No Time for Sleep? GAO says Short Bid Window was Reasonable

The protester in a recent mattress procurement case won’t sleep easy after GAO’s decision. In Warrior Service Company, B-417612 (Aug.16, 2019), GAO reminded protesters that one week can be a reasonable amount of time to allow bids.

Here, the VA solicited contractors to supply and install 200 new mattresses, and remove old ones, at the VA South Texas Health Care System. The RFQ was posted on on May 21 of this year, with bids due on May 28, just one week later.

The protester raised two grounds. First, it alleged that it was “unable to find the solicitation on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website because the agency improperly classified the procurement.” Specifically, the contracting officer had classified the RFQ under a NAICS code for “Medical, dental & veterinary equipment & supplies,” while the protester argued it should have held a services NAICS code.

On this ground, GAO reminded the protester that, to the extent it argued the wrong NAICS code was applied, NAICS appeals belong with SBA’s OHA, not GAO (as discussed previously on this blog). In any case, GAO found the contracting officer’s classification of the RFQ appropriate.

Second, the protester argued that a week was not enough time for it to respond to the RFQ and “the VA did not reasonably take into account the complexity, commerciality, availability, and urgency of this particular procurement.” Normally, FAR 5.203(c)  requires an agency to “allow at least a 30-day response time for receipt of bids or proposals from the date of issuance of a solicitation.” But this requirement applies only if the solicitation is not for commercial items and the contract is expected to exceed the simplified acquisition threshold.

Ultimately, GAO denied the protest, holding that “the procurement [was] for the installation and removal of 200 mattresses, and [did] not require the submission of lengthy technical quotations.” What’s more, GAO deemed the requested mattresses “commercial items,” agreeing with the VA that mattresses are a “readily available, off-the-shelf product with little to no complexity.”

Even though tight turn-around times can be a real pain, this decision provides potential protesters with important reminders about GAO’s jurisdiction and bid timeliness rules.

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