A solicitation that advises offerors of the broad evaluation scheme to be employed and refers to subfactors identified in another section of the solicitation that are reasonably related to the stated evaluation factors provides adequate notice to offerors of the evaluation criteria. An agency is not required to reopen negotiations when an offeror introduces an informational deficiency concerning newly proposed personnel at the best and final offer stage of the negotiations. Mantech argues that the Navy's evaluation process was flawed because the solicitation did not identify all evaluation factors and their relative degree of importance. Award was to be made to the responsible offeror whose conforming offer was determined to be most advantageous to the Navy.
B-235654, Aug 31, 1989, 89-2 CPD 203
PROCUREMENT - Competitive Negotiation - Requests for proposals - Evaluation criteria - Sufficiency DIGEST: 1. A solicitation that advises offerors of the broad evaluation scheme to be employed and refers to subfactors identified in another section of the solicitation that are reasonably related to the stated evaluation factors provides adequate notice to offerors of the evaluation criteria. PROCUREMENT - Competitive Negotiation - Discussion reopening - Propriety 2. An agency is not required to reopen negotiations when an offeror introduces an informational deficiency concerning newly proposed personnel at the best and final offer stage of the negotiations.
Mantech Technical Services Corporation:
Mantech Technical Services Corporation protests the award of a contract to G.P. Taurio, Inc., under request for proposals (RFP) No. N66604-88-R- 5735, issued by the Naval Underwater Systems Center for technical training services in support of combat control systems. Mantech argues that the Navy's evaluation process was flawed because the solicitation did not identify all evaluation factors and their relative degree of importance. As a result, Mantech contends, the Navy improperly judged its technical proposal to be unacceptable because of the omission of two resumes of potential employees, and, therefore, must reopen negotiations for another round of best and final offers (BAFOs).
We deny the protest.
The RFP, issued August 18, 1988, called for award of an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity, cost-plus-fixed- fee, 5-year contract for technical support in the area of training for various Navy activities. The effort included development, review, analysis and maintenance of training materials in support of combat systems for a new class of submarine. Award was to be made to the responsible offeror whose conforming offer was determined to be most advantageous to the Navy, cost and other factors considered.
The Navy received 10 offers by the October 18, 1988, closing date. After the initial evaluation, Mantech's proposal ranked ninth and was determined to be unacceptable, but susceptible of being made acceptable. By letter of February 21, 1989, Mantech was notified that, among other deficiencies, the firm lacked corporate experience in the inter-active video courseware area; two of its three proposed senior analysts, a key personnel category, did not meet the minimum qualifications in fire control and sonar training development programs; letters of commitment for one of the analysts and other personnel were missing; and the management of geographically dispersed personnel was a problem. Face-to-face discussions were held with Mantech on March 3. Mantech provided a written response to the Navy's letter on March 9, updating its corporate experience data forms and its personnel data forms by providing additional information on interactive courseware experience and the experience of the two analysts, and providing the required letters of commitment. However, Mantech did not correct the deficiency noted by the Navy concerning its management approach. After the Navy notified Mantech that a response was advisable prior to submission of BAFOs, Mantech addressed this deficiency. As a result, the Navy raised Mantech's technical rating to acceptable on March 30.
The Navy received BAFOs from all offerors in the competitive range by the April 11 closing date. In the cost portion of its BAFO, Mantech deleted one of the previously approved senior analysts, drastically reduced the hours of the remaining approved analysts from 18,000 to 4,000; and substituted two new senior analysts for the remaining 16,000 required hours for that category without supplying the required resumes or personnel data forms for the new personnel. The substitution was not identified by Mantech in the technical portion of its BAFO; instead, the cost portion of the BAFO merely contained a significant reduction in the hourly rate for the senior analyst labor category and included letters of commitment from the two new personnel.
As a result of Mantech's unexplained personnel substitutions and the firm's failure to demonstrate that the new analysts proposed met the minimum criteria of the RFP, the Navy concluded that Mantech's proposal was technically unacceptable. Nevertheless, the Navy also conducted a cost realism analysis of Mantech's proposal based upon the proposed hourly rates for the substitute analysts, presuming their credentials were acceptable, and concluded that Mantech's evaluated price was higher than Taurio's. After conducting a greatest value analysis, the Navy awarded the contract to Taurio on May 15. Mantech protested the award to our Office on May 25.
Mantech first protests that the RFP did not identify all the evaluation factors or their relative degree of importance.
Section M of the RFP specified two evaluation factors, technical capability and cost, listed in descending order of importance. addition, that section stated that proposals should contain a response to each of the areas identified in Section L, Instruction to Offerors, which had a bearing on the identified evaluation factors, specifically directing offerors' attention to Section L39, Submission of Proposals. Section L39 described the requirements for content of the technical proposal, and stated that offerors should include three sections in the following order: personnel, technical approach/management approach, and corporate experience. Four pages of detail concerning these factors followed.
