GAO: USDA improperly awarded $141 million sole source contract

The U.S. Department of Agriculture improperly awarded a $141 million sole source contract in exchange for the contractor’s agreement to withdraw a GAO bid protest.

According to a recent GAO bid protest decision, the award violated the Competition in Contracting Act, which does not permit an agency to award a sole source contract in exchange for a contractor’s promise to terminate litigation against the agency.

The GAO’s decision in Coulson Aviation (USA), Inc., et al., B-409356.2 et al.(Mar. 31, 2014) involved the USDA’s procurement of next generation (“NextGen”) large airtanker services for wildland firefighting support.  The Air Force initially issued a solicitation for the NextGen airtanker services in 2011.  After corrective action taken in response to a GAO bid protest, the USDA awarded NextGen contracts to four companies.  Neptune Aviation Services, Inc., which had initially been identified as an awardee before the protest, was not awarded a NextGen contract.

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Dozens of companies file bid protests in DHS competition for IT projects

The Department of Homeland Security’s seven-year, $22 billion Eagle 2 information technology contract is getting buried under vendor protests, according to the Government Accountability Office.

More than 49 companies have filed protests against DHS with the GAO. Another firm, STG Inc., has filed a complaint in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

GAO has 100 days to review each bid protest, which could drag out any task order awards until March. DHS awarded the small-business portion of Eagle 2 on Sept. 6 and the unrestricted portion on Sept. 27.

The companies protesting the award include Accenture Federal Services, Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Harris IT Services Corp. and CGI Federal.

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GAO tosses Harris bid protest against $3.5 billion Navy network contract

The Government Accountabilty Office (GAO) denied Harris Corp.’s protest of the award of a $3.5 billion contract to HP Enterprise Services for the Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network designed to serve 800,000 Navy and Marine users located in the United States.

GAO has not released details of its NGEN decision. After the award in June, Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said at a media briefing that HP came in with a lower price than the other bidder on the contract, Computer Sciences Corp partnered with Harris. Both companies filed protests, and CSC withdrew its protest on Aug. 26.

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Bid protests won’t get processed during shutdown

The “vast majority” of its personnel cannot work during the government shutdown, the Government Accountability Office said on its website, noting that this includes staff in its bid protest office.

The GAO Office of General Counsel determined that the bid protest office must close for the duration of the shutdown. “There will be no personnel monitoring protest filings at GAO during the time our office is closed,” GAO noted.

Any new protest received while GAO is closed will be treated as filed on the day that GAO resumes operations. Any deadline for an agency filing — such as an agency report or other filing requested by GAO — may, upon request, be extended by up to one day for each day that GAO is closed.

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‘Fundamental’ procurement reforms called for

The Professional Services Council is lobbying members of Congress and administration officials for “fundamental” acquisition reforms across government, including expanding the reach of the White House procurement office and exploring ways to decrease bid protests.

Officials for the trade group, which represents government services contractors, said it’s too early to say how the bid protest process might be reformed, but industry leader joined in the chorus of complaints long echoed by government officials.

“There’s a certain amount of frustration that it slows business down,” said Ellen Glover, a commission member and executive vice president of ICF International Inc. Her comments came during a press briefing as the PSC unveiled a commission report addressing what officials called “the intersection of federal human capital, acquisition and technology.”

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Is it time to reinvent acquisition?

Federal IT managers and contractors need an acquisition workforce and relationships that are better equipped to handle shifting technologies and economic uncertainty, a new Professional Services Council study found.

The study, released Sept. 9 and titled “From Crisis to Opportunity,” shows federal IT management is not keeping up with technological changes. While 85 percent of the federal IT leaders polled said IT was “extremely important,” just 25 percent said their workforce was “extremely competent” in complex IT acquisition skills. More than 50 percent rated such competencies as “average or worse.”

In remarks at a Sept. 9 press conference, PSC President and CEO Stan Soloway said three fundamental problems plague federal acquisition:

  1. Difficulties in developing modern acquisition training and maintaining a strong federal workforce.
  2. A lack of collaboration within federal agencies.
  3. A lack of strong leadership at some government agencies.

While there are strong acquisition programs at the Office of Management and Budget and Department of Homeland Security, Soloway said, others are not forward-looking enough when it comes to developing and maintaining acquisition personnel.

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AWS disputes GAO bid protest favoring IBM in CIA cloud computing contract

Amazon Web Services is challenging in the Court of Federal Claims the  Government Accountability Office’s June bid  protest decision overturning its win of a CIA cloud services contract worth  up to $600 million over 4 years, with additional options.

In a redacted complaint unsealed Aug. 20, Amazon attorneys from the firm of Arnold & Porter argue  that the GAO arrived at the wrong conclusions surrounding two points from a  protest brought by IBM, which lost out to AWS on the CIA contract. Following the  GAO’s decision, the CIA reopened discussions with offerors and called for new  proposals due by Aug. 16; Amazon first filed its complaint on July 24.

In its decision, the GAO said IBM was correct that the CIA misevaluated a  part of its pricing proposal. In its suit, AWS accuses IBM of “seeking to  exploit a perceived ambiguity in the instructions” and the GAO of jettisoning  established law to recharacterize IBM’s protest as a matter of price evaluation  rather than the evaluation criteria.

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No brand loyalty in government contracting without adequate justification

It is natural for individual consumers to have their favorite brands. Once you find something you like, it can be uncomfortable, and sometimes even risky, to take a chance on something different. As the world’s largest consumer, the Federal Government is not immune to developing loyalty towards particular brands of the products it purchases. However, unlike the average individual consumer, the Federal Government is not generally free to purchase goods and services however it pleases. Rather, it is encumbered by rules which make loyalty to one particular brand a little more difficult to achieve.

A recent bid protest decision issued by GAO illustrates this difficulty. In Desktop Alert, Inc., the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) issued a solicitation for emergency mass notification software, products and services. In the predecessor contract, DCMA used a product known as the AtHoc Mass Notification System. The current solicitation was issued under the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) procedures specifically seeking the AtHoc software, along with upgrades, training, and other related services. The solicitation restricted the competition to GSA FSS contract holders authorized as AtHoc resellers.

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How bid protests are slowing down procurements

The Navy announced June 27 it was awarding Hewlett Packard a potential five-year, $3.5 billion contract to develop a computer network to serve up to 800,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel.

Three weeks later, the inevitable happened: The losing party, a team of Harris Corp. and Computer Sciences Corp., filed a protest, potentially delaying the contract award by more than three months.

This came as no surprise to Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.

“There is no defense against a protest, but there is absolutely preparation to ensure that in the event of a protest that the government prevail, and we took every measured step to do that,” Stackley said.

Last year, losing bidders deluged the Government Accountability Office with 2,475 bid protests — a 50 percent increase since 2008. And although GAO upholds only a small number of bid protests, they still have a big impact. They have become so common that agencies expect them, build them into their contracting timelines, and regularly train their procurement staffs on how to minimize them, according to agency officials and outside experts.

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Bid protests stop clock on $3.5 billion Navy network contract

Computer Sciences Corp. and Harris Corp. filed protests with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Monday, July 15, 2013 against the Navy’s award of its Next-Generation Enterprise Network contract to HP Enterprise Services.

The deal – valued at $3.5 billion over five years — will replace the current Navy Marine Corps Intranet contract next year. NGEN will serve 800,000 Navy and Marine users located in the United States, but not overseas.

During a media briefing following the June 27 award, Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said HP came in with a lower price than the other bidder on the contract, Computer Sciences Corp. CSC had partnered with Harris on its bid.

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