Protester Alleges Disparate Treatment, GAO Finds Protester Submitted Inferior Proposal; DirectViz Solutions, LLC, GAO B-418706, B-418706.2

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Protest challenging agency’s technical evaluation is denied. The protester alleged the agency disparately evaluated various aspects of its own and the awardee’s proposals. GAO found, however, that in each instance where the protester alleged disparate treatment, the awardee had offered a different, and superior, approach. The protester also objected to the best value tradeoff, arguing that the agency disregarded its lower price. But the solicitation provided that the technical factor was significantly more important than price. The agency reasonably selected a technically-superior, higher-priced proposal.

The Army posted a solicitation seeking to award a task order for enterprise information technology services. Eight offerors submitted proposals. The Army found that proposals submitted by DirectViz Solutions, LLC and Exeter Information Technology Services, LLC were the most highly rated. After performing a tradeoff, the SSA awarded the task order to Exeter. Although Exeter had a higher price than DirectViz, the SSA found that Exeter had a technically superior proposal that justified the higher price. DirectViz protested.

DirectViz alleged the Army disparately evaluated staffing and retention plans by crediting Exeter an advantage for proposing a position dedicated to staff recruitment. DirectViz contended that as the incumbent contractor it could recruit personnel and provide the same benefits as Exeter without a separate recruiter position. GAO opined that the Army reasonably found that Exeter’s proposal innovative. The company’s addition of a recruiting position reduced the risk of service interruptions by allowing the program manager to focus on operations. DirectViz’s approach did not offer the same benefits.

DirectViz next claimed that the Army unreasonably assessed an advantage to Exeter for receiving a superior rating from the Defense Security Service in its most recent security vulnerability assessment.  DirectViz contended that the high rating provided no meaningful benefit to the agency. But GAO found that a superior Defense Security Service rating is achieved by only three percent of contractors. The Army identified specific benefits flowing from this high rating. While DirectViz may have disagreed with the Army, it did not mean the agency’s judgments were unreasonable.

DirectViz argued the Army unequally evaluated configuration management plans. The Army found that DirectViz provided a “detailed approach” but that Exeter proposed a “robust” plan. GAO found that Exeter proposed a more advantageous configuration plan. Indeed, only one of the four configuration plans cited by the agency had been included in DirectViz’s plan.

DirectViz further contended that the Army disparately evaluated proposals under the disaster recovery plan testing because both parties proposed a disaster recovery plan testing on annual basis but only Exeter was assessed a positive discriminator for this feature of its proposal. GAO, however, found that Exeter’s proposed scheduling of the disaster recovery plan would provide benefits beyond the annual test proposed by DirectViz.

DirectViz also objected to the Army’s evaluation of the offerors’ proposed risk management frameworks. But the solicitation provided that when evaluating risk management, an offeror’s ability to concurrently manage multiple accreditation packages would be viewed more favorably. GAO found that it was reasonable for the agency to give more credit to Exeter’s risk management framework because Exeter had more experience and would have gained additional knowledge of developed processed.

Lastly, DirectViz challenged the best value tradeoff, alleging that the Army disregarded DirectViz’s price advantage. GAO disagreed, noting that the solicitation provided that the technical factor was significantly more important than price. The record showed the SSA had considered the qualitative value of proposals and reasonably determined that Exeter’s approach warranted a higher price.

DirectViz is represented by Damien C. Specht, Sandeep N. Nandivada, and Caitlin A. Crujido of Morrison & Foerster LLP. The intervenor, Exeter, is represented by Scott F. Lane, Katherine S. Nucci, and Jayna M. Rust of Thompson Coburn LLP. The agency is represented by Matthew R. Wilson and Warren A. Reardon of the Army. GAO attorneys Christopher Alwood and Christina Sklarew participated in the preparation of the decision.

GAO - DirectViz Solutions