B-174140, B-174205, NOV 17, 1972

B-174140,B-174205: Nov 17, 1972

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SINCE THE ARMY HAS ADEQUATELY SUPPORTED ITS DETERMINATION THAT ONLY A TEST SET UTILIZING A DIGITAL READOUT WILL MEET ITS ACTUAL NEEDS. THE PRIOR PROTEST DENIED IS AFFIRMED. AWARD UNDER THE LATTER PROCUREMENT HAS NOT BEEN MADE TO DATE WHILE DELIVERY OF THE 10 TEST SETS BY SIERRA AND ACCEPTANCE BY LBAD UNDER THE FORMER PROCUREMENT HAVE BEEN ACCOMPLISHED. OUR MAY 16 DECISION CONCLUDED THAT THE ARMY REQUIREMENT THAT THE TEST SET HAVE A DIGITAL READOUT OF DELAY. THE SPECIFICATIONS OF THE AIR FORCE IFB CONTAIN THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT UPON WHICH YOU RELY AS CLEARLY ESTABLISHING THAT DIGITAL READOUT OF DELAY POSES AN OPERATIONAL PROBLEM RATHER THAN AN OPERATIONAL ADVANTAGE: "ABSOLUTE DELAY IS TO BE A METER READOUT.

B-174140, B-174205, NOV 17, 1972

BID PROTEST - DIGITAL AND ANALOG READOUTS - PARTICULAR NEED AFFIRMANCE OF PRIOR PROTEST DENIAL OF BOWMAR/ALI, INC., AGAINST THE AWARD OF A SOLE SOURCE CONTRACT TO PHILCO-FORD CORP. FOR 10 TEST SETS BY THE LEXINGTON-BLUE GRASS ARMY DEPOT AND AGAINST THE PROPOSED AWARD OF A CONTRACT FOR 51 TEST SETS UNDER AN IFB ISSUED BY THE ARMY ELECTRONICS COMMAND, PHILA., PA. AN INDEPENDENT REVIEW, CONDUCTED BY THE GAO, COMPOSING THE EFFICACY OF THE DIGITAL READOUT TEST SETS UTILIZED BY THE ARMY AND THE ANALOG READOUT TEST SETS UTILIZED BY THE AIR FORCE UNCOVERED NO COMPLAINTS DIRECTED AGAINST THE OPERATIONAL EASE OR ACCURACY OF A TEST SET EMPLOYING A DIGITAL READOUT. SINCE THE ARMY HAS ADEQUATELY SUPPORTED ITS DETERMINATION THAT ONLY A TEST SET UTILIZING A DIGITAL READOUT WILL MEET ITS ACTUAL NEEDS, THE PRIOR PROTEST DENIED IS AFFIRMED.

TO MATZKIN & DAY:

WE REFER TO YOUR LETTER OF OCTOBER 10, 1972, AND PRIOR CORRESPONDENCE, REQUESTING THAT WE RECONSIDER OUR DECISION B-174140, B 174205, DATED MAY 16, 1972, WHEREIN WE DENIED THE PROTEST OF BOWMAR/ALI, INC., AGAINST THE CONDUCT OF TWO PROCUREMENTS OF ENVELOPE DELAY DISTORTION TEST SETS TO FULFILL REQUIREMENTS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS COMMAND (STRATCOM). ONE PROTEST INVOLVES THE AWARD OF SOLE-SOURCE CONTRACT NO. DAAG22-72-C-0024 TO PHILCO-FORD CORPORATION, SIERRA ELECTRONIC OPERATION (SIERRA), FOR 10 TEST SETS BY THE PROCUREMENT DIVISION, LEXINGTON-BLUE GRASS ARMY DEPOT (LBAD), FOR INSTALLATION IN S- 280 SHELTERS TO SUPPORT THE TECHNICAL VISITS PROGRAM (TVP). THE OTHER PROTEST DEALS WITH THE PROPOSED AWARD OF A CONTRACT FOR 51 TEST SETS TO ANOTHER FIRM, UNDER INVITATION FOR BIDS (IFB) NO. DAAB05-71-B-0607, ISSUED BY THE UNITED STATES ARMY ELECTRONICS COMMAND (ECOM), PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, FOR USE BY STRATCOM IN ITS WORLDWIDE COMMUNICATIONS INSTALLATIONS.

