Deficiencies Warranted for Proposal that Failed to Detail Offeror’s Capabilities; Trailboss Enterprises, Inc., GAO B-419209

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Protest objecting to deficiencies assigned to protester’s proposal is denied. GAO found the deficiencies were justified because the protester failed to provide detail on its capabilities. The protester argued the solicitation contained a latent ambiguity as to the amount of detail requirement for a web portal. GAO, however, determined that the solicitation contained a patent ambiguity, which the protester was required to object to before the proposal deadline.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued an RFP contemplating award of an IDIQ contract for detainee transportation services. Trailboss Enterprises and G4S Secure Solutions, among others, submitted proposals. ICE selected G4S for award. G4S had one of the highest-rated proposals. Moreover, G4S had a lower price than Trailboss’s lower-rated proposal. Trailboss protested.

Trailboss challenged a deficiency assessed to its proposal for failing to demonstrate how it would meet the PWS’s IT security requirements. GAO found the deficiency was justified. The RFP stated that ICE would evaluate each offeror’s understanding of the PWS technical requirements, which included IT security requirements. Trailboss’s proposal provided only a conclusory statement that it would adhere to the IT requirements. It is an offeror’s responsibility to submit a well-written proposal that demonstrates compliance with all solicitation requirements.

Trailboss argued that the IT security requirements were the subject of a post-award contract deliverable, not an evaluation criteria. Thus, the company contended, IT requirements did not need to be addressed in the proposal.

GAO rejected this argument, reasoning that an agency may properly take into account matters that are not expressly identified but are logically encompassed in the evaluation criteria. Here, ICE evaluated offerors’ understanding of the PWS requirements. The IT security requirements were part of the PWS requirements. ICE was entitled to consider IT requirements.

Trailboss also objected to a deficiency it received for a lack of a detailed description of its web-based service portal. Again, GAO found the deficiency was warranted. Trailboss only provided a cursory overview of its web-based portal and did not detail performance, schedule, or how the system will comply with standards.

Trailboss argued that the solicitation contained a latent ambiguity concerning the portal. One portion of the RFP required offerors to provide a “detailed description” of the portal, while the other only required a “conceptual description” of the portal.

GAO rejected this argument, finding that the solicitation actually contained a patent ambiguity. The conflict between the “detailed description” language and the “conceptual description” language was obvious from the face of the proposal.  If Trailboss was confused by the language, it should have filed a protest challenging the terms of the solicitation before the proposal deadline. Any challenge to the language at this point was untimely.

Trailboss is represented by Shaun C. Kennedy, Chris R. Hogle, Thomas A. Morales, Chris D. Mack, and Hannah E. Armentrout of Holland & Hart LLP. The intervenor, G4S, is represented by Gerald H. Werfel and H. Todd Whay of Baker Cronogue, Tolle & Werfel, LLP. The agency is represented by Mark E. Menacker of the Department of Homeland Security. GAO attorneys Louis A. Chiarella and Peter H. Tran participated in the preparation of the decision.

GAO Trailboss Enterprises