Protests Opposing Geographic and State Licensing Requirements

B-198952,B-199166,B-199652,B-200494,B-200514: Jun 9, 1981

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A firm filed several protests opposing geographic and State licensing requirements used by the Forest Service in solicitations for surveying services. Since the protests were virtually identical, GAO considered them as a unit protest against a standard Forest Service practice. The solicitation requirements that the protester objected to included: (1) the requirement that the surveys be conducted by surveyors that were licensed by the State in which the survey was to be conducted; and (2) the fact that eligible offerers were limited to those survey or engineering firms which have offices or facilities within a specified distance of the job site. The protester further contended that the State license requirement was unnecessary since the surveys were to be conducted for the Federal Government on Federal land and are therefore exempt from State law. GAO held that it was reasonable to require State licensing of surveyors involved in Federal contracts because of the possible effect such surveys could have on properties which have common boundaries with national forests. Further, surveys are required to be registered with the State, and this makes the State involved an interested party. The protester also contended that the distance requirements were not valid since the terrain in the area involved is not unique to that part of the country. GAO believed that the Forest Service's actual need was for surveyors with local knowledge and experience, rather than for surveyors who were located in the immediate vicinity. The protest on this issue was sustained, but no corrective action was recommended since the work was almost completed. GAO did recommend that a provision be added to future procurements allowing offerers to demonstrate their local knowledge in their technical proposals.