Missteps doomed LinQuest's bid to keep $166M Space Force contract

Gettyimages.com/ MARIIA VASILEVA

The company blamed a time crunch for misunderstanding some of the evaluation notes it received on its recompete bid.

It appears that a series of mistakes and misunderstandings sunk LinQuest Corp.’s attempt to keep a $166 million Space Force contract for research-and-development work.

LinQuest has provided that support to the branch's Joint Navigation Warfare Center since 2018.

Space Force is conducting a multi-phase procurement for this recompete. LinQuest and four other bidders passed phase one, but the company ran into trouble during phase two.

Space Force had 59 evaluation notes it wanted to go over with LinQuest. As described in the Government Accountability Office decision released Wednesday, LinQuest decided to only hold discussions with Space Force on the 11 notes the company considered most serious.

In its protest, the company said it focused on those 11 because it only had one hour to meet with Space Force's team and wanted to focus on the most substantial problems.

LinQuest later submitted a revised proposal, but Space Force found new weaknesses and eliminated the company from the competition.

The level of problems with LinQuest’s revised proposal led Space Force to conclude the company didn’t understand the requirements and that revisions would be too extensive.

The company, of course, disagreed in its protest.

One of Space Force's issues with LinQuest’s proposal focused on the company's cross-utilization approach, where a person in a senior position would support two different Space Force divisions. LinQuest proposed this as a way of lowering costs, but Space Force said it posed a risk to recruitment and retention.

GAO said this was a reasonable conclusion by Space Force.

LinQuest's new bid also eliminated a position based on an evaluation note from its first proposal. Space Force said the position wasn’t to be eliminated, but was proposed by LinQuest for the wrong location.

LinQuest didn’t ask about this position during its discussion over the evaluation notes and apparently had a misunderstanding over that.

The company tried to argue about the time constraints it faced – one hour to review 59 evaluation notes.

But GAO said the issue was partly the company’s doing: "It was the contours of the protester’s own proposal that resulted in that volume of notices."

LinQuest also argued that the problems with the revised proposal were easily fixable, but GAO agreed with Space Force. Because new errors were introduced and this was a revision, Space Force wasn’t obligated to give LinQuest another chance.

The contract is still in the source selection process and valued at $166.3 million, according to Deltek data.