Protester and Awardee Had Same Adjectival Rating, But Agency Found Awardee’s Technical Approach Superior. Did the Agency Improperly Weight Technical Elements?

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The protester and the awardee both received a good rating under the technical factor. But the agency found the awardee had a technically superior proposal. The protester claimed this finding contravened the solicitation, which stated that technical elements would not be weighted. The protester reasoned that if both offerors received the same rating, the agency could not have found the awardee superior without weighting the technical elements. GAO didn’t agree. The agency hadn’t weighted the elements. Rather, it had reasonably found differences in relation to the elements that favored the awardee.

American Electronics, Inc., GAO B-421306, B-421306.2


The Navy issued a solicitation to women-owned businesses holding the NAVAIR program management multiple award contract. The solicitation sought to award a task order for support of foreign military sales. Three vendors, including American Electronics StarCon Service Group, submitted proposals. The Navy awarded the contract to StarCon. American protested.


Weighting of Technical Elements

American and StarCon had both received a good rating under the solicitation’s technical factor. While they received the same adjectival rating, the Navy found that StarCon had a superior technical approach. American contended this finding contravened the solicitation. If both offerors received the same adjectival rating but one had a superior, then contrary to the solicitation, the Navy must’ve weighted the technical elements.

GAO didn’t see it this way. The record simply showed the agency evaluated all the elements under the technical factor as a whole; it had not improperly weighted any of the technical elements. Instead, the Navy had simply found a difference between the two proposal in relation of to the specific elements. This difference favored StarCon.

Best-Vale Tradeoff

American also complained about the best-value tradeoff. American alleged the Navy had failed to justify StarCon’s higher price. But the record showed the SSA had acknowledged that StarCon’s price was 7 percent higher. The Navy further found the StarCon’s technical advantage justified this higher price.

American is represented by Edward J. Tolchin of Offit Kurman, P.A. The intervenor, StarCon, is represented by Matthew Schoonover, Matthew P. Moriarty, John M. Mattox II, Ian P. Patterson, and Timothy J. Laughlin of the Schoonover & Moriarty LLC. The agency is represented by Brian Ritter of the Navy. GAO attorneys Paul N. Wengert and Tania Calhoun participated in the decision.

–Case summary by Craig LaChance, Senior Editor