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Medium Armored Vehicle (MAV) United Defense LP Protest

The US Army issued a cost-plus-award-fee requirements RFP for a family of interim armored vehicles (IAV) designed to assist Army light forces to rapidly deploy into all operational environments. The RFP included performance specifications for each type of IAV. Offerors not proposing to meet all performance requirements at the time of initial delivery were required to propose block improvement options for incorporating the remaining requirements into production subsequent to initial delivery and for retrofitting all previously produced IAVs to the block improvement design. The RFP provided for four award alternatives, and stated that award was to be made on a best value basis in accordance with the following evaluation factors: schedule, performance, supportability, price/cost, and management. Schedule and performance were equal in importance and were each slightly more important than management.

The agency received multiple proposals from four offerors, included seventeen proposals in the competitive range, conducted extensive oral and written discussions, evaluated the final proposal revisions it received, and concluded that the awardee's proposal represented the best overall value to the government notwithstanding that the evaluated cost of United Defense LP -- the protester - proposal was lower than the awardee's evaluated cost of $3.5 billion. Although both proposals were merely acceptable because neither met the agency's "objective" deployment schedule, the agency did find that United Defense LP's proposal was superior with respect to schedule.

Although United Defense LP's proposed tracked vehicle possessed three performance advantages over the awardee's 8-wheeled vehicle, the awardee's proposed vehicle possessed a much faster maximum sustained ground speed that would enable it to quickly road march to the designated mission location and rapidly engage and disengage the threat. Moreover the awardee's vehicