Agency Miscalculated the Percentage Difference Between Proposed Prices, But It Didn’t Prejudice the Protester; UltiSat, Inc, GAO B-418769.2, B-4187698.3

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Protest challenging agency’s technical evaluation and best value tradeoff is denied. The protester alleged the agency should have assigned it a strength under a technical subfactor, but GAO found that the agency had reasonably determined the protester’s proposal did not deserve a strength. The protester also challenged the best value tradeoff noting that price evaluation miscalculated the percentage difference between prices. But GAO found that the protester had not been prejudiced by the calculation error. The award decision was based on the dollar difference between prices, not the percentage difference.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) issued an RFQ to vendors holding GSA Federal Supply Schedule contracts for information technology. The RFQ sought satellite bandwidth and related services. Two vendors, UltiSat, Inc. and SES Government Solutions, Inc., submitted quotations. DISA selected SES for award, reasoning that its higher-priced quotation represented the best overall value. UltiSat protested.

UltiSat argued that DISA had erred in failing to assign its proposal a strength under a technical subfactor for space segment coverage and quality. GAO found that the agency had reasonably declined to assign UltiSat a strength. To receive a strength under this subfactor, offerors had to demonstrate that their solution supported higher achievable throughputs than those specified in the PWS. GAO found that DISA has reasonably determined that UltiSat had not used the same worst-case scenario terminal location throughout its quotation to demonstrate coverage and that this could affect the government’s contingency operations.

UltiSat contended that the assessment of strength to SES under this coverage subfactor constituted unequal treatment. To prove an unequal treatment a protester must show that the differences in ratings did not stem from differences between the quotations. In this case, as UltiSat acknowledged, the vendors proposed different satellites. Moreover, SES’s quotation adequately demonstrated the ability to provide higher throughputs over the entire coverage area.

UltiSat also asserted that the best value analysis was flawed because the agency incorrectly calculated the percentage difference between vendors’ evaluated prices. DISA’s price negotiation memorandum stated that the price difference was 16 percent. The actual price difference was 31 percent.

The agency acknowledged that the price memorandum miscalculated the percentage difference. Nevertheless, GAO found that the UltiSat had not been prejudiced by the error. Notwithstanding that error in the memorandum, the contracting officer was clearly aware of the actual dollar difference between the two proposals. Indeed, the award decision specifically stated that the benefits of SES’s proposal justified the $8.8 million price difference.

UltiSat is represented by Alexander B. Ginsberg, Meghan D. Doherty, and Kevin R. Massoudi of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.  The intervenor, SES, is represented by Keith R. Szeliga and Shaunna Bailey of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP. The agency is represented by Vera A. Strebel, Daniel C. McIntosh, and Colleen A. Eagan of the Defense Information Systems Agency. GAO attorneys April Y. Shields and Christina Sklarew participated in the preparation of the decision.

GAO - UltiSat, Inc.