By Government Contracts Editorial Staff
The Court of Federal Claims enjoined performance of a contract for advanced helicopter flight training support because the source selection authority’s best-value tradeoff analysis improperly minimized real differences between the proposals and amounted to a lowest price technically acceptable selection. The solicitation provided that price was the least important evaluation factor but its “degree of importance … [would] increase with the degree of equality of the proposals.” The awardee received the lowest combined rating of the 4 offerors in the competitive range and, compared to the other 3 offerors, its proposed price was approximately 3, 6, and 16.5 percent lower. The protester contended the SSA improperly converted the best value solicitation to an LPTA procurement.
Smoothed over Significant Differences. The court agreed, finding “the SSA attempted to equalize the relative merits of the four offerors in the competitive range.” Although the SSA’s comparative analysis acknowledged the differences in the offerors’ ratings, the SSA “smoothed over” any significant differences between the proposals by emphasizing the government’s “reasonable expectation” the offerors could “successfully perform the services required” and determining the proposals were “substantially the same.” After finding the non-price aspects of the proposals were “equal, or virtually equal,” the SSA concluded price was “[t]he determining factor.” By “minimiz[ing] the real differences between the proposals and creat[ing] a false impression of equivalence,” the SSA based the selection decision “largely on price instead of on the non-price factors” (55 CCF ¶79,666). The relatively small difference between the proposed prices highlighted the SSA’s failure to actively weigh the offerors’ nonprice ratings versus their price premiums. Since the protester succeeded on the merits and the other relevant factors favored injunctive relief, the court enjoined performance of the contract and ordered the government to reevaluate the competitive range proposals and make a new source selection decision. (System Studies & Simulation, Inc. v. U.S., et al., FedCl, 64 CCF ¶81,817)
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