[Protest of NASA Decision To Extend Proposal Due Date]

B-215999: Dec 10, 1984

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A firm protested the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) decision to extend a proposal due date and clarify the small business size standard listed in the solicitation after proposals were received. The small business size standard was incorrectly stated because it contained references to both the number of employees an offerer could have and the dollar amount of its annual receipts. The standard should have contained only the annual receipts amount. The protester discovered the error and informed the contract negotiator. He informed the protester that the size standard was correct. After proposals were received, the NASA Office of General Counsel advised that the error in the request for proposals (RFP) should be corrected. An amendment was issued correcting the standard industrial classification (SIC) code/size provision by deleting the employee size standard and retaining the original SIC code and annual receipts standard. In addition, the proposal due date was extended. The protester contended that: (1) the contracting officer could not amend the RFP after the proposal closing date; and (2) the contracting officer could not change a stated SIC code or small business size standard after receipt of proposals. GAO held that: (1) the contracting officer can amend the RFP after the proposal closing date when the solicitation is ambiguous; and (2) the contracting officer did not change the SIC code and its applicable standard, rather he deleted the standard which did not apply to the SIC code. The agency argued that the protester incorrectly characterized the contracting officer's action as an appeal of the size standard, and it contended that the action was equivalent to a cancellation and readvertisement of the procurement. The protester argued that cancellation and readvertisement can only be undertaken for compelling reasons. GAO agreed with the agency's assessment and held that in negotiated procurements the standard to be applied is one of reasonableness. In this case, the contracting officer's amendment of the RFP was reasonable because it clarified the solicitation's ambiguous small business size standard. Finally, the protester argued that the contracting officer was estopped from changing the size standard. GAO determined that this argument was without merit because the protester could not qualify as a small business under the designated SIC code's applicable size standard. Accordingly, the protest was denied.

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