Them’s the Breaks: Even If Familiar With Protester’s Experience, Agency Has No Obligation to Consider that Experience If It’s Not Included in Protester’s Technical Proposal; BEAT, LLC, GAP B-418235, B-418235.2

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Protest challenging agency’s technical evaluation and cost realism analysis is denied. The protester alleged it should not have received a weakness for failing to demonstrate required experience because its proposal demonstrated the experience. But GAO found that the protester had only made general references to its experience without providing specific examples. The protester contended that the agency already knew it had the required experience from its performance on other contracts. But GAO reasoned that an agency is not required to rely on its knowledge of an offeror’s experience if that experience is not included in the offeror’s technical proposal. The protester also complained that the agency’s cost realism analysis was flawed, and that the agency should have adjusted the protester’s price. GAO found the adjustment reasonable. What’s more, even if the agency had adopted the protester’s realism methodology, it was not have changed the best value analysis.

The Navy issued a solicitation for a task order to support cybersecurity risk operations. BEAT LLC and Sentar, LLC, among other offerors, responded. The Navy awarded the task order to Sentar, finding that its higher-rated proposal warranted its higher price. BEAT protested, challenging the Navy’s technical evaluation and cost realism analysis.

BEAT first objected to a weakness it received for failing to demonstrate experience developing, updating, and maintaining risk posture assessments. BEAT claimed that its proposal demonstrated the required experience.

GAO found the weakness reasonable. BEAT’s proposal generally referenced risk posture assessment it performed on other contracts but it did not describe actual instances where it provided risk posture assessments. Nowhere in its proposal did BEAT describe specific threats that it identified or specific policies it recommended or implemented.

BEAT contended that it should not have received a weakness for risk assessment because the Navy was very familiar with its experience in this area because from other contracts. But GAO denied this protest allegation, reasoning that an agency is not required to import information from other sources that was not provided in the technical proposal.

BEAT next argued that in assigning the company a marginal rating under a technical subfactor, the Navy had made a responsibility determination. BEAT was a small business. Under the SBA regulations, if an agency refuses to consider a small business for award after evaluating them under a traditional responsibility type evaluation factor, then the agency must refer the matter to SBA under its certificate of competency procedures. BEAT, therefore, asserted that the Navy had erred by not referring the matter to SBA.

GAO, however, found that referral to SBA was unnecessary; the Navy had not refused to consider BEAT for award. It included BEAT’s proposal in the tradeoff analysis, compared it against Sentar under each factor, and simply found it wanting. An agency’s determination that a proposal is weak relative to other offerors does not amount to non-responsibility determination.

BEAT further contended that the Navy muffed the cost realism analysis when it adjusted the company’s price to account for subcontractor administration and material handling costs.

GAO didn’t see a problem. In its proposal, BEAT proposed to recover subcontractor administration costs and material handling costs through its general and administrative rate. The Navy asked DCAA about BEAT’s approach. DCAA stated that the BEAT’s G&A rate did not incorporate subcontractor administration or material costs. Based on this, the Navy reasonably adjusted those costs upward.

BEAT still argued that the adjustment was flawed because, based on the pass-through rates the company had in another contract, the Navy should have adjusted costs using an eight percent indirect rate and not BEAT’s full G&A rate.

But, GAO noted, that Navy had actually recalculated using BEAT’s proposed eight percent rate during the debriefing. Even with the rate, the Navy still found that BEAT’s new price would not have affected the best value determination.

BEAT is represented by Kenneth B. Weckstein and Andrew C. Crawford of Brown Rudnick, LLP. The intervenor, Sentar, is represented by Damien C. Specht, R. Locke Bell, and Victoria D. Angle of Morrison & Foerster, LLP. The agency is represented by Scott J. McGuigan and David R. White of the Navy. GAO attorneys Todd C. Culliton and Tania Calhoun participated in the preparation of the decision.

GAO - BEAT, LLC