Protests keep nagging at CIO-SP4 Prasongsin

The National Institutes of Health's flagship IT contract faces new challenges from bidders angry about the number of revisions the agency made during the bidding process.

The terms of the solicitation for the National Institutes of Health's CIO-SP4 contract continue to raise the hackles of government contractors trying to win a spot on that $50 billion vehicle for IT services and solutions.

Entering the fray earlier this month was Octo Consulting and Hendall Inc., who are raising similar arguments previously put forth by others to the Government Accountability Office.

They claim the NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center was wrong to change the evaluation criteria in the CIO-SP4 solicitation and not give bidders the opportunity to revise and resubmit proposals.

Octo is a well-known middle tier in the market, while Hendall is an 18-year-old small business that already holds a spot on CIO-SP3 and both the GSA schedule and the NIH Public Information and Communication Services II vehicles.

CIO-SP4 has been a mess in the eyes of many in industry. The solicitation has gone through 16 amendments, many of them having to do with how past performance is counted and who’s past performance will count with respect to joint venture bidders.

That has been especially troublesome for small businesses entering joint ventures with other small businesses as well as joint ventures with large businesses.

Octo and Hendall are targeting a different set of issues than others have raised, but still point to a troubling pattern at NITAAC that seems to highlight how one fix exposes other issues. A little bit of the law of unintended consequences has been in play it seems.

NITAAC has worked hard to listen and incorporate industry feedback, but as the amendments stacked up they may have been better served to pause and regroup as industry groups recommended.

Contract awards cannot be made until GAO resolves the protests, and decisions are due June 29.

The Octo and Hendall protests are the only active protests at GAO involving CIO-SP4. A third company in Summit Technologies filed a protest in February but withdrew it on March 16. No reason was given for the withdrawal.