When better wasn't good enough for this $340M task order

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HII had a higher non-price score that unfortunately for them, was not enough for the Navy to justify paying a higher price.

HII's higher-ranked approach wasn’t good enough to overcome ManTech’s better price in a battle for a research-and-development support contract with the Navy.

This newly-released protest decision that went against HII details how the company had a higher-ranked evaluation, getting a score of “Outstanding” for its management approach. But its evaluated price was $361.1 million compared to ManTech’s $337.3 million price.

HII's nonprice scores were “Good” for technical approach, “Outstanding” for management and “Acceptable” for labor basis of estimate. ManTech scored the same except for management approach, where it was rated “Good.”

The task order supports the Navy and was competed through an Air Force vehicle. The Navy wants support for research and development efforts for training systems at the Naval Surface Warfare Center. HII pursued the contract through its acquisition of Alion Science & Technology.

In part of its protest, HII argued it should have been assessed strengths for its labor hour and skill mix approach. But the Navy (working under the Air Force vehicle) had contemporaneous notes supporting its decision not to give a higher rating.

The Government Accountability Office backed the Navy's decision because agencies have a lot of discretion in how they evaluate proposals. Agencies are “responsible for defining its needs and the best method for accommodating them,” GAO wrote.

The source selection authority agreed that HII's proposal was superior, but added that it didn’t justify the higher cost. ManTech's price was 7% lower than that proposed by HII.

GAO agreed the Navy was justified to not pay the higher price, given the quality of ManTech’s proposal.

One big plus for the agency was in how it contemporaneously documented the evaluation, from which GAO determined the Navy's conclusion as reasonable.

“We see nothing objectionable in the SSA’s conclusion that the lower-priced proposal was a better value than a more expensive, slightly higher technically rated proposal,” GAO wrote.