Protest of Navy Contract Award

B-203786: Nov 2, 1981

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A firm protested a Navy contract award which was a small business set-aside for technical services. It contemplated a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. The bases for protest included: the request for proposals (RFP) evaluation criteria were unduly restrictive; despite the fact that the procurement was set aside for small business, the contract was awarded to a firm that proposed a teaming arrangement in which most of the work would be performed by a large business which was the incumbent contractor for the service; the protester's single-contractor approach should have been found so superior to the awardee's teaming arrangement that the award could not be justified; the original RFP was amended to delete certain work so that sole-source contracts for the work could be awarded to the awardee's subcontractor; and the contract was awarded at a higher estimated cost to the Government than that proposed by the protester. GAO would not consider the protest that the evaluation criteria unduly restricted competition because the protest was untimely filed and, therefore, not for GAO consideration. Where an RFP is for services, a small bidder under a small business set-aside may subcontract with a large business firm. The RFP clearly advised offerors that the technical evaluation would include consideration of the capabilities of any proposed subcontractors. Since the award in negotiated procurement must be based on the evaluators' judgment of the relative merits of proposals under the entire evaluation scheme, GAO had no basis to question the award on this issue. GAO did not see how the sole-source award established that the evaluation was biased. The protester's general complaint of bias in itself was not sufficient to persuade GAO that the award was not justified. In negotiating a cost reimbursement type contract, lowest estimated cost is not necessarily the determining factor in making the award. The determination of agency officials in such matters is not disturbed by GAO without a reasonable basis. Here, the RFP clearly advised offerors of the paramount importance of technical considerations as opposed to cost. Accordingly, the protest was dismissed in part and denied in part.

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