GAO Identifies the Lacunae In Agency’s Swiss Cheese Evaluation; Avionic Instruments LLC, GAO B-418604, B-418604.2

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Protest challenging agency’s technical evaluation is sustained. The protester argued that the agency unreasonably evaluated the awardee’s experience. GAO agreed, finding that there was nothing in the contemporaneous evaluation record to indicate that the agency had considered the awardee’s experience relative to the SOW requirements. The protester also contended that the agency disparately evaluated offerors’ ability to produce deliverables on time. GAO agreed again, finding that the agency failed to explain why it thought the awardee was in a better position than the protester to deliver on time.

The Navy issued a solicitation for the development and production of an inverter for helicopters. The inverter converts the helicopters’ direct current into alternating current, making it usable for other electronic needs.

Avionic Instruments LLC and Physical Optics Corporation (POC) submitted proposals. The Navy found that both companies’ proposals were passable. Neither proposal received a strength, weakness, or deficiency. The Navy did, however, assess three risk reducers to Avionic and four risk reducers to POC. Because the proposals were technically similar, the Navy found that POC’s proposal, which had a lower price, represented the best value to the government. Avionic protested.

Avionic first contended that the Navy failed to consider that POC and its subcontractor lacked critical experience. The solicitation required offerors to submit statements of work for previously contracts and to identify the portions of those previous SOWs that corresponded to the current requirement. The SOW for the current contract required experience with four different types of design and production review. Avionic argued that POC and its subcontractor only had experience with one type of review.

The Navy submitted a supplemental agency report and a declaration from the leader of the technical evaluation team, which both asserted that the agency had concluded from other parts of POC’s proposal that the company possessed the relevant review experience. But GAO found this was not enough. The record contained no contemporaneous evaluation of whether POC or its subcontractor met the SOW requirements. While GAO will consider post-protest explanations of agency conclusions, it will only consider those explanations if they are consistent with the contemporaneous record. Here, the Navy’s post-protest assertions were the only explanations the agency offered to support its conclusions. GAO gave them little weight. Lacking sufficient support for the Navy’s conclusions, GAO sustained this protest ground.

Avionic also challenged the assignment of a risk reducer to POC for having multiple manufacturing certifications. The Navy reasoned that these certifications demonstrated that POC could timely deliver the inverters. Avionic argued that it should have also received a risk reducer for timely delivery because it could manufacture the inverters in its own facilities.

GAO agreed with Avionic. The Navy provided no rationale as to why possessing manufacturing certifications was better evidence of the ability to timely deliver than a record of successful manufacturing at one’s own facility.

Avionic also argued that the Navy overlooked strengths in its proposal But GAO found that this argument was little more than disagreement with the Navy’s evaluation conclusions.

Avionic is represented by Jonathan D. Shaffer, Armani Vadiee, and Zachary D. Prince of Smith Pachter McWhorter PLC. The intervenor, POC, is represented by John R. Prairie, Cara L. Lasley, and Nicole E. Giles of Wiley Rein LLP. The agency is represented by Eric Carlson and Gina Gascoigne of the Navy. GAO attorneys Kenneth Kilgour and Jennifer D. Westfall-McGrail participated in the preparation of the decision.

GAO - Avionic Instruments LLC