- Posted on: Jun 22 2022
By: Alexander Jonathan Brittin [6/22/22]
An interesting problem arose in a procurement for the acquisition of audit support services. The solicitation stated that an offeror’s Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) Contract Labor Categories (LCATs) must “align precisely” with the LCATs in the solicitation’s statement of work. Conducted under FAR subpart 8.4, the contractor Grant Thornton, LLC, filed a pre-award protest that objected to a requirement that its LCATs must “align precisely” with the LCATs in the solicitation. Grant Thornton, LLC, B- 416733, Nov. 29, 2018, 2018 CPD ¶ 411. Grant Thornton argued that this was an unjustified restriction on competition.
In Grant Thornton’s case, its FSS LCATs stated that individuals will have “at least,” for example, 10 years of experience. However, the solicitation required “greater than,” for example 12 years of experience, for a particular LCAT. The Army said that if an offeror’s LCATs do not “precisely align” in terms of years of experience then the offeror could not bid. Grant Thornton protested.
GAO agreed with Grant Thornton that “the agency has not justified the inclusion of the challenged solicitation provision, and that the [solicitation’s] provisions are therefore unduly restrictive of competition.”
Undeterred, the Army sought reconsideration based on the decision in Tarheel Specialties, Inc., B-298197, B-298197.2, July 17, 2006, 2006 CPD ¶ 140. The Army argued that Tarheel Specialties allowed it to impose a restriction on LCATs. GAO disagreed pointing out that Tarheel Specialties concerned the failure of a vendor’s FSS schedule contract to align in terms of scope with a solicitation’s functional requirements–it did not involve a challenge of the requirement for alignment of educational and/or experience requirements.
The question of whether an offeror’s FSS contract LCATs are within the “scope” of the solicitation was also addressed in American Sys. Consulting, Inc., B-294644, Dec. 13, 2004, 2004 CPD ¶ 247 and AllWorld Language Consultants, Inc., B-411481.3, Jan. 6, 2016, 2016 CPD
¶ 12. There, GAO held that a FSS LCAT must be within the “scope” of the solicitation’s LCAT.
So, Grant Thornton, LLC, provides the following lessons. First, an offeror’s LCATs do not need to “precisely align” to the LCATs in the solicitation. Second, an offeror’s LCATs do need to be within the “scope” of the LCATs in the solicitation. Finally, this outcome makes sense because almost all FSS contract holders have a limited number LCATs. It’s impossible for an offeror to know all the permutations that an agency will seek in a solicitation. That is, unlimited numbers of LCATs are not feasible or practical. So, a contractor only needs to have LCATs that are within the scope of the solicitation’s requirements. The contractor will then “map” their LCATs to the ones in the solicitation. Mapping requires that the offeror’s LCATs are “comparable” to those in the agency’s solicitation, i.e., within the scope of the solicitation.
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Posted in: Government Contracts