For small government subcontractors, here’s some good news from the U.S. Army. In a recent GAO bid protest decision, the Army eliminated a proposal from consideration because the prime contractor appeared to ignore the small business subcontracting requirement—and the GAO denied the prime’s GAO bid protest.
The GAO’s decision in Mission1st Group, Inc., B-404811.3, B-404811.6 (June 2, 2011) involved an Army procurement for a variety of support services. The procurement was issued on a “performance-based” basis, and included a statement of objectives, including to “increase use of small business subcontractors and teaming partners.” In their proposals, offerors were to explain how they would meet the Army’s stated objectives.
Mission1st Group submitted a proposal in which it omitted the words “small business” from the Army’s objective, merely offering to “increase the use of subcontractors and teaming partners.” As a result, the Army gave Mission1st a “red/unacceptable” rating for the mission support evaluation factor, and determined that Mission1st’s entire proposal was unacceptable.
Mission1st filed a GAO bid protest, arguing that its “inadvertent” omission of the words “small business” was immaterial and should not have justified its unacceptable rating. The GAO didn’t buy what Mission1st was selling.
The GAO wrote that the Army’s objective “was clearly focused on increasing the use of small business subcontractors and teaming partners, rather that subcontractors and teaming partners generally.” By omitting the term “small business,” Mission1st’s proposal “entirely fails to reflect the import of the agency’s objective.” The GAO agreed with the Army that the omission of the phrase “small business” was “both a material omission and a deficiency,” and justified the Army’s “red/unacceptable” rating. The GAO denied the protest.
The Mission1st Group GAO bid protest decision is good news for small government subcontractors who might worry that agencies and primes don’t always take their small business subcontracting goals seriously enough. At least in this case, the Army’s strong commitment to small business subcontracting was evident. And for primes who might otherwise be inclined not to worry too much about small business subcontracting, Mission1st Group may serve as a wake-up call.