[Protest of Identical Provisions in Corps of Engineers RFP's]

B-212718.2,B-212892,B-212987: Feb 27, 1984

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A firm protested provisions contained in several Army Corps of Engineers requests for proposals (RFP's) for energy monitoring and control systems (EMCS). The protester contended that a clause used in the RFP's which required that offerers must have installed a user-accepted system comparable to the one being procured was unduly restrictive of competition. The protester argued that this requirement penalized new companies and provided no alternative for evaluation of an offerer based on experience gained from an ongoing, but as yet incomplete, EMCS project. GAO found that, although the protester did not submit an offer and was not eligible for award, it had a substantial enough economic interest in the procurement to be considered an interested party. The Corps contended that, because of difficulties experienced under prior procurements in securing a contractor capable of providing a workable system in a timely fashion, the qualification was necessary and reasonably reflected the Government's minimum needs. Although specifications should be drawn to maximize competition, GAO will not interpose its judgment for that of a contracting agency unless the protester shows that the agency's judgment is in error or unduly restricts competition. In this case, the protester failed to make such a showing. Because the protester admitted that it could not meet certain requirements, GAO would not consider its allegations that specific features required were unduly restrictive. Finally, the protester objected to the use of responsibility criteria as a basis for determining technical acceptability. GAO has held that, in negotiated procurements, it is appropriate to use responsibility factors as technical evaluation criteria. Accordingly, the protest was denied.