General Dynamics IT to get second shot at $400M VA contract Collins

GDIT successfully argued it was at a disadvantage in how the Veterans Affairs Department evaluated proposals.

General Dynamics IT is getting at least a second chance at what could be a $400 million Veterans Affairs Department contract after the Government Accountability Office sustained the company's protest.

GAO evaluated the VA's decision to award that contract to GovernmentCIO and said the VA made several mistakes that unfairly put GDIT at a disadvantage.

GAO found fault in how the VA evaluated GovCIO’s proposal and said the department arrived at an “unreasonable” award decision, according to the GAO decision.

“GDIT was prejudiced by these errors,” GAO wrote in its conclusion.

GAO found the VA did not evaluate the proposals in a way that was consistent with the solicitation. The VA also did not adequately document its decision to pick GovCIO.

Both companies are competing for a contract with the Veterans Benefits Administration for file conversion services. VBA wants a contractor to convert files into standard and searchable electronic files in the PDF format. Those files include veteran disability claims, official military personnel files, service treatment records and other records from government and military entities.

GDIT is the incumbent for some of the work.

Bidders with positions on the VA’s Veterans Intake, Conversion and Communication Services vehicle were eligible for the contract that was competed as a task order.

The order runs for up to three years – one initial base year and a pair of individual option years.

The VA had three factors in its evaluations – technical, past performance and price. Technical and past performance count for more than price. The technical factor also was more important than the past performance.

According to GAO’s recap of the evaluation, GDIT scored higher on the technical factor with a “Good” compared to GovCIO’s “Satisfactory.” Both companies scored “Low Risk” for the past performance factor.

GDIT’s technical proposal received eight strengths and three weaknesses. GovCIO’s technical proposal received five strengths, one weakness and one “significant” weakness.

The price difference between the two proposals was wide. GDIT submitted a price of $399.6 million and GovCIO's was $241.6 million.

The VA’s source selection authority said that while GDIT’s proposal had stronger technical merit, there was “no significant advantages or disadvantages between the offers to justify” GDIT’s higher price.

In its protest, GDIT raised two points that resonated with GAO.

GAO determined the VA unreasonably evaluated GovCIO’s past performance and the experience elements of the technical factor.

GAO agreed with GDIT that GovCIO’s past performance references should have been found not relevant. As GAO saw it, the references were smaller than the solicitation required and did not involve all of the same requirements as set out in the request for proposals.

For the technical factor's experience element, GDIT argued the VA gave GovCIO a strength for experience not included in its proposal.

The VA also didn’t explain or document how it determined that GovCIO’s experience matched the requirements in the solicitation, GAO said in agreement with that part of GDIT's argument.

The protest was not a complete slam dunk for GDIT. GAO didn’t agree that aspects of GDIT’s proposal should have gotten higher ratings. GAO also rejected GDIT’s contention that one of its strengths should have been two instead.

“We find not basis to conclude that the [GDIT} evaluation was unreasonable,” GAO wrote.

But those findings didn’t overcome the problems GAO found with how the VA evaluated GovCIO’s proposal.

In its recommendation, GAO says that VA should re-evaluate GovCIO’s proposal and make a new award that “ensures that the comparison of the offerors’ proposals is consistent with the solicitation’s award criteria, adequately support, and adequately documented.”

While this is a strong decision in GDIT’s favor, it is not a guarantee that it will be the ultimate winner.

The price gap of more than $150 million will be hard to overcome. The deciding factor may be if the VA can accept GovCIO’s past performance examples and if there is enough in its proposal to prove that company has the experience necessary for the work.