B-296533, Jess Bruner Fire Suppression, August 19, 2005
Agency’s posting of a pre-solicitation notice and solicitation conducted under simplified acquisition procedures on the Federal Business Opportunities Internet site did not deprive the protester of an opportunity to compete for a contract for fire engine services to be provided in a particular national forest where the pre‑solicitation notice and solicitation were accessible on the Internet site by searching by geographic location.
Jess Bruner Fire Suppression protests the award of a contract to any other vendor under request for quotations (RFQ) No. R5SC0605049, issued by the Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, for regional fire engine support. Bruner argues that the agency did not properly post the pre-solicitation notice and solicitation to the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) Internet site or specifically solicit Bruner, even though it had previously provided this type of services, thus denying Bruner an opportunity to compete for a contract.
The Forest Service has long fought wildland fires using in-house resources as well as those from other federal and state entities. The work required is performed in “forest and rangeland environments with steep terrain where surfaces may be extremely uneven, rocky, covered with thick tangled vegetation,” and under extreme temperatures accompanied by smoke and dust. The Forest Service uses wildland fire engines in fighting these fires, which it has obtained in part through private contractors. RFP at 58.
The acquisition here concerns services for the Forest
Service’s Pacific Southwest region, also referred to by the Forest Service as Region
Five or “R-5”. Contracting Officer’s
Statement at 1. Region Five is comprised
of five “provinces,” with each province consisting of a “group of forests
within a geographic area.”
The Forest Service “determined that it would competitively
procure” the wildland fire engine services needed by Region Five for the 2005
fire season, and that “[n]eeds for fifteen fire engines in four locations were
The RFQ for the wildland fire engine services was posted
to FedBizOpps on the Forest Service’s
Bruner filed this protest with our Office on June 2, arguing that it was not aware of the existence of the pre-solicitation notice or solicitation until shortly before filing its protest. Protest at 2. The protester contends that the agency erred by posting the pre-solicitation notice and solicitation to FedBizOpps on the Forest Service’s Sierra Cascade Province website, arguing that the notice and solicitation should have been posted on either the Forest Service’s Region Five website, or on the websites of each of the provinces in which the services were required to be performed (i.e., the Sierra Cascade, IBET, and Northern Provinces’ websites). Protest at 3.
In this regard, the record here reflects that the
pre-solicitation synopsis and RFQ were accessible only through the
Under the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994
(FASA), simplified acquisitions are excepted from the general requirement that
agencies obtain full and open competition through the use of competitive
procedures when conducting acquisitions.
See 41 U.S.C. sections 253(a)(1)(A), (g)(1), (g)(4). Part 13 of the FAR establishes procedures for
simplified acquisitions, which are designed to promote economy and efficiency
in contracting, and to avoid unnecessary burdens for agencies and
contractors. To facilitate these
objectives, FASA requires that agencies obtain competition to the maximum
extent practicable. 41 U.S.C. sect. 427(c);
FAR sect. 13.104; Information Ventures, Inc., B-293541,
The simplified acquisition procedures require notice of procurements in excess of $25,000 in accordance with the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. sect. 637(e), and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act, 41 U.S.C. sect. 416 (2000). A notice must provide an “accurate description” of the property or services to be purchased and must be sufficient to allow a prospective contractor to make an informed business judgment as to whether to request a copy of the solicitation. 15 U.S.C. sect. 637(f) (2000); Information Ventures, Inc., supra. Additionally, “[a] publication of a notice of solicitation by electronic means meets the requirements for accessibility . . . if the notice is electronically accessible in a form that allows convenient and universal user access” through the GPE. 41 U.S.C. sect. 416 (a)(7) (2000).
The agency explains that, although the fire engines are
needed in three of the Region Five provinces, the pre-solicitation notice and
RFQ were posted only to the Sierra Cascade Province website because the
contracting officer for that province was tasked with conducting this
acquisition, and that contracting officer is authorized to post notices and
solicitations only on the Sierra Cascade Province’s FedBizOpps website. The agency concedes that “it was possible for
the Forest Service to have posted the [pre-solicitation notice and] RFQ on the
FedBizOpps website differently,” but states that this would “have been
cumbersome.” Agency Supplemental Comments
at 2. The agency also points out that
both the pre‑solicitation notice and RFQ included the correct North American
Industry Classification System (NAICS) code (115310, Natural Resources and
Conservation Services) for this acquisition, and that both the pre-solicitation
notice and the RFQ could thus have been found by searching the FedBizOpps website
using the NAICS code.
We first note that the agency has not stated or otherwise
explained in any manner why the “process of coordinating with other provinces”
was so “cumbersome,” or why that would relieve it of any of its statutory and
regulatory obligations regarding the proper posting of procurement
actions. In this regard, we note that
during a telephone hearing, the basic process of coordinating with the IBET and
Nevertheless, under the circumstances here, we do not
agree with the protester that the agency’s posting of its requirements on only
the Sierra Cascade Province’s FedBizOpps website failed to meet the statutory
requirement that the notice be “electronically accessible in a form that allows
convenient and universal user access.” See
41 U.S.C. sect. 416 (a)(7) (2000). We have
long held that prospective vendors have an affirmative duty to make every
reasonable effort to obtain solicitation materials.
The protest is denied.
Anthony H. Gamboa
 The wildland fire engine services were previously not competitively acquired, but rather were procured through emergency equipment rental agreements (EERA). Contracting Officer’s Statement at 4.
 According to the agency, each province within Region Five, as well as Region Five itself, has its own contracting staff, including its own contracting officer. Agency’s Supplemental Comments at 2.
 FedBizOpps is the government-wide point of entry (GPE) for the electronic publication of notices. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) sections 5.003, 5.101, 5.201.
Bruner’s protest is focused on the requirement for wildland fire engines for
 The protester was not contacted because it did not have an active EERA to provide wildland fire engine services within Region Five. Contracting Officer’s Statement at 4. The protester, which apparently previously had an EERA covering these services in Region Five, makes a variety of contentions relating to the EERAs and concerning restrictions on its ability to compete for these services, all of which are not germane to the protest of this solicitation and which we will not consider.
 Exceptions to the notice requirement are set forth in the regulations, but none are applicable here (nor has the agency asserted that any are applicable). See FAR sections 13.105, 5.101(a)(1), 5.202.
During the hearing, the
During the telephone conference, a search using the term “Tahoe” yielded about
the same number of postings as were listed on the