Monday, February 13, 2012

If you are NOT willing to let the customer be "right"...

Follow-up to my previous post.

Via Proposal Cafe and the Washington Business Journal, I ended up at Government Accountability Office File B-406052 (PDF). The PDF documents a GAO review of a protest of award, in which Piton Science and Technology contested the elimination of its proposal from consideration by the U.S. Army.

Here's what happened, in a nutshell:

the RFP advised offerors to assume a range of 23-31 contractor manpower equivalents (CME) at 2,080 hours per year. RFP, attach. 9. Offerors were required to meet all RFP requirements and were warned that failure to do so could result in an offer being ineligible for award. RFP at 68. If offerors found it necessary to take exception to a requirement, they were required to provide a complete explanation of why the exception was taken, what benefit would accrue to the government, and its impact, if any, on the performance, schedule, cost, and specific requirements of the RFP. Id.

So did Piton Science and Technology assume a range of 23-31 contractor manpower equivalents? No. Here's what its proposal said:

Because Team Piton’s partners are the current incumbents executing the work described in STO 1 and understand intrinsically the current contractor support required, we take exception to this given range of 23-31 CMEs. Therefore, for the purpose of our approach and pricing for STO 1, Team Piton will use a figure of 18 CMEs to support STO 1. We believe that providing 18 CMEs, instead of the recommended 23-31 CMEs, will save the Government significant resources in terms of dollars, manpower and facilities, while still offering an innovative approach and ensuring that all tasks described in the [RFP] are executed to standard.

According to the GAO, that is all of the justification that Piton provided for its revised number.

In essence, Piton was saying that the customer was wrong, and then letting the customer decide whether the customer was wrong or not.

Guess what the customer decided?

And, based upon the justification provided by Piton, guess what the GAO decided?

The protest is denied.

Or, in other words, the U.S. Army's disqualification of Piton could not be contested.

It's important to note that the GAO was not asked to decide whether Piton's assertions were correct.

In considering a protest of an agency’s proposal evaluation, our review is confined to determining whether the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation and applicable statutes and regulations.

Any solicitation - or any business endeavor - is conducted by a series of rules, and as long as the solicitation is conducted by the rules, it doesn't matter what the solicitation actually says. If the solicitation requires you to get green cheese from the moon, and if you laughingly say "that's impossible" but your competitor says "sure," don't be surprised if the competitor gets the award. In essence, you would have to provide a ton of data to prove that the moon is not made of green cheese - and even then your bid may be thrown out.

When faced with RFP requirements that violate space and time, you have one of three choices:
  • Agree to the requirement without exception, and hope you can get out of it later.

  • Take exception to the requirement, realizing that you've endangered your chances of winning.

  • Don't bid.
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