Protest Alleging That Navy Solicitations Are Defective

B-200030,B-200051,B-200052: May 5, 1981

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A firm protested the award of a Navy contract for mess attendant services for three Naval Air Stations. The firm argued that the solicitations were defective, objected to the mandatory service unit rate imposed on bidders, and alleged the creation of an unauthorized personal contract. For this procurement, the Navy used an experimental format it developed which could be tailored to the specific needs of each mess facility to obtain the most efficient and economical service possible. The protester previously protested the Navy's use of this format based on objections similar to those raised in this case. However, for this protest the firm presented a comparison of the costs of experimental format contracts with the costs for the formally advertised, fixed-price mess attendant contract which the Navy had used previously. It contended that these figures show that the Navy is paying a premium price for the services it is procuring. GAO has recognized that the determination of the Government's needs and the best methods of accommodating those needs is primarily the responsibility of the contracting agencies. Consequently, GAO will not question an agency's determination of its actual minimum needs unless there is a clear showing that the determination has no reasonable basis. There is no requirement that an agency procure at a lower price without intelligent reference to the particular needs to be served. GAO found that the protester did not make the necessary showing the the Navy's decision to use the experimental procurement format stated was unreasonable. Therefore, even if the protester's cost figures were accurate, the payment of higher prices to achieve valid minimum needs was not objectionable. Accordingly, the protest was denied.