Devil’s in the Details

By Grace Mahan

Because a high level of detail allows for substantive comparison between different bids, it is important both in securing contract awards and in the process of protesting awards after unsuccessful bids. A recent GAO protest ruling, Beacon Grace, LLC, recently highlighted the importance of detail in the government contract bidding process.

In 2017, Beacon Grace, LLC, lost a contract award with the Department of Transportation (DOT) because its bid was deemed to be “vague as concerned to the specific requirements outlined” and “talked in generalities without specifically demonstrating an understanding of the variables.” In other words, the bid failed because it lacked requisite detail.

Beacon protested the award, arguing that DOT’s evaluation of its proposal was inconsistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria — which called for a “high-level” response — by requiring more detail than was called for. The GAO, however, rejected Beacon’s protest and supported the validity of the award. In doing so, it concluded that the agency’s selection was consistent with its stated evaluation criteria, which focused on a demonstrated understanding of key technical issues and the soundness of proposed strategies for meeting contract requirements.

Beacon ultimately lost the DOT award because its bid was too vague. Accordingly, the protest serves as a strong example of the importance of detail in bids. Furthermore, it is worth noting that in addition to the problem with the lack of detail in its original bid, Beacon’s protest was likely also hindered by the lack of detail in its offer.

A high level of detail in bids is particularly important during protests because the GAO does not substitute its judgment for that of an agency regarding the merits of particular proposals. Rather, when reviewing protests that challenge an agency’s evaluation of bids, the GAO only assesses whether an agency determination was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria. Adequate detail is essential to such evaluation as it gives the GAO points of comparison upon which to judge the merits of individual bids against one another and against the requirements of an agency as spelled out in its contract solicitations.

Our firm has extensive experience in the bid protest process. Please contact any of our lawyers if we may be able to assist you with these or other matters.

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