Magnitude of Awardee’s Price Premium Did Not Make Best-Value Tradeoff “Facially Deficient”; Janus Global Operations, LLC, GAO B-418989 et al.

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Protest challenging the agency’s evaluation and tradeoff decision is denied. The protester objected to the best-value tradeoff arguing that the magnitude of the awardee’s price premium rendered the tradeoff analysis deficient. GAO, however, found that the agency reasonably weighed the technical benefits and costs of each offeror’s proposal. The protester alleged the awardee failed to propose staffing positions required by the solicitation. But GAO found that these purported positions were not required by the solicitation. The protester contended that the awardee should have received a lower past performance rating. GAO noted that a past performance evaluation is highly discretionary and by nature subjective. The agency had not abused its discretion in evaluating past performance.

The Army issued a task order request for proposals seeking security support services in Kuwait. Janus Global Operations and Triple Canopy, Inc. submitted proposals. The Army awarded the task order to Triple Canopy, finding that its technical proposal contained five strengths and one significant strength while Janus’s only had one strength. Janus protested the award.

Janus objected to the best-value determination arguing that the Army made no attempt to justify the selection of Triple Canopy’s higher-priced proposal. Janus further complained that the selection decision contained no discussion of the advantages of Triple Canopy’s proposal. Indeed, Janus claimed the magnitude of the Triple Canopy’s price premium rendered the entire tradeoff facially deficient.

GAO rejected all of these arguments. The selection decision discussed the relative merits of the proposal under the technical factor, which was significantly more important than other factors. The decision specifically referenced Triple Canopy’s technical superiority and its associated benefits. Also, there was no doubt the selection official was aware of the relative costs associated with each proposal. GAO declined to find that the Triple Canopy’s price rendered the tradeoff deficient. The selection official had broad discretion with regard to cost/technical tradeoffs. GAO found that discretion had not been abused.

Janus contended that the Army misevaluated Triple Canopy under a personnel management subfactor because its proposal did not contain an “operations center watch officer” required by the PWS and thus should have been found technically unacceptable. But GAO found that the required positions listed in the PWS did not include an operations watch officer.

Janus believed that the Army personnel management evaluation was flawed because Triple Canopy’s total staffing was lower than Janus’s, which indicated that the agency had failed to determine whether Triple Canopy could meet personnel requirements. GAO, however, found that the Army properly evaluated Triple Canopy’s proposed staffing based on the PWS, not on the basis of Janus’s proposed staffing.

Janus objected to the price reasonableness analysis, arguing that the Army failed to meaningfully compare offerors prices. Instead, Janus, complained the Army compared prices to an invalid government estimate. The record, however, showed that the Army compared the prices received to each other. GAO also found that the government estimate was appropriately based on the historical costs of providing security forces in Kuwait. Given that the contract involved matters affecting human life and safety, GAO refused to substitute its own judgement for that of the agency.

Lastly, Janus contended that Triple Canopy’s past performance record was inconsistent with the satisfactory confidence rating the company received. GAO noted that an agency’s evaluation of past performance is a matter of discretion and, but its very nature, is subjective. GAO will not substitute its judgement for reasonably based evaluation ratings. GAO declined to apply its own subjective judgment to the merits of Triple Canopy’s past performance record.

Janus is represented by Terry L. Elling, Gregory H. Hallmark, and Kelsey M. Hayes of Holland & Knight LLP. The intervenor, Triple Canopy, is represented by Daniel Strouse and John J. O’Brien of Cordatis Law LLP. The agency is represented by Alexa B. Bryan and Scott A. Johnson of the Army. GAO attorneys Glenn G. Wolcott and Christina Sklarew participated in the preparation of the decision.

GAO Janus Global Operations