The personnel section specifically required that a "personnel qualifications sheet" be completed for key personnel in addition to personnel data forms, resumes and other supporting data. Key personnel were identified as, at a minimum, a program manager, two senior analysts (providing a total of 20,000 hours), two training program analysts, and two senior training engineers. The clause also noted that substitution of key personnel was subject to section H23, Key Personnel Requirements, which stated that any changes in key personnel whose personnel data forms were submitted for evaluation of the proposal, had to be approved by the contracting officer.
A solicitation must clearly advise offerors of the broad scheme to be employed and give reasonably definite information concerning the relative importance of the evaluation factors in relation to each other. Associated Chem. and Envtl. Servs., et al., 67 Comp.Gen. 314 (1988), 88-1 CPD Para. 248. However, a contracting agency need not specifically identify the evaluation subfactors it uses if they are reasonably related to the evaluation criteria set out in the solicitation. VGS, Inc., B-233116, Jan. 25, 1989, 89-1 CPD Para. 83.
Here, although the technical evaluation subfactors were not specifically identified in the evaluation section of the RFP, they were explicitly articulated in the RFP instructions, and offerors were clearly directed to the instructions in the evaluation section and notified that responses were required to all areas bearing on the two stated evaluation factors. The RFP instructions stated that the technical proposal was required to include a personnel section, a technical approach/management approach section and a corporate experience section, in the order listed. Detailed requirements followed each of the factors listed under technical proposal content.
The source selection plan followed by the evaluators reflected the three evaluation subfactors. In addition, discussion questions to all offerors focused on deficiencies in each of the three areas, and, with Mantech, the Navy discussed all three areas: the importance of the senior analyst category of key personnel, its management approach, and its corporate experience.
Accordingly, it is clear from the detailed reference to the three technical proposal requirements in the RFP instructions, and the discussion questions to offerors, that proposals were to be judged on the three technical evaluation subfactors: personnel, management/technical approach, and corporate experience, all reasonably related to the evaluation factor, technical capability, and that submission of detailed information on these factors was required. Therefore, we think that offerors were on notice of the evaluation scheme to be employed by the Navy, of the relative importance of the two main evaluation factors, and of the three technical capability subfactors and their importance for that evaluation factor. See Associated Chem. and Envtl. Servs., et al. 67 Comp Gen. 314, supra.
We also find that the Navy reasonably determined that Mantech's proposal was unacceptable at the BAFO stage. A basic principle of negotiated procurement is that a technical evaluation is made on the basis of the proposal as submitted. Comten-Comress, B-183379, June 30, 1975, 75-1 CPD Para. 400. In evaluating proposals, including BAFOs, agencies may reasonably reject a proposal for "informational" deficiencies if material additions would be required to make them acceptable. Realty Ventures/Idaho, B-226167, May 18, 1987, 87-1 CPD Para. 523. Moreover, an agency is not required to help an offeror by conducting successive rounds of discussions until omissions are corrected and the proposal is brought up to an acceptable level. See Technical Servs. Corp., B-216408.2, June 5, 1985, 85-1 CPD Para. 640.
The record here indicates that Mantech modified its original offer in the key personnel area in the cost portion of its BAFO without submitting any changes to the technical portion, and without submitting the required forms to enable the Navy to evaluate those personnel. Moreover, Mantech did so after two rounds of discussion submissions, and specific notification by the contracting officer of the importance of the senior analyst personnel category and of the risk associated with the submission of new information at the BAFO stage in the event that Navy had any further questions regarding its response.
Accordingly, by modifying the personnel in its earlier proposal without providing adequate supporting documentation as to their qualifications in its BAFO, Mantech assumed the risk that the change might result in the rejection of its proposal rather than in further discussions, since an agency is not required to reopen discussions when a deficiency is first introduced in a BAFO in order to provide a firm with an opportunity to revise its proposal. Inter-Continental Equip., Inc., B-224244, Feb. 5, 1987, 87-1 CPD Para. 122. It is up to the procuring agency to decide when the negotiation and offer stage of a procurement has concluded, and we do not find that the Navy abused its discretion by failing to reopen discussions to allow Mantech to submit documentation for newly proposed personnel.
Mantech also contends that its failure to supply the qualifications for the two analysts was too minor a deficiency to justify downgrading its "technically superior" proposal to technically unacceptable. As a preliminary matter, the record shows that Mantech's proposal was not technically superior; on the contrary, Mantech would have been the lowest ranked technically of the offerors in the competitive range even if its score had not been reduced due to its unsupported personnel changes. Thus, a variety of factors, not just Mantech's failure to furnish the personnel qualifications, contributed to Mantech's final score. Further, in our view the reduction in Mantech's final score was reasonable in view of the importance of the two analysts and the agency's inability to assess their qualifications due to Mantech's failure to provide any information on them.
The protest is denied.