GAO Denies Alliant 2 Protests, Evaluations to Come

Mark Van Scyoc/

The protests questioned GSA's self-scoring system and baseline price.

The Government Accountability Office has dismissed the pre-award bid protests of several companies that took issue with solicitation language in Alliant 2, the $50 billion IT contracting vehicle the General Services Administration put out to bid in June 2016.

The protesting companies—Buchanan & Edwards, Inc., Enterprise Information Services, Inc., InfoReliance Corp. and Sevatec, Inc.—took issue with Alliant 2’s evaluation scheme and claimed the agency’s intent to award tasks orders to 60 contractors was “insufficient.”

The protests essentially put GSA’s innovative, data-driven, objective approach aimed to factor past performance on trial.

» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

Alliant 2 is actually two separate contracts: Alliant 2 Unrestricted, which is open to all contractors and has a $50 billion ceiling over 10 years, and Alliant 2 Small Business, which has a $15 billion ceiling. The top 60 large-company scores in the unrestricted contract and top 80 in the small business version get spots on the contract and can compete for work.

However, both solicitations implement self-scoring systems that ask companies to self-report relevant experience and various certifications in a points-based system. GSA also sets a baseline for fair pricing—another innovation. Both features came under scrutiny in protesting, but GAO’s dismissal gives credence to GSA’s methods.

“Our office has not previously considered the question of whether an agency may properly structure a solicitation using a ‘highest technically rated with a fair and reasonable price’ evaluation scheme,” GAO said in a statement. “Based on the arguments presented by protesters and our review of the relevant statutes and regulations, we find that the protesters have not established that GSA’s source selection process, as defined by this solicitation, is improper.”

GAO likewise dismissed each protester argument, stating—among other responses—that the “Federal Acquisition Regulation permits agencies to use any one or a combination of source selection approaches to obtain the best value.”

"This decision changes the paradigm of how the government has traditionally conducted price/cost analysis. It provides the precedent for innovation across the government during the source selection process," said John Cavadias, senior contracting officer at GSA. "This could also result in a significant time savings—shorter procurement lead times—as it already has with programs in GSA."

GAO’s protest dismissal Wednesday means GSA can get on to evaluating and awards, as noted in a tweet by Mary Davie, who runs the agency’s Information Technology Category Office.

“We had a few protests on Alliant 2 on several issues. They have all been dismissed. We are proceeding with evaluations and award,” Davie tweeted Wednesday.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comments from the General Services Administration.