Agency’s Discretion Over Solicitation’s Technical Specifications Isn’t Unlimited

A major tenet in government contracting is that agencies enjoy broad discretion in identifying their needs and developing the most appropriate solicitation to satisfy them. Though broad, this discretion is not unlimited. If challenged, an agency must demonstrate that its specifications are reasonably necessary to meet its needs and are not unduly restrictive of competition.

GAO recently affirmed this principle in Pitney Bowes, Inc., B-413876.2 (Feb. 13, 2017), when it sustained a protest challenging a solicitation’s requirements as being unduly restrictive of competition.

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Evaluation Of Subcontractor Past Performance Not Required For FSS Procurements

For Federal Supply Schedule procurements, agencies are not required to evaluate past performance references of subcontractors, unless the solicitation provides otherwise.

As one offeror recently discovered in Atlantic Systems Group, Inc., B-413901 (Jan. 9, 2017), unlike negotiated procurements, where agencies “should” evaluate the past performance of subcontractors that will perform major or critical aspects of the contract, offerors bidding under FSS solicitations should not assume that a subcontractor’s past performance will be considered.

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GAO: Failure To Explain Prejudice Doomed Otherwise Successful Protest

Imagine that you’re a manufacturer of appliances, and respond to a solicitation seeking one of your appliances (on a brand name basis). You, of course, propose to provide your appliance. But you lose out on an award to an offeror that submits an offer for a different appliance that admittedly does not comply with the solicitation’s minimum requirements.

In this situation, you’d probably be fairly upset. And as a recent GAO decision acknowledged, you’d likely have a successful basis of protest—that is, if you could establish that you were prejudiced by the government’s award decision, and if you understood what exactly the GAO means by “prejudice.”

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GAO: Agency Erred By Issuing Out-of-Scope Task Order

An agency’s task order award was improper because the order was outside the scope of the underlying IDIQ contract.

In Threat Management Group, LLC, GAO sustained a protest holding that the Air Force violated the Competition in Contracting Act by issuing a task order for some work beyond the scope of the awardee’s IDIQ contract. GAO’s decision highlights the fact that an order must be within the scope of the underlying contract–and the award of an out-of-scope order can be successfully challenged in a bid protest. Continue reading

GAO Reaffirms Agencies’ Broad Discretion to (Not) Consider Price Realism for Fixed-Price Contracts

We are quickly approaching our 1000th blog post on the SmallGovCon blog. To celebrate we want to reward one lucky reader with a free one hour custom webinar for up to 50 people presented by Steven Koprince on the government contracting topic of your choice! You can enter by using the hashtag #SGC1000 on Twitter or Facebook just by telling us why you read the blog or what you love most about. You can also simply fill out this form to be entered. Good Luck!


As a general rule, an agency is only required to evaluate a fixed-price offer for reasonableness (that is, whether the price is too high). Agencies are not required to evaluate fixed-price offers for realism (that is, whether the price is too low) and, in fact, cannot do so unless the solicitation advises offerors that a realism evaluation will be conducted.

GAO recently reaffirmed this principle when it denied a protest challenging an agency’s refusal to consider the realism of offerors’ fixed prices as part of a corrective action, even though the agency suspected that at least one offeror’s price was unrealistically low.

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GAO: Extraneous Information Sinks Offeror’s Proposal

A recent GAO decision should serve to caution offerors to be careful what they include with their proposals. Any information that contradicts the proposal or otherwise does not conform to the terms of the solicitation could result in disqualification.

In Independent Systems, Inc., B-413246 (Comp. Gen. Sept. 15, 2016), GAO held that the agency could reasonably disqualify an offeror based on extraneous information the offeror included with the intent of providing the agency with more information, but not changing the terms of the offer.

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8(a) Sole Source Decision: “Bad Faith” Bid Protest An Uphill Battle

An agency’s decision to award a contract as an 8(a) sole source is a “business decision” for which the agency has broad discretion–and a potential protester challenging the agency’s use of that discretion will have an uphill battle.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO confirmed that government officials are presumed to act in good faith, and that the presumption extends to the decision to award an 8(a) sole source contract instead of competing the work in question.

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