NITAAC Statement on GAO Protest Decisions

The Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 4 (CIO-SP4) solicitation has been heavily anticipated by both government and industry, alike. The journey of bringing CIO-SP4 to market has admittedly been a long one, filled with all the expected growing pains of a record setting competitive federal acquisition.  With those growing pains, we also have had to contend with a significant rule change by the Small Business Administration (SBA), some staff turnover, and a heavy amount of media coverage – including rumors and other misinformation.  Today, we’d like to level set where the solicitation stands relative to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) protests.

Although significant attention has been devoted to the protests that were sustained in the GAO decision issued on June 29, 2023, for Systems Plus, Inc., et al., B‑419956.184 et al., and the public decision provided on July 10, 2023, B-419956.200 et al, which consolidated 28 protests and supplemental protests filed by pro se protesters,  it is equally as important to note the overwhelming number of protest arguments/allegations that have been dismissed, withdrawn, or found to have no merit. There have been 350 protests and supplemental protests filed with GAO against the CIO-SP4 procurement. In addition, the agency received 23 agency level protests. Collectively, the agency addressed a significant number of arguments pertaining to CIO-SP4.  However, GAO only has sustained a total of three allegations, including those sustained in the current decisions.     

The most recent GAO decision concurred with the NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center’s (NITAAC) interpretation of the solicitation for the vast majority of arguments, several of those concurrences are highlighted below.  Please note this is not an exhaustive list of the dismissed arguments or arguments that GAO found to have no merit:

  1. Allegations challenging the agency’s exclusion of proposals from Phase 1 on grounds that the solicitation contained undisclosed and unduly restrictive evaluation criteria.
  2. Allegations that the agency’s evaluation criteria created unstated mandatory requirements that were unduly restrictive of competition for small businesses.  
  3. Allegations that the cutlines favored Mentor Protégé Joint Ventures, or small businesses who partnered with large business mentors.
  4. Allegations that the agency relied on unstated criteria and unreasonable methods to establish cutlines (i.e., the three filter analysis).
  5. Allegations that the agency failed to consider all the solicitation evaluation factors in making a Phase 1 determinations.
  6. Allegations that small business offerors had a reasonable basis to expect lower cutlines.  
  7. Allegations that there was unequal treatment of small business and other than small business offerors.
  8. Allegations that the cutlines were improper competitive range determinations that did not follow FAR Part 15.  
  9. Allegations that cutlines were improper de facto non-responsibility determinations that required the agency to refer all Phase 1 unsuccessful offerors’ proposals to the SBA for a certificate of competency determination.
  10. Allegations raised by protestors that the agency improperly departed from evaluation and award criteria by converting the Phase 1 evaluation to a “down-selection” that was the final award decision.
  11. Allegations raised that the agency failed to implement proposed corrective actions in response to protests.
  12. Allegations that the agency’s additional adjustments to cutlines to reflect increased government-wide socioeconomic goals were unreasonable.

Based on the GAO decision in Systems Plus Inc., et al., B‑419956.184 et al. as well as additional decisions addressing pro se protests, NITAAC plans to take the corrective action required to reevaluate all proposals, consistent with the decision.  In the meantime, the CIO-SP3 programs currently expire October 29, 2023, and although we do not anticipate needing an additional six months we will provide it to April 29, 2024, to ensure there is no gap in contractual coverage for our customers between CIO-SP3 and CIO-SP4.  

Rest assured, NITAAC is steadfastly working to bring CIO-SP4 to market. The $50 billion GWAC will be the go-to resource for agencies looking to procure information technology (IT)— such as blockchain, cybersecurity, agile software development and “as-a-service-solutions”— and will offer over a hundred new labor categories and ten task areas encompassing new and emerging IT, and a myriad of potential small business partners in eight socioeconomic categories. 

We are optimistic about the promise CIO-SP4 holds for our federal government customers and look forward to helping federal civilian and DoD agencies get IT done.