“Hey Look Ma, I’m a Supervisor!”: GAO Finds that Oversight of Personnel Is Unnecessary to Satisfy “Supervisory Experience” Requirement—Supervision of Equipment and Activities Is Sufficient; Rig Masters, Inc., GAO B-417374.5, B-417374.6


Protest alleging that agency unreasonably evaluated the awardee’s proposed project manager is denied. The protester argued that the awardee’s project manager lacked supervisory experience as required by the solicitation. But GAO reasoned that while the awardee’s project manager did not have experience supervising people, he had experience supervising equipment and processes. This type of experience, GAO concluded, satisfied the solicitation’s “supervisory” requirement. The protester also alleged that the agency treated offerors unequally by being forgiving and solicitous when evaluating the awardee’s project manager but stringent when evaluating the protester’s. GAO, however, found that any disparate treatment was based on meaningful differences between the offerors’ proposed project managers.

The Army Corps of Engineers issued a solicitation seeking maintenance and repair services for lock and dam facilities in Louisiana. Rig Masters, Inc., the incumbent, and Re-Engineered Business Solutions, Inc. (RBS) submitted proposals. Following two protests and two corrective actions, the Corps ended up awarding the contract RBS. The Corps concluded that Rig Masters’ proposal was unacceptable because its proposed project manager lacked supervisory experience and experience as a lack and dam operator. Rig Masters protested.

Rig Masters argued that the Corps had ignored the plain meaning of the solicitation’s staffing requirements. The solicitation required offerors to propose a project manager with five years of supervisory experience. RBS proposed a foreman who had previously worked for Rig Masters. Rig Masters contended that the foreman did not actually have any meaningful supervisory experience.

GAO believed that Rig Masters was correct insofar as the foreman’s resume did not specifically detail any experience supervising personnel. But, GAO found, this wasn’t a problem because the foreman’s resume demonstrated responsibility over, and supervision of, lock and dam functions and activities, including equipment and facilities, lock security and inspection, and testing and maintenance. GAO concluded that this type of experience was sufficiently relevant to the project manager position because it was supervisory in nature and involved similar responsibilities.

Rig Masters also asserted that the Corps engaged in unequal treatment in evaluating its proposed project manager. Specifically, Rig Masters contended that the Corps found RBS’s project manager acceptable but rejected Rig Masters’ project manager even though Rig Masters’ had worked closely with the Corps on the incumbent contract. What’s more he was President of the company and thus supervised all of Rig Masters.

But GAO found that the Corps treated the offerors differently because there were meaningful differences between the resumes of their proposed project managers. RBS’s resume included specific details, relevant dates, and demonstrated specific experience as a lock and dam operator. Rig Masters’ resume lacked dates and job titles and did not demonstrate how the individual’s experience met the solicitation’s requirements. Moreover, GAO noted that while Rig Masters’ project manager was certified lock and dam operator, it appeared that he had only been certified for a year, not for five years as the solicitation required.

Finally, Rig Masters alleged that statements made by the contracting officer in response to the protest indicated that the Corps had relaxed or waived the requirements for a product manager out of a belief that the requirements did not matter because the incumbent project manager had a right of first refusal.

GAO rejected this argument, reasoning that there was no indication in the record that the contracting officer had relaxed or waived project manager requirements. Indeed, as GAO had found, the agency reasonably evaluated RBS’s proposed project manager as meeting the requirements.

Rig Masters is represented by David R. Johnson and Tyler E. Robinson of Vinson & Elkins LLP. The intervenor, RBS, is represented by Wayne A. Keup of Wayne A. Keup, PLLC. The agency is represented by Thomas J. Warren, David Dyer, and Steven H. Finch of the Army. GAO attorneys Alexander O. Levine and Jennifer D. Westfall-McGrail participated in the preparation of the decision.

GAO - Rig Masters