AWARD UNDER THE LATTER PROCUREMENT HAS NOT BEEN MADE TO DATE WHILE DELIVERY OF THE 10 TEST SETS BY SIERRA AND ACCEPTANCE BY LBAD UNDER THE FORMER PROCUREMENT HAVE BEEN ACCOMPLISHED.

FOR REASONS SET FORTH BELOW, WE SUSTAIN OUR PRIOR DECISION.

OUR MAY 16 DECISION CONCLUDED THAT THE ARMY REQUIREMENT THAT THE TEST SET HAVE A DIGITAL READOUT OF DELAY, AS CONTRASTED WITH AN ANALOG OR METER READOUT OF DELAY, EMPLOYED ON BOWMAR/ALI'S STANDARD TEST SET MODEL, REPRESENTED A VALID AND REASONABLE REFLECTION OF THE ACTUAL NEEDS OF THE ARMY. IN SO CONCLUDING, WE SUBSCRIBED TO THE ARMY'S JUSTIFICATION FOR A TEST SET EMPLOYING DIGITAL READOUT OF DELAY BASED PRIMARILY ON HUMAN ENGINEERING FACTORS ENCOMPASSING OPERATIONAL ADVANTAGES RESULTING IN MORE CONSISTENT LEVELS OF ACCURACY. THOSE ADVANTAGES INCLUDED OPERATIONAL EASE, REDUCTION OF ERROR, SPEED OF READING DELAY, AND THE NEED FOR FEWER AND LESS TRAINED PERSONNEL.

YOU REQUEST RECONSIDERATION OF OUR DECISION BASED PRINCIPALLY ON NEW EVIDENCE, MORE SPECIFICALLY, A DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE IFB CITING THE BOWMAR/ALI MODEL UTILIZING THE ANALOG READOUT OF DELAY AS A "BRAND NAME." THE SPECIFICATIONS OF THE AIR FORCE IFB CONTAIN THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT UPON WHICH YOU RELY AS CLEARLY ESTABLISHING THAT DIGITAL READOUT OF DELAY POSES AN OPERATIONAL PROBLEM RATHER THAN AN OPERATIONAL ADVANTAGE:

"ABSOLUTE DELAY IS TO BE A METER READOUT. HAVING BOTH FREQUENCY AND DELAY AS DIGITAL READOUTS IS PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT FOR THE OPERATOR. SINCE THESE READOUTS VARY CONSTANTLY BACK AND FORTH ABOUT THE TRUE READING, EYE FATIGUE WILL BE A DEFINITE FACTOR IN USING THE EQUIPMENT FOR PERIODS EXCEEDING 30 MINUTES."

EXPANDING ON THIS, YOU STATE THAT, WITH A DIGITAL READOUT, A TEST SET OPERATOR IS SUBJECTED TO DEBILITATING EYE STRAIN CAUSED BY FLUCTUATION OR "FLICKER" IN THE DIGITAL READOUT, WHICH ALSO REDUCES TO AN UNACCEPTABLE LEVEL THE ACCURACY OF THE READOUT. YOU CITE EMPIRICAL FIELD EXPERIENCE OF THE AIR FORCE IN SUPPORT OF ITS SPECIFICATION REQUIREMENT. IN CONCLUSION, YOU CONTEND THAT CONTINUED ADHERENCE TO THE ARMY'S REQUIREMENT FOR DIGITAL READOUT, AS IN OPPOSITION TO THE AIR FORCE REQUIREMENT FOR AN ANALOG READOUT, IS IN DIRECT CONFLICT WITH THE PUBLIC INTEREST OF ECONOMIZATION BY STANDARDIZATION OF EQUIPMENTS USED BY MILITARY DEPARTMENTS.

IN A REPORT TO OUR OFFICE, THE AIR FORCE SET FORTH ITS RATIONALE FOR SPECIFYING ANALOG READOUT AND EXCLUDING DIGITAL READOUT, AS FOLLOWS:

"2. THIS EQUIPMENT IS BEING PROCURED FOR THE SCOPE CAP PROGRAM AND REQUIRES USE OVER EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME. THE MEASUREMENT SETS ARE ALSO TO BE USED IN A PORTABLE CONFIGURATION. AN EVALUATION WAS PERFORMED A FEW YEARS AGO USING HIGHLY SKILLED PERSONNEL OPERATING BOTH THE SIERRA 340B AND BOMAR-ALI 490B. UNDER VARIOUS LIGHTING ENVIRONMENTS, IT WAS FOUND THAT THE OPERATORS' ACCURACY DETERIORATED WHEN TAKING DIGITAL READINGS OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME. THIS DETERIORATION WAS ATTRIBUTED TO EYE FATIGUE. THE LEVEL OF SKILL, THE EXPERIENCE OF PERSONNEL AND THE TRAINING THEY WILL RECEIVE WERE CONSIDERED IN SELECTING AN INSTRUMENT WITH A METER READOUT.

"3. BOTH THE ARMY AND THE AIR FORCE HAVE SELECTED EQUIPMENT BASED ON INTENDED USE AND THE HUMAN ENGINEERING AND ENVIRONMENTAL FACTOR HAVING A BEARING ON THEIR PARTICULAR PROGRAM. APPLICATION IS A VITAL FACTOR WHEN SELECTING TEST INSTRUMENTATION.

"4. CONSEQUENTLY IT IS APPARENT THAT ONE TYPE IS NOT UNIVERSALLY BETTER THAN THE OTHER. THE CHOICE DEPENDS UPON THE PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE INTENDED APPLICATION."

THE ARMY REPORT TO OUR OFFICE TAKES ISSUE WITH THE ABOVE-QUOTED STATEMENT IN THE AIR FORCE IFB SPECIFICATION AS CONTRARY TO THE ENGINEERING EXPERTISE OF STRATCOM, THE USING ACTIVITY. THE REPORT EXPLAINS THAT THE "FLICKER" PROBLEM ALLEGED BY BOWMAR/ALI, WHILE POSSIBLE, RARELY WOULD BE ENCOUNTERED IN ACTUAL TESTING. ALSO, IT IS POINTED OUT THAT THE INTENDED USES AND OPERATIONAL SKILL LEVELS REQUIRED BY THE AIR FORCE ARE DIFFERENT FROM THE ARMY'S SINCE THAT DEPARTMENT'S CONTRACTING OFFICER WAS CONTACTED AND ADVISES THAT A LABORATORY RATHER THAN AN OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT WAS TO BE THE SETTING FOR TESTS. FURTHERMORE, IT IS REPORTED THAT EYE FATIGUE WOULD BE AT LEAST AS PREVALENT IN AN OPERATOR'S CONTINUOUS OBSERVATION OF A FLUCTUATING POINTER ON A METER.

WHILE THE ARMY AND AIR FORCE CONTEND TO THE CONTRARY, WE CONCUR WITH YOUR OBSERVATION THAT NOTHING SUBMITTED BY EITHER OF THE TWO AGENCIES CONVINCINGLY EVIDENCES THAT THE INTENDED PURPOSES OF OR SKILL LEVELS NEEDED TO OPERATE THE DESIRED TEST SETS ARE SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT. BUT, ESSENTIALLY, WHAT WE HAVE IS A SITUATION WHERE TWO PROCURING AGENCIES OF THE GOVERNMENT HAVE TAKEN POSITIONS PRACTICALLY DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED CONCERNING THEIR RESPECTIVE ACTUAL NEEDS.

IN CONSIDERING THE ORIGINAL PROTEST, WE CONDUCTED AN INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF THE EFFICACY OF THE DIGITAL READOUT REQUIREMENT FOR SIMILAR INTENDED USES ENCOMPASSING PRIVATE INDUSTRY AND OTHER GOVERNMENTAL USING ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING "PROJECT SCOPE CREEK," THE AIR FORCE PROGRAM UPON WHICH THE ABOVE-MENTIONED TVP ARMY PROGRAM WAS BASED. WE UNCOVERED PRACTICALLY NO COMPLAINTS DIRECTED AGAINST THE OPERATIONAL EASE OR ACCURACY OF A TEST SET EMPLOYING A DIGITAL READOUT. ACTUAL TEST SET OPERATORS CONTACTED EXPRESSED A PREFERENCE FOR THE DIGITAL READOUT TEST SETS BASED ON EASE OF OPERATION.

MOREOVER, OF PARTICULAR SIGNIFICANCE, THE AIR FORCE "PROJECT SCOPE CREEK" DOCUMENT ORIGINALLY SPECIFIED THE SIERRA 340B, UTILIZING A DIGITAL READOUT, AS A NECESSARY ADJUNCT OF THE PROGRAM. IN ADDITION, WE CONTACTED AN AIR FORCE REPRESENTATIVE OF "PROJECT SCOPE CREEK." HE ADVISED THAT THE PROGRAM AT THAT TIME CALLED FOR A BOWMAR/ALI ANALOG READOUT TEST SET, BUT ONLY BECAUSE THAT TEST SET WOULD MEASURE HIGHER FREQUENCY RESPONSE THAN THE SIERRA 340B AND NOT BECAUSE OF ANY PROBLEMS WITH THE DIGITAL READOUT. FURTHERMORE, HE EXPLAINED THAT THE PROGRAM CALLED FOR RIGOROUS AND CONSTANT TEST SET VIGILANCE BY AN OPERATOR PREFERABLY AND MORE EASILY ACCOMPLISHED WITH A TEST SET EMPLOYING A DIGITAL READOUT OF DELAY.

IT APPEARS THAT NOT ONLY BETWEEN THE ARMY AND AIR FORCE, BUT EVEN WITHIN THE AIR FORCE, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE OF TECHNICAL OPINION AS TO EXACTLY WHAT TYPE OF READOUT REPRESENTS THE ACTUAL NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT GENERALLY WITH RESPECT TO THE TEST SET. BUT THE FACT REMAINS THAT THE ARMY HAS ADEQUATELY SUPPORTED ITS DETERMINATION THAT ONLY A TEST SET UTILIZING A DIGITAL READOUT WILL MEET ITS ACTUAL NEEDS. EQUALLY EVIDENT IS THE AIR FORCE POSITION THAT ITS SPECIFICATION REQUIREMENT FOR AN ANALOG READOUT OF DELAY IS REQUIRED TO MEET ITS PARTICULAR ACTUAL NEEDS.

FROM OUR REVIEW, WE BELIEVE THAT DIGITAL READOUT REPRESENTS AN ADVANCEMENT OF THE STATE-OF-THE-ART. HOWEVER, WE ARE RECOMMENDING TO THE SECRETARIES OF THE ARMY AND AIR FORCE THAT EFFORTS BE UNDERTAKEN TO ESTABLISH UNIFORM READOUT STANDARDS IF COMPATIBLE WITH USAGES AND OPERATIONAL SKILL LEVEL NEEDS.

ACCORDINGLY, WITH RESPECT TO THESE PROCUREMENTS, WE AFFIRM OUR PRIOR DECISION THAT THE ARMY HAS SUPPORTED ITS DIGITAL READOUT REQUIREMENT AS A MINIMUM NEED.

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