SmallGovCon: GAO Sustains Protest Where Agency Fails to Properly Justify “Brand Name Only” Requirement

“The GAO’s decision in Westwind Computer Products, Inc., B-420119 (Dec. 8, 2021) involved a USDA solicitation seeking enterprise business solutions licenses and software assurance support. The solicitation was issued to holders of the NASA SEWP V GWAC.

The solicitation specified that vendors were to propose only Microsoft products. In justification of the restriction, the solicitation stated that ‘USDA has standardized on Microsoft Office, email and cloud and has been using these tools for over 20 years.’ The agency also stated that ‘Microsoft products are essential to the government’s need to provide software and security support necessary to meet operational, mission, Executive and Legislative requirements.’…”

“The GAO rejected the USDA’s implicit assertion that the ‘particular feature’ of Microsoft is that ‘it is already in use by USDA.’ The GAO wrote that this assertion was ‘unpersuasive, where the FAR requires that agencies demonstrate, through a comparison of “particular feature[s],” why only one product can meet the agency’s needs.”’ Further, nothing in the agency’s market research included a comparison of Microsoft to Google Workspace, the software Westwind wished to offer…”

“The Westwind Computer Products decision is a good reminder that the FAR disfavors brand-name-only acquisitions and requires agencies to follow certain steps to justify them, even under a GWAC like SEWP V. As the decision demonstrates, even if an agency has been using a particular brand for a long time, this alone may not be enough to justify a restriction to only that brand…” Read the full article here.

Source: GAO Sustains Protest Where Agency Fails to Properly Justify “Brand Name Only” Requirement – By Shane McCall, January 18, 2022. SmallGovCon.

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