Offeror Not Entitled to Strengths for Aspects of Proposal that Merely Constitute Self-Promotion; MicroTechnologies, LLC, GAO B-418894

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Protest challenging agency’s technical evaluation is denied. The protester objected to a significant weakness it received for inconsistencies between it staffing matrix and labor categories descriptions. The protester argued these were only minor inconsistencies that did not merit a significant weakness. GAO, however, found that the protester failed to submit an adequately written proposal. The protester further alleged the agency applied unstated evaluation criteria, but GAO found this argument was premised on a misreading of the solicitation. Finally, the protester contended that its technical proposal should have been assessed additional strengths. GAO reasoned that the alleged strengths amounted to little more than self-promotion.

The Air Force issued a solicitation seeking information technology support services. The Air Force received proposals from, among others MicroTechnologies, LLC (MicroTech)and SMS Data Products Group. The Air Force awarded the contract to SMS Data, finding that the company had the highest rated proposal and lowest price. MicroTech protested.

The Air Force assessed MicroTech’s proposal a significant weakness, in part, because its staffing matrix either did not include required information about the security clearances for certain positions, or the information provided conflicted with information MicroTech provided in its labor categories descriptions. MicroTech alleged that the problems were minor inconsistencies that did not warrant a significant weakness.

GAO rejected MicroTech’s argument. Every offeror is responsible for submitting an adequately written proposal and bears the risk that the agency may downgrade its proposal where the offeror fails to demonstrate compliance with solicitation requirements. Here, the inconsistency in MicroTech’s proposal reasonably could lead the evaluators to have a concern about the whether MicroTech was proposing to meet the solicitation’s requirements.

MicroTech also asserted that the Air Force applied unstated criteria when evaluating the professional credentials and certifications of certain positions. MicroTech claimed that the solicitation only required offerors’ personnel to meet credentialing requirements at the point they were actually assigned to perform a requirement, not when proposals were submitted. Thus, the agency applied unstated criteria when it penalized the company for not meeting the credential requirements in its proposal.

GAO found the premise of MicroTech’s argument flawed. The solicitation did not require offerors to identify any particular individuals for any of the anticipated positions. Instead, offerors only had to provide the staffing matrix and labor categories with the proposals. Given that the solicitation did not require offerors to propose individuals, the agency could not have applied unstated criteria assessing the credentials of MicroTech’s proposed staff. The Air Force did not even have the information necessary to consider whether prospective individuals might have any particular credentials.

Lastly, MicroTech argued that the Air Force had erred in not assigning additional strengths to the company’s proposal. But GAO found that many of these alleged strengths amounted to little more than attempts at self-promotion. Ultimately, MicroTech simply disagreed with the Air Force’s evaluation conclusions.

MicroTech is represented by b Paul A. Debolt, Emily Unnasch, Chelsea B. Knudson, and Taylor A. Hillman of Venable, LLP. The intervenor, SMS Data, is represented by Eric S. Crusius and Amy Fuentes of Holland & Knight LLP. The agency is represented by Colonel Patricia S. Wiegman-Lenz, Captain Allison K.W. Johnson, Colby L. Sullins, and Linda Vu of the Air Force. GAO attorneys Scott H. Riback and Tania Calhoun participated in the preparation of the decision.

GAO - MicroTechnologies