By Jeff Shapiro
As I highlighted in my last post, following Federal Government RFP procedures is even more relevant given a recent United States Court of Federal Claims decision.
Strategic Business Solutions, Inc. (SBSI) protested a decision made by the Defense Intelligence Agency to exclude them from a $75M competitive IDIQ acquisition. They were barred because they failed to follow explicit RFP instructions to redact information concerning its own identity, the identities of personnel, and the identities of its subcontractors and their personnel as required by the solicitation. There were more than 100 instances of noncompliance with this requirement. SBSI argued that this was a minor error and the requirement should have been waived. The court disagreed and upheld DIA’s decision to bar SBSI from the competition. Here is a link to the case.
This case further demonstrates that it is crucial government contractors read, understand, and respect RFP requirements, including all amendments. Then, they must demonstrate this understanding within the proposals. If, for some reason, a contractor thinks a specific RFP requirement is unfair, unreasonable, or too burdensome to comply with, the contractor should utilize a pre-final RFP exchange with industry, as outlined in FAR 15.201. This would allow them to interact with the requesting Agency’s procurement officers to gain a better understanding of the requirement and/or reduce proposal efforts necessary to respond to the RFP.
In this instance, a prospective offeror asked a question regarding what should be redacted. DIA provided a copy of this question and an explicit response in an amendment to the RFP. Therefore, not only should government contractors recognize the requirements as written within the formal RFP, they must carefully review prospective offeror questions and government answers to gain a better understanding of what is essential to be submitted in response to a solicitation.