Government sides with protester on OASIS task to provide CDC NCIRD consultation and R&D activities

“DIGEST – Protest alleging disparate treatment is sustained because the protester received a weakness for failing to address a task identified by the solicitation, yet the record reflects that the awardee’s proposal did not receive a similar weakness even though it also failed to address the same task.”

“BACKGROUND – The CDC issued the solicitation on June 19, 2019, pursuant to the fair opportunity source selection procedures of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) subpart 16.5.  Agency Report (AR), Tab 19, Initial RFP at 2; Tab 13, Revised RFP at 72. The solicitation sought proposals from holders of General Services Administration One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts for work in support of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, within the CDC’s Infectious Diseases office.  Revised RFP at 5.  Specifically, the solicitation sought proposals for “consultation, research and development activities for influenza diagnostics, vaccine development and effectiveness monitoring, antiviral development and effectiveness monitoring, epidemiology and surveillance, quality assurance/control methodologies, processes and procedures, laboratory standards development and technology transfer activities, and [to] provide support to partners to enhance [the CDC’s] capabilities to prevent and respond to national and international influenza epidemics/pandemics.”  Id. at 7.

The CDC issued a task order to CSRA on September 19, and Battelle protested that award to our Office on September 27.  AR, Tab 2, Contracting Officer’s Statement (COS) at 1.  In response, the agency submitted a notice of corrective action, and we dismissed the protest as academic.  Battelle Memorial Institute, B-418047.1, B‑418047.2, Oct. 22, 2019 (unpublished decision).  Following dismissal of Battelle’s protest, the CDC revised and reissued the solicitation to the three top-rated offerors, two of which were Battelle and CSRA.  Revised RFP at 1.  The revised solicitation closed on November 18, and all three offerors submitted proposals.  Id.; COS at 1.

The revised solicitation contemplated issuance of a single time-and-materials task order for a 1-year base period with a one 1-year option period.  Revised RFP at 2-4, 69, 78.  The solicitation provided that award would be made to the offeror whose proposal represented the best value to the government, and that award might be made to a higher-rated higher-priced offeror if that offeror’s approach “outweighs the price difference.”  Id. at 73, 78.  The solicitation established the following five technical evaluation factors and corresponding point values, which, when combined, total 100 points:  (1) technical approach–40 points; (2) similar experience–20 points; (3) staffing plan–20 points; (4) management plan–10 points; and (5) transition plan–10 points.  Id. at 74.  Each of the five technical evaluation factors would be evaluated based on the extent an offeror’s proposal reflected a clear understanding of the requirements.  Id. at 74-77.  Proposals also would be evaluated “on the soundness, practicality, and feasibility” of offerors’ technical approaches, management plans, transition approaches, and staffing plans, as well as “to determine appropriate experience of assigned personnel and” offerors.  Id.  In addition to the five technical evaluation factors, the solicitation provided that the CDC would “evaluate the past performance of the offeror using PPIRS [Past Performance Information Retrieval System].”  Id. at 79. For price, the solicitation provided that the CDC would calculate total evaluated prices, and check for completeness, reasonableness, and unbalanced pricing.  Revised RFP at 77-78.  The solicitation further provided that a price realism analysis “may be conducted.”

After receiving initial proposals from Battelle, CSRA, and a third offeror, engaging in clarifications, and obtaining final proposal revisions, the technical evaluation panel (TEP) developed a consensus evaluation of identified strengths and weaknesses…”

“DISCUSSION – Battelle challenges the agency’s award to CSRA in numerous respects.  According to Battelle, the agency unreasonably evaluated both Battelle and CSRAs’ proposals, engaged in disparate treatment, used a flawed methodology for assigning point scores, ignored the relative importance of the evaluation factors set forth in the solicitation, and failed to conduct a reasonable best-value tradeoff analysis.  As a result, Battelle argues that the agency improperly converted the procurement to one utilizing a lowest-priced technically acceptable award methodology.  We have considered each of Battelle’s arguments, and find that only one evaluation challenge provides a basis to sustain the protest.

Evaluation Challenges

Battelle challenges four of the seven weaknesses the CDC assessed in its proposal–two under the technical approach factor, and one each under the management plan and staffing plan factors.  Battelle also argues that the CDC’s evaluation reflected disparate treatment under each of these factors as well as the experience factor.  As explained below, we sustain one of Battelle’s disparate treatment allegations and conclude that this single instance of disparate treatment forms a sufficient basis to sustain the protest given the closeness of the competition.  We also find that the remaining issues do not provide a basis to sustain the protest, and discuss several representative examples… “

“DECISION – Battelle Memorial Institute, of Columbus, Ohio, protests the issuance of a task order to CSRA, LLC, of Falls Church, Virginia, pursuant to request for proposals (RFP) No. 75D301-19-R-67964, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for consultation, research, and development activities in support of the agency’s work to prevent and respond to national and international influenza epidemics and pandemics.  The protester challenges multiple aspects of the agency’s evaluation of its own and the awardee’s technical proposals, contends that the agency disparately evaluated proposals, and challenges the agency’s methodology for scoring technical evaluations.  The protester further argues that the agency’s best-value tradeoff decision was flawed in multiple ways.

We sustain the protest.”

Read the full 18-page decision here.

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