Understanding the Experience Factor – Another Losing Protest
August 20, 2012
By: Lindsay Simmons
A recent bid protest at the GAO, Sigmatech, Inc., B-406288.2 (Comp. Gen. July 20, 2012), reveals the importance of clearly and explicitly demonstrating that you meet the RFP criteria. Sigmatech protested the Army’s conclusion that its competitor – CAS – had superior experience (CAS was rated outstanding; Sigmatech very good). The protest centered on Sigmatech’s allegations that: (i) although it did not expressly demonstrate it could meet every requirement, its proposal nevertheless addressed all the requirements; and (ii) although it did not have direct experience with the PATRIOT missile program, its team members did – facts the Army allegedly ignored.
GAO does not reevaluate proposals. It examines the record to determine whether the agency’s decision-making was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement law. If an agency reviews and evaluates the advantages and disadvantages of competing proposals fairly, and in accordance with the terms of the solicitation, GAO will uphold the source selection decision as reasonable.
Here the Army found that Sigmatech had not referenced, let alone demonstrated, experience performing certain key requirements. Interestingly, Sigmatech admitted the experience it listed did not expressly address certain requirements, but argued (without explaining how), that its proposal otherwise spoke to these requirements. Not surprisingly, this approach did not satisfy GAO.
With respect to the Army’s evaluation of CAS’s experience as outstanding and superior to Sigmatech’s, Sigmatech’s primary complaint was that CAS received an outstanding rating under the experience factor, even though it too had not demonstrated directly related experience for all of the requirements. True enough, the Army defined an “outstanding” rating as reflecting experience under all aspects of the requirements, yet the record showed the Army knew CAS had not demonstrated experience with three of the requirements. But the record also showed the Army’s thinking on this issue: it had concluded that (i) the three missing requirements were minor; and, more importantly, (ii) CAS had “demonstrate[d] extensive performance capability” and presented virtually no risk. Sigmatech disagreed with the agency’s judgment, but did not show the agency acted unreasonably.
Sigmatech’s final complaint regarding the Army’s evaluation of relevant experience was that the Army weighed CAS’s direct experience more heavily than Sigmatech’s relevant, but not direct, experience. Again GAO disagreed with Sigmatech, this time repeating its often cited position that an agency may assign a higher rating for directly related experience even where such direct experience is not stated as a requirement.
Don’t make assumptions; know. Understand the government’s requirements and the evaluation criteria and connect the dots in your proposal.
Lindsay Simmons is the attorney responsible for the content of this article.