By Government Contracts Editorial Staff
A protest of the terms of an invitation for bids for suicide prevention gun locks was sustained because the IFB did not comply with the requirements of the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006. The IFB sought the gun locks for a Department of Veterans Affairs program. VA designated the acquisition a printing requirement, not an acquisition of gun locks, so the Government Publishing Office issued the IFB for VA under GPO’s authority to provide and procure printing services on behalf of the government (44 USC 501–502). The protester contended the IFB failed to give preference to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses or VOSBs, as required by the Act (38 USC 8127–8128), while the government maintained the Act did not apply because the requirement was being fulfilled under GPO’s independent acquisition authority.
VA Rule of Two Applied. The Comptroller General explained that under the Act’s Rule of Two (§8127(d)), VA must reserve an acquisition for SDVOSBs or VOSBs if there is a reasonable expectation that two or more eligible concerns will submit offers and award can be made at a fair and reasonable price that offers the best value to the government. This requirement has consistently been interpreted as mandatory and of universal application, so it also applies to VA printing acquisitions. This conclusion was supported by the express provisions of §8128(a), which state “in no uncertain terms” that “[i]n procuring goods and services pursuant to … any other provision of law, [VA] shall give priority to a small business concern owned and controlled by veterans.” Thus, any time VA is acquiring goods or services—without limitation—it must determine whether there are at least two SDVOSBs or VOSBs capable of meeting its requirements at a fair and reasonable price. Further, VA failed to comply with §8127(i), which required VA to alert GPO to its unique requirements and have GPO follow them. The Comptroller General recommended GPO coordinate its efforts with the VA and give effect to the Act’s requirements. (Veterans4You, Inc., 34 CGEN ¶116,413)
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