Government Contracts SSA Reasonably Disregarded Lower-Level Evaluators’ Rating
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

SSA Reasonably Disregarded Lower-Level Evaluators’ Rating

By Government Contracts Editorial Staff

A challenge to an evaluation of technical proposals was rejected because the source selection authority reasonably resolved the evaluators’ differing ratings under the ship design evaluation factor. The protest arose from a $496 million contract award for the design and construction of a lead Towing, Salvage, and Rescue Ship and up to seven additional ships. The source selection evaluation board assigned the awardee a rating of “good” under the ship design factor, finding the awardee’s final proposal revision indicated “a thorough understanding of the ship design work to be accomplished and other aspects essential to contract performance,” and “[o]verall, risk of unsuccessful performance [was] low to moderate.” The source selection advisory council largely agreed with the SSEB, except that it rated the awardee “outstanding” under the ship design factor. According to the SSAC, the awardee’s “multiple strengths and margins … substantially more than offset the weaknesses and the risks,” and its FPR “demonstrate[d] an exceptional approach and understanding of the requirements.” In the source selection decision, the SSA cited the SSAC’s findings and concluded “[t]he value associated with [the awardee’s] proposed design outweighs the 1% price premium over the lowest priced proposal.”

Record Supported Decision. The protester questioned the SSA’s decision to adopt the SSAC’s rating instead of the SSEB’s rating, asserting the request for proposals did “not provide for a hierarchy in which the SSA [could] unilaterally overrule the reasoned conclusions of the SSEB regarding technical competency.” However, “[a] source selection official may disagree with the evaluation ratings of lower-level evaluators, and may make an independent evaluation judgment, provided that the basis for that judgment is reasonable and documented in the contemporaneous record.” In denying the protest, the Comptroller General found the SSAC’s independent evaluation of the awardee’s proposal and the SSA’s conclusions agreeing with the SSAC were documented, reasonable, and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria. For example, with respect to the RFP’s non-mandatory requirements, the SSEB found that the awardee’s proposed ship design “exceed[ed] all the seakeeping requirements” and correspondingly assessed a strength. As part of its reasoning for assigning the higher rating, the SSAC considered this strength to be of “significant value to the [g]overnment” and “critical to the primary towing, salvage, and rescue missions of the ship.” Taking all of this into account, the SSA agreed with the SSAC’s rating and specifically noted the awardee’s “proposed design was the only design of the four [o]fferors to meet (and actually exceed) all of the seakeeping requirements.” (Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors, LLC, 33 CGEN ¶116,036).

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