DHS now has clear path to award $8.4B services vehicle

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All protests regarding the PACTS III vehicle are now resolved, including those that questioned what small-business set-aside work is acceptable.

The Government Accountability Office has dismissed or denied a set of protests challenging the Homeland Security Department's PACTS III solicitation, a move that clears the way for awards.

DHS issued separate solicitations for each functional area of PACTS III, a potential $8.4 billion professional services vehicle that is set aside for small businesses.

Functional area one covered management consulting, functional area two is for office administrative services and functional area three is for engineering services.

Team Escalate LLC filed protests for each functional area, challenging the methodology for evaluating small business set-asides and joint ventures.

In dismissing those protests, GAO apparently found that Team Escalate didn’t provide enough information to show that DHS violated procurement rules.

GAO has also denied several claims raised by Competitive Innovations LLC. The company complained that DHS created a preference for HUBZone businesses who are also certified in other small business categories.

Competitive Innovations alleged that "HUBZone-plus companies," as they are called in the decision, gain an advantage because they have more past performance examples.

GAO ruled that the solicitation doesn’t state a preference, which means no regulations were violated.

Competitive Innovations also objected to DHS allowing 8(a) firms to use contracts that they won when their 8(a) status was based on a rebuttable presumption of social disadvantage. A court ruling issued in August 2023 said that companies need to submit a “social disadvantaged narrative” to become part of the 8(a) program.

GAO declined to consider that part of Competitive Innovations' protest because the ruling does not apply to past performance in procurements.

“The issue is a matter for the courts, not our office,” GAO wrote.

It remains to be seen if Competitive Innovations takes its argument to the courts or not. That will depend on who DHS chooses for an award on PACTS III.