Three vendors protest Navy RFP for IT asset management

The companies allege the service wired the contract to another vendor and put restrictive clauses in the solicitation.

Three companies have protested a Navy request for proposals for servicewide information technology asset management software. BDNA, Column Technologies and Information Management Resources submitted to the Government Accountability Office complaints that the Navy included provisions that made the procurement unfair and potentially wired to Eracent, an IT asset management company. GAO has until Nov. 7 to make a decision. The protests come after repeated complaints from vendors to the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command about the draft RFP, concept of operations and final RFP. Spawar issued the request July 19 and bids were due July 30. But now that vendors have filed protests, the Navy will delay the procurement. A Navy spokesman said the service is aware of the protests and “will fully cooperate to ensure the appropriate process is followed.” Vendors estimate the contract to be worth between $35 million and $40 million over the life of the deal. Multiple vendor sources said this was one of the most obvious cases of a wired procurement they had ever seen. For example, when the Navy issued its draft RFP, the concept of operations named Eracent’s products 75 times. Navy has since removed the document from the Web, but vendor sources said the RFP still lists multiple requirements that favor Eracent. “All requirements put in there were done to shrink competition,” said an industry executive who requested anonymity. “The only companies that could bid this are single-product companies that only sold asset management software and [earned] below $18 million in revenue, and had a SSAA in the last three years. Yet the RFP did not require a single benchmark, test or pilot, nor a reference of similar size and scope to the Navy.” An SSAA, or System Security Authorization Agreement, is a document that defines all system specifications. It also describes the applicable set of planning and certification actions, resources, and documentation required to support the certification and accreditation. Other vendors said some provisions in the RFP restrict competition. “They put in a clause that says during the term of the contract and three years after completion, the contractor will not supply the product as prime or subcontractor to” the Defense Department, said Martha Daniel, chief executive officer and president of IMRI, a software and services reseller. “How can you restrict me when you are not asking for custom solution? How can they tell us we can’t sell to anyone else in DOD? You should have right to resell your product.” Daniel said large companies would not let a reseller adhere to such a clause because it is overly restrictive. Although she said she wasn’t sure if the Navy wired the RFP to Eracent, it would make sense to for the company to sign up to such a provision if it was trying to get its foot in the market. BDNA, meanwhile, said in its protest, which Federal Computer Week obtained a redacted version of, that the solicitation is noncompetitive and favors Eracent. "The requirements for fair and open competition are well established, which this RFP and history on this effort were clearly eliminating any and all competition, as demonstrated by multiple protests,” said Clark Campbell, BDNA’s public-sector director. BDNA also wrote in the protest that the evaluation factors are unreasonable and the RFP is tainted by organizational conflict of interest. BDNA alleges that a Navy employee, whose name was redacted, will assist the department in evaluating offers, while the person also is configuring the hardware architecture to implement the Eracent software. BDNA wants the Navy to either withdraw the RFP or substantially rewrite it to minimally describe the department’s needs. An Eracent spokesman would not comment on BDNA’s allegations or the RFP in general, and only would point to the fact the company has had a successful test with the Navy and has worked with other large entities including the British Ministry of Defence. The third vendor, Column Technologies, which protested the contract, did not return calls for comment.

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