In re D.O.N. Protective Services, Inc., B-249066
|23 October 1992
|Matter of: D.O.N. Protective Services, Inc.
|Comptroller General of the United States
Protest challenging agency's technical evaluation of proposals is denied where General Accounting Office's review of protester's proposal confirms that proposal failed to address certain requirements. Protest alleging that agency improperly made upward adjustments to proposed costs under cost-reimbursement solicitation is denied where agency had reasonable basis for adjustments. Protest of agency's alleged failure to consider protester's status as a labor surplus area concern is without merit where place of contract performance is not a labor surplus area. Protest allegation that agency's pre-proposal site visit was insufficient to allow offerors other than the Incumbent contractor to prepare adequate proposals is untimely where not filed before proposals were due.
D.O.N Protective Services, Inc. protests the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) decision to award a contract to Steinhoff & Sadler, Inc. (SSI), under request for proposals (RFP) No. 13-SSC-P-92-1, for security services at the John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. D.O.N primarily alleges that the agency improperly found SSI's proposal superior to D.O.N.'s, notwithstanding SSI's higher cost.
We deny the protest in part and dismiss it in part.
The RFP, issued on February 10, 1992, contemplated award of a cost plus award fee contract for a base year and 4 option years, based on estimated levels of effort for standard and emergency services. Proposals were to be evaluated based on the following four criteria: mission suitability and cost which were considered approximately equal in importance relevant experience/past performance, which was considered less important than the first two factors; and other considerations, which was considered least important.
NASA received twelve proposals in response to the solicitation; the agency determined three proposals (including those submitted by D.O.N. and SSI, the incumbent contractor) to be in the competitive range. NASA then conducted written and oral discussions with the offerors and requested best and final offers (BAFO). Based upon the evaluation of BAFOs, SSI's proposal was ranked first and D.O.N.'s proposal was ranked second. While D.O.N.'s proposal was found to have a slightly lower probable cost than SSI's--$9, 920, 508 versus $10, 151, 561--the agency determined that SSI's proposal offered substantial technical advantages in the areas of mission suitability and experience/past performance. Furthermore, the agency noted that not only did D.O.N.'s cost advantage amount to less than $50, 000 per year over the expected 5-year life of the contract, but in addition the evaluators attached a "high confidence level" to SSI's probable cost and only a "moderate confidence level" to D.O.N.'s probable cost. As a result, the agency determined that SSI's proposal was most advantageous to the government. Upon learning of the resulting decision to make award to SSI, D.O.N. filed an agency level protest; when the contracting officer denied that protest, D.O.N. filed this protest with our Office.
D.O.N challenges the evaluation under the technical evaluation factors for mission suitability and corporate experience/past performance.
The evaluation of proposals and the determination of their relative merits is primarily the function of the procuring agency, since it is the agency that is responsible for defining its needs and the best method of accommodating them, and must bear the burden of any difficulties resulting from a defective evaluation. Dimensions Travel Co., B-224214, Jan. 13, l987 87-1 CPD Para. 52. In reviewing protests against allegedly improper evaluations, therefore, we examine the record only to determine whether the agency's judgment was reasonable and in accord with the evaluation criteria listed in the RFP. Taft Broadcasting Corp., B-222818, July 29, 1986, 86-2 CPD Para. 125. As discussed below, the record establishes that the agency's technical evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria.
Under the mission suitability factor, the most important technical evaluation factor, the RFP set forth the following subfactors and their relative weights:
a. Management plan/understanding the requirement:
Operating plan and procedures Organization plan
b. Key personnel:
Senior management personnel Other personnel
c. Corporate resources:
Staffing Human resource and control plan
1, 000 points
The Source Evaluation Committee (SEC) rated SSI's proposal "excellent" under this factor, with a score of 980 points, while D.O.N.'s proposal was rated "very good" at 898 points. As discussed below, the principal weaknesses perceived in D.O.N.'s proposal were in the areas of operating plan and procedures, other personnel, and staffing plan.
Operating plan and procedures subfactor
D.O.N.'s proposal earned a rating of very good under this subfactor with 248 of 275 points; SSI was rated excellent at 267 points. Although the SEC noted a number of strengths in this area of D.O.N.'s initial proposal--including the level of detail in the operating plan, a comprehensive safety plan and safety training program, and the identification of potential risks with proposals for mitigating them--it identified three "weaknesses, " two of which were not corrected during discussions: (1) a lack of specific plans for handling government property, and (2) a lack of specific information about training for new requirements. D.O.N. asserts that it corrected these problems in its responses to NASA's discussion questions.
Our review of the record, however, supports NASA's view that the weaknesses were not corrected. When asked to explain its procedures for handling government property, D.O.N. responded with a brief list of NASA handbooks that it would use to guide it in developing procedures, and a list of categories (e.g., acquisition, property records, damage reports) in which procedures would be developed. D.O.N., however, did not describe the actual procedures it would follow in handling government property. We therefore find the agency reasonably concluded, based on this response, that D.O.N. had not adequately explained its procedures in this regard.
As for D.O.N.'s perceived failure to provide sufficient information on training for new requirements, we note that D.O.N. was asked during discussions to elaborate on its training plan; its response, however, did not address new training requirements. While D.O.N. argues that its training plan should not have been downgraded on this basis because it was otherwise comprehensive and detailed, it is undisputed that its proposal did not address training for new requirements, and D.O.N. does not dispute that new requirements may arise during the course of the contract. We therefore find no basis for questioning the agency's downgrading of the proposal in this area.
Other personnel subfactor
Under the subfactor for other personnel, D.O.N. received an adjectival rating of good, with 81 of 125 possible points; SSI was rated excellent at 123 points. Although the SEC recognized the extensive experience of D.O.N.'s proposed personnel, it found two deficiencies: the proposed investigator demonstrated no criminal investigative experience, and one of the proposed shift supervisors had not worked in law enforcement or security between 1983 and 1991. D.O.N. contends that the agency improperly downgraded its proposed investigator under this subfactor because criminal investigative experience was not required and, in any case, the individual does in fact have investigative experience. In addition, D.O.N. asserts that the agency failed to give proper credit for the proposed shift supervisor's extensive relevant experience.
We find that the record supports NASA's conclusions. The RFP listed among the required duties of management and supervisory level employees the investigation of missing, stolen or damaged government property. At oral discussions, the proposed investigator was asked to elaborate on his background; his response confirmed that his experience was primarily in the areas of intelligence and communications. While this experience included extensive internal audit work, it appears to have been related more to business administration than to security or law enforcement. In our view, given his assigned duties as set forth in the RFP, NASA properly considered the criminal investigative experience of D.O.N.'s proposed investigator and reasonably downgraded the proposal when D.O.N. failed to establish that the proposed individual possessed such experience. With respect to the proposed shift supervisor, we think NASA reasonably found the individual's lack of recent experience in the security field to be a deficiency; D.O.N.'s disagreement with that conclusion does not render is unreasonable. ESCO. Inc., 66 Comp.Gen. 404 (1987), 87-1 CPD Para. 450.
Staffing plan subfactor
D.O.N initially earned an adjectival rating of very good, scoring 108 of 120 points, under the subfactor for staffing plan; SSI was rated excellent with 118 points. The SEC's primary concern in this area was insufficient staffing of the main (South) reception area during peak hours--D.O.N.'s cost proposal indicated that only a single receptionist would be work ing at this location. As D.O.N.'s staffing plan did not discuss receptionist coverage, D.O.N. was asked during discussions to explain the duties and responsibilities of the receptionists. In its response, D.O.N. acknowledged the significant duties and...
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