESPECT TO ITS TWO PROPOSED PROGRAMMERS. NEAR THE CONCLUSION OF THE ORAL PRESENTATION, PMI WAS ASKED TO PROVIDE, BY MARCH 29, 1974, EITHER MORE INFORMATION ON THE PROGRAMMERS OR ELSE "SOME RATIONALE OF WHY YOU THINK THESE INDIVIDUALS ARE QUALIFIED TO FILL THESE PARTICULAR POSITIONS." PMI'S MARCH 29, 1974, LETTER OF RESPONSE INCLUDED THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH:

"RESUMES OF TWO SENIOR PROGRAMMERS ARE INCLUDED AS ALTERNATES TO THE ORIGINAL PROPOSED PROGRAMMERS. WE HAVE INCLUDED A DISCUSSION OF WHY WE BELIEVE THE ORIGINAL PROPOSED PROGRAMMERS MEET THE QUALIFICATIONS; HOWEVER, ALTERNATE RESUMES DEMONSTRATING OUR BACKUP CAPABILITY ARE INCLUDED FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION."

ATTACHED TO THIS LETTER WERE 35 PAGES OF CHARTS, RESUMES, AND ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS. THE ANSWER CONCERNING THE TWO PROGRAMMERS AGAIN CONTAINED A DETAILED JUSTIFICATION FOR USE OF THE ORIGINALLY PROPOSED INDIVIDUALS AND A REITERATION OF PMI'S BELIEF THAT BOTH "MEET THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR ASSIGNMENT" TO THE PROJECT. FOLLOWING THIS DISCUSSION, PMI STATED THAT "HOWEVER, WE ARE INCLUDING RESUMES OF TWO OTHER CANDIDATES FOR ASSIGNMENT TO THE PROJECT AS SENIOR PROGRAMMERS."

NASA STATES THAT ITS SOURCE EVALUATION BOARD (SEB) ASSUMED FROM "THE STRONG DEFENSE OF THE QUALIFICATIONS OF THE TWO ORIGINAL RESUMES IN THE ORAL PRESENTATION AND IN THE FINAL PROPOSAL" THAT PMI INTENDED "TO OFFER AND COMMIT THE ORIGINAL STAFFING PLAN AND THAT THE TWO ADDITIONAL RESUMES WERE SUBMITTED AS AN INDICATION OF THE CONTRACTOR'S STAFFING RESOURCES." NASA ASSERTS THAT THE SEB'S BELIEF IN THIS RESPECT WAS REASONABLE, ESPECIALLY SINCE PMI DID NOT SUBMIT A REVISED COST PROPOSAL IN ACCORDANCE WITH PART 3-2 OF THE RFP WHICH STATES THAT "IF, AFTER THE INITIAL PROPOSAL SUBMISSION, THE OFFEROR CHANGES THE RESUMED PERSONNEL *** THE COST/PRICE PROPOSAL SHALL BE SIMILARLY REVISED." ACCORDING TO NASA, PMI DID NOT CLEARLY INDICATE WHICH PERSONNEL IT WAS COMMITTING TO THE CONTRACT AND THAT ITS SEB REASONABLY LOOKED FOR THAT DEFINITE COMMITMENT RATHER THAN TO PROPOSED ALTERNATIVES FROM WHICH IT COULD CHOOSE. PMI STATES, HOWEVER, THAT WHATEVER AMBIGUITY AROSE FROM THE LANGUAGE USED IN ITS MARCH 29, 1974, LETTER REGARDING "ALTERNATES" AND "BACKUP CAPABILITY" WAS OR SHOULD HAVE BEEN RESOLVED BY THE ATTACHMENT WHICH EXPLICITLY REFERRED TO THE "TWO OTHER CANDIDATES FOR ASSIGNMENT TO THE PROJECT."

WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE NASA SEB ACTED UNREASONABLY IN VIEWING PMI'S PROPOSAL AS IT DID. THE LANGUAGE USED IN PMI'S MARCH 29TH LETTER AND PMI'S FAILURE TO INDICATE ANY IMPACT ON COST TENDED TO SUGGEST THAT PMI WAS OFFERING SOMETHING LESS THAN OUTRIGHT REPLACEMENT OF THE TWO PROGRAMMERS ORIGINALLY PROPOSED. IN THIS REGARD, WE THINK THE CONTEXT IN WHICH PMI USED THE WORDS "FOR ASSIGNMENT TO THE PROJECT" PERMITTED THE INTERPRETATION THAT THE ASSIGNMENT WAS AS BACKUP RATHER THAN AS PRIMARY PERSONNEL. FURTHERMORE, UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES WE DO NOT BELIEVE, AS THE PROTESTER CONTENDS, THAT NASA SHOULD HAVE HELD ANOTHER ROUND OF NEGOTIATIONS IN ORDER TO OBTAIN CLARIFICATION OF PMI'S PROPOSAL. RECOGNIZE THAT NASA, BY INITIALLY ASKING UNIVAC TO PROVIDE "FURTHER RATIONALE" FOR USING ITS PROPOSED PROGRAMMERS WHILE ASKING PMI ONLY FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT ITS PROGRAMMERS, MAY HAVE GIVEN UNIVAC AN EARLIER INDICATION THAT THE PROPOSED PROGRAMMERS MIGHT BE REGARDED AS UNACCEPTABLE. NEVERTHELESS, NASA DID, LATER IN THE NEGOTIATION PROCESS, PROVIDE THAT SAME INDICATION TO PMI, AND PMI DID HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO SUBMIT A BEST AND FINAL PROPOSAL WHICH WOULD CLEARLY REFLECT ITS INTENTIONS. THE FACT THAT NASA FOUND THE PROPOSAL LESS THAN CLEAR AND INTERPRETED IT IN A WAY NOT INTENDED BY PMI WITHOUT OBTAINING CLARIFICATION DOES NOT MEAN THAT NASA FAILED TO CONDUCT MEANINGFUL NEGOTIATIONS. AS WE RECENTLY STATED, THERE IS A POINT AFTER WHICH NEGOTIATIONS MUST BE CONCLUDED AND AN EVALUATION OF THE BEST AND FINALS BEGUN. ONCE MEANINGFUL DISCUSSION HAS TAKEN PLACE, THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT THAT THE NEGOTIATION PROCESS BE EXTENDED TO PROVIDE AN OFFEROR AN OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE ISSUE WITH SOME ASPECT OF THE EVALUATION OF ITS PROPOSAL. MATTER OF BELL AEROSPACE COMPANY AND COMPUTER SCIENCES CORPORATION, B-179716, NOVEMBER 8, 1974, 54 COMP. GEN. .

IN ANY EVENT, NO USEFUL PURPOSE WOULD BE SERVED BY A REEVALUATION OF THE PMI PROPOSAL. THE RECORD SHOWS THAT WHILE PMI'S ORIGINAL RESUMES PROVIDED THE BASIS FOR THE EVALUATION INCLUDED IN THE SEB REPORT, NASA DID IN FACT SCORE THE PMI PROPOSAL BASED UPON THE USE OF THE ALTERNATE RESUMES. THIS WAS DONE ON A "TRIAL" OR INFORMAL BASIS, AND WAS CONSIDERED BY THE SEB, EVEN THOUGH THE BOARD DID NOT BELIEVE THAT PMI HAD MANIFESTED AN INTENT TO REPLACE THE ORIGINAL RESUMES WITH THE ALTERNATE ONES. THE WORKSHEETS USED FOR THIS TRIAL SCORING, WHICH WE HAVE CAREFULLY EXAMINED, INDICATE THAT PMI'S PROPOSAL WITH THE ALTERNATE RESUMES WAS RATED TWO PERCENTAGE POINTS HIGHER THAN THE PROPOSAL WITH THE ORIGINAL RESUMES. SINCE THIS WOULD STILL LEAVE A SPREAD OF FOUR POINTS BETWEEN THE UNIVAC AND PMI PROPOSALS, AND SINCE NASA'S SELECTION DECISION WAS BASED ON THE "SMALL BUT PERCEPTIBLE ADVANTAGE" INHERENT IN THE UNIVAC PROPOSAL, WE DO NOT FIND THAT PMI WAS PREJUDICED BY NASA'S ACTIONS IN THIS CASE AND WE THEREFORE SEE NO REASON TO QUESTION THE VALIDITY OF THAT SELECTION DECISION.

ACCORDINGLY, THE PROTEST IS DENIED.