Pre-award bid protests often focus on whether the solicitation provisions were ambiguous, unreasonable or favor one company over another. (File)
The Defense Information Systems Agency may be facing some uncertainties ahead now that a potential vendor has filed a pre-award protest for an upcoming $427 million cloud storage contract.
Oracle Corp. on June 25 filed the pre-award protest to the Enterprise Storage Services II contract, currently serviced by VION Corp., according to Washington Technology.
Under the contract, DISA is seeking “reliable, responsive, and cost effective storage infrastructure services of ‘on-demand’ storage capabilities,” according to acquisition documents. The vendor would acquire, install, transport, configure, support and own all related hardware, software, maintenance, licensing and services, while DISA, at several worldwide locations, would maintain day-to-day operational control of the storage environment and complete oversight responsibility.
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It’s not known why Oracle has filed the protest, but it is now unlikely that DISA will be able to award the contract this month as originally planned. The protest awaits an Oct. 3 decision from the Government Accountability Office, and until then DISA cannot make the award unless there are urgent or compelling circumstances.
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“Protests by their nature slow down the process, whether pre-award or post-award. But it’s something that, when used properly, benefits the government and the procurement community,” said Michael Hordell, partner in the government contracts practice group of Pepper Hamilton LLP.
There are a range of reasons for pre-award contracts, and their outcomes vary as well. In 2007 the GAO sustained a Computer Sciences Corp. protest on the grounds that DISA failed to conduct meaningful discussions with the protesters, according to a Pepper Hamilton report. In 2011 DISA canceled a solicitation for an IT engineering support services after a pre-award protest; the contract was later awarded after DISA took corrective actions, according to government documents.
“Pre-award protests are filed because upon review of the solicitation there is either certain things missing, or certain things that were included that indicate that as written the procurement is going to be restrictive of competition. Or it could be that solicitation provisions were ambiguous, the evaluation criteria or methodology is unreasonable, or the solicitation as drafted is essentially something other than full and open competition,” Hordell said. “Theoretically you could have a contract that to outside world looks competitive and fair, but to industry indicates that based on specifications it is going to favor one company over another.”
Concerns regarding competition are chief among reasons for bid protests – and they are worries that are magnified as budgets shrink and companies are forced to vie for smaller pieces of the government pie. The result: growing instances of protests, both before and after the contract awards.
“The thing to remember is that the competition is in source selection; that could mean anything from Oracle’s perspective,” said one source speaking on background. “For example, they could have insight into a competitor’s bid and think the selection criteria are weighted for the competitor.”
The DISA cloud storage contract has a ceiling value of $427 million over a four-year base period, with two one-year options.■