GAO faults ‘unreasonable market research’ for failure to set aside contract for SDVOSBs

In an August 20, 2015 ruling, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) conducted insufficient market research in connection with an acquisition and therefore had no grounds for denying set-aside status to the contract.

VA sealThe VA issued an RFP on April 27, 2015, as a small business set-aside, requesting proposals to provide fire and life safety A/E services for Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 20 region medical centers located in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska.

Fire Risk Management, Inc. (FRM), of Bath, Maine, protested the bid based on the VA’s failure to set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) concerns.  FRM asserted that the VA’s decision not to set aside the acquisition for SDVOSBs was based on unreasonable market research.

In defending its decision, the VA stated its belief that it would not receive proposals from at least two responsible SDVOSB concerns that could meet the requirements in the RFP at a fair market price.  But the GAO disagreed, concluding that the VA’s determination that there was not a reasonable expectation that offers would be received from at least two SDVOSB firms that are capable of performing the required work was not supported by the record.

The GAO found that the VA’s contract record did not support the agency’s determination to limit its market research to firms only within the VISN 20 region.  The GAO took note of the fact that the VA’s contract specialist, in a database search specifically directed by the contracting officer, found more than 127 profiles of SDVOSB concerns nationwide “matching the criteria.”  The GAO concluded that had the agency expanded its market research beyond the VISN 20 region it would have discovered numerous SDVOSB A/E concerns doing fire protection work.

In its decision, the GAO recommend that the VA’s contracting officer conduct a proper market survey in accordance with the agency’s requirements for this procurement to ascertain whether there is a reasonable expectation that at least two or more responsible SDVOSB concerns will submit proposals at fair market prices.   The GAO also recommend that the VA reimburse the FRM for the reasonable costs of filing and pursuing the protest, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.  The protester’s certified claim for costs, detailing the time spent and the costs incurred, must be submitted to the VA within 60 days after receipt of the GAO’s decision.

The text of the GAO’s full decision can be found at:



A must do: Sept. 21 & 22 GSA Schedule workshop

Georgia Tech’s Contracting Education Academy now offers a hands-on, consultant-guided workshop designed to help businesses prepare a proposal to win a GSA Schedule contract in a matter of days — not weeks or months.

Registration details on the next GSA Schedule Proposal Preparation Workshop on September 21 and 22, 2015 can be found by clicking here.

Since Georgia Tech’s GSA Schedule Workshop was launched in January 2014, folks have traveled from 10 states to attend.  To date, every single businessperson who’s attended has prepared their proposal, has successfully submitted it to GSA, or has been awarded a contract.

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Participants assemble an actual GSA Schedule proposal during the Georgia Tech workshop.

What Attendees Are Saying

Post-Workshop evaluations show that 100% of attendees say the Workshop met or exceeded their expectations. Here are typical statements made by attendees:

  • “I received a vast amount of information on how to apply for a GSA Schedule contract.  I valued the one-on-one question-answering provided by the instructors.”
  • “I expected a canned presentation consisting of a lot of theoretical advice, but I received practical and specific help to understand the GSA application.  I really valued the instructor’s knowledge and communication skills.”
  • “This workshop provided excellent advice and training, walking through all the documents in detail.  I valued the relaxed environment, the ability to work at my own pace, and the ability to ask lots of questions.”
  • “I now have a complete understanding of the step-by-step process to complete my company’s proposal to the GSA.  The workbook, examples, templates, and the presentation – all very well put together.”

    Learn how to win a GSA Schedule contract in a small group setting.
    Learn how to win a GSA Schedule contract in a small group setting.
  • “I expected a great presentation from Georgia Tech, but was afraid of information overload.  The presenter and the presentation were fantastic …. I now have a much clearer idea of how to get on a GSA Schedule.”
  • “I received one-on-one assistance with filling-out various proposal forms and walking through the submission and upload process.  Fantastic!”
  • “I received significant information and background on what GSA reviewers and contracting officers are looking for, and I valued the forms for completing my GSA Schedule proposal and building my pricing.”

The Facts about GSA Schedules

Is your company considering going after a GSA Schedule contract?  Maybe you should consider these facts:

  • The federal General Services Administration (GSA) awards about $50 billion in blanket contracts known as “Schedules” to hundreds of companies each year.
  • Eighty percent (80%) of Schedule contractors are small businesses who are successful at 36% of those sales.

The process to win a GSA Schedule contract begins with a proposal, an arduous task that often takes several months to prepare. But now, thanks to Georgia Tech’s Workshop — sponsored by the Contracting Education Academy — a GSA proposal can be actually completed during the Workshop.   If a business is not prepared to submit all the documentation at the time of the Workshop, the GSA proposal preparation process easily can be shortened to within 30 days following the Workshop.

Workshop Benefits

By attending Georgia Tech’s GSA Schedule Proposal Preparation Workshop, you will:

  • Save time and money with instructor-guided, do-it-yourself approach.
  • Avoid mistakes that can delay or stop a GSA Schedule proposal from being considered.
  • Receive expert guidance, hands-on personal help, and answers to all of your questions.
  • Be given access to exclusive templates and sample narratives based on successful GSA Schedule offers, and well as a detailed workbook.
  • Receive up to 4 hours of individual consulting following the Workshop to review your package and receive further advice.
  • Earn 15 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.

Registration Details

Don’t miss out!  To register for the Workshop, simply click here. If you have questions or need further information, please email

GSA Schedule Contract

Agencies rely on contractor tool to spot procurement errors

Does federal contract award data need a few good proofreaders?

According to Jeff Sopko, executive vice president of the Alexandria, Va.-based PotomacWave consulting firm, about 20 percent to 30 percent of records in the government’s procurement database contain errors. “They stem from frequent changes in policy and procedures that take time to be implemented in source contract writing, as well as human errors,” he said. “The errors get pushed from the contract writing system to [the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation] with few validation checks.”


To address that problem, PotomacWave in 2012 created a software tool called FedDataCheck.

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VA contractor convicted of bribing former department official

A federal jury has convicted a government contractor for bribing the former director of the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center for confidential information about the department’s construction projects.

VAMark S. Farmer, 55, of Arlington, Va., was convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, theft of government property, and violating the Hobbs Act, an anti-racketeering law. Farmer was an executive at CannonDesign, a global design firm headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., that did work for the VA. William Montague, former director of the Cleveland and Dayton VA Medical Center in Ohio, stole confidential information for Farmer to give him and CannonDesign an advantage over other companies seeking the government’s construction business.

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GTRI represented at White House summit on rural education

The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) representative at a recent roundtable discussion held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the White House Rural Council had a chance to share how the Atlanta-located Georgia Tech unit is working to reach out to the state’s rural students.
GTRI attended a recent roundtable discussion held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the White House Rural Council, organized by Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden.

Organized by the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden, the roundtable discussion centered on the Obama Administration’s goals of the U.S. Department of Education’s investing in rural schools and the Rural Jobs Accelerator. Mindy DiSalvo, a senior research associate working with STEM@GTRI’s science, technology, engineering and math educational initiatives, was invited to speak on Georgia Tech’s behalf.

Existing STEM@GTRI initiatives have impacted more than 1,000 students in rural communities, DiSalvo said. Additionally, GTRI has supported a USDA proposal that, when implemented, will equip classrooms in nine rural school systems with technology and software applications that will enable them to connect with GT laboratories.

“When funded, this program will have the potential to reach thousands of students, most of whom are in schools with an average 28 percent graduation rate, and in communities that have been consistently impoverished for at least 20 years,” DiSalvo said.

Through Georgia Tech’s Direct to Discovery (D2D) program, researchers at GTRI are able to connect with kindergarten through 12th-grade students in their classrooms. This program helps to introduce students to STEM content, college opportunities and careers.

“Our researchers can provide context to the science and technology curriculum and why students should be learning it,” DiSalvo said. “When we are able to share our researchers with classrooms, student invariably say ‘Oh. Now I see why I need to know this.’”

GTRI is no stranger to assisting with educational outreach. GTRI was instrumental in developing the Family Technology Resource Centers in DeKalb County, Georgia, a few decades ago. During his administration, President Bill Clinton gave the FTRC a permanent place in the Smithsonian Institution as an example of an effective community outreach program.