“I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me”: Protester Unable to Negate Weakness, Add Strengths, or Convince GAO Its Past Performance Was Relevant; GVI Inc., GAO B-419397, B-419397.2

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Protest objecting to agency’s technical, past performance, and cost evaluation is denied. The protester objected to a weakness assigned under the technical factor, but GAO found the weakness warranted because the protester had proposed an untested approach. The protester claimed it was entitled to an additional strength. Alas, GAO found that the protester’s approach merely met, but did not exceed the solicitation’s, requirements. The protester contended the agency erred in finding one of its past performance references only somewhat relevant. GAO rejected the argument, finding the reference only satisfied a fraction of the tasks in the SOW.

The Navy posted an RFP seeking support towed array SONAR programs. Four offerors including, GVI, Inc. and Leidos, Inc., submitted proposals. The Navy found that Leidos’s higher-rated, higher-priced proposal offered the best value. GVI protested.

GVI objected to a weakness assessed to its technical approach. The solicitation required the contractor to maintain inventory levels using the NATSC Depot Appliation (NDA). The Navy assigned GVI a weakness because it proposed to use its own unvetted, unvalidated, and unverified system as an inventory planning tool. The Navy believed GVI’s tool increased the risk of unsuccessful performance.

GVI argued that it system was not unvetted or unverified; rather, it had been using the tool on another Navy contract. But GAO noted that while GVI claimed its tool was not unvetted, GVI’s proposal stated that the company would create and implement the tool during the first 30 days of performance. Thus, the tool GVI planned to use had not yet been created or tested.

GVI also disputed the Navy’s finding that the company’s tool would be used as the primary planning tool. GVI claimed that it did not propose its own tool as the primary tool because the solicitation required offerors to use the NDA. GAO, however, found that GVI had not indicated in its proposal that it would use the NDA as the primary tool once it had created its own planning tool.

Additionally, GAO reasoned, GVI had not explained in its proposal how its proposed tool would benefit the government. It did not detail how the tool worked, how long it had been in operation, or why it was successful. Given that the solicitation already required offerors to use the NADA, the Navy reasonably concluded that GVI’s approach to use an uncreated tool merited a weakness.

GVI further argued that its technical approach deserved a strength for proposing an earned value reporting system not required by the solicitation. GAO, however, found that this earned value reporting tool was nothing special; it was just the tool that GVI proposed to meet its reporting requirements. Thus, the reporting system simply met, but did not exceed, the solicitation requirements.

GVI also objected to the agency’s past performance evaluation. The Navy had found that one of GVI’s references was only relevant to 3 of the 12 tasks on the statemen or work. Accordingly, the Navy had found the reference only somewhat relevant. According to GVI, however, this reference was relevant to all of the tasks not just 3.

But GAO reviewed several required tasks and found the reference wanting. For instance, the statement of work required the contractor to repair, upgrade, and/or refurbish towed array assets. GVI’s reference indicated that the company had experience in testing and analyzing towed arrays but not repairing them. Also, the statement of work required offerors to perform inventory and purchase order management, but GVI’s reference did not address these requirements. Moreover, the solicitation required a quality management system. GVI’s reference did not mention a quality management system. GAO had no basis to question GVI’s somewhat relevant past performance rating.

GVI contended that the Navy failed to consider that it offered a significantly higher percentage of small business involvement than Leidos. But GAO reasoned that the small business participation factor was the least important factor and it was only evaluated as acceptable or unacceptable. The solicitation never suggested that there should be a comparative analysis of small business participation.

Lastly, GVI complained that the agency had unreasonably adjusted some its labor rated for employees covered by the service contract labor standards. The solicitation provided that the Navy would evaluate cost realism by comparing proposed escalation rates to the Global Insight escalation rate. GVI proposed a rate for service contract employees that differed from the Global Insight. The Navy did not accept GVI’s explanation for the different rates and thus upwardly adjusted GVI’s rates. GVI contended that its rate was based on the last five years of rates, so the Navy’s adjustment was unreasonable.

GAO found that the Navy reasonably adjusted GVI’s rates. The Navy was not required to accept GVI’s assumption that rates would not increase. The fact that rates had not increased in the past was not a guarantee that they would not increase in the future.

GVI is represented by Christopher J. Slottee and Kainui M. Smith of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt. The intervenor, Leidos, is represented by James J. McCullough, Anayansi Rodriguez, Michael J. Anstett, Christopher Bell of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. The agency is represented by Richard C. Dale and Diana Murphy of the Navy. GAO attorneys Mary G. Curcio and Laura Eyester participated in the preparation of the decision.