GAO Sustains Protest of $771 Million Defense Intelligence Agency Contract

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The defense agency didn’t sufficiently explain why it picked a cheaper but riskier bid.

This story has been updated with comment from the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The Defense Intelligence Agency should consider re-competing a $771 million information technology task order it awarded to a company called The Buffalo Group last year, a government auditor said Wednesday.

The contracting giant ManTech Advanced Systems International protested the award in October, saying the defense agency didn’t adequately explain its decision.

ManTech’s bid came in higher than The Buffalo Group’s at about $846 million but the company scored better on other factors. Notably, the agency “determined that ManTech’s risk of unsuccessful performance was low and that The Buffalo Group’s risk of unsuccessful performance was moderate,” the decision from the Government Accountability Office states.

The defense agency should have explained in greater detail why the lower price of The Buffalo Group bid was more important than ManTech’s technical superiority, GAO said.

The task order was for the defense agency’s Enhanced Solutions for Information Technology Enterprise, or E-SITE, contract, which covers a huge pool of information technology services.

E-SITE is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, which essentially means the agency can use the contracting vehicle to run quicker competitions among pre-vetted contractors for IT goods and services that fall within the contract’s bailiwick.

The redacted GAO decision provides minimal clues about the contents of the disputed task order, which was for up to five years.

According to the decision, the order focused on “developing new applications, enhancing current applications and eliminating capability overlaps.” It “provide[d] support to users, including war fighters and interagency partners that defend America’s national security interests,” the decision states.

The defense agency should re-write its decision with a better comparative analysis of the offers, GAO said. If the agency determines another bidder made a better offer, it should terminate The Buffalo Group’s contract, the office said.

The agency is "taking corrective action in accordance with GAO's decision," Spokesman James Kudla said. He declined to elaborate because the task order is back in the source selection phase. 

GAO decisions are not binding, but agencies often follow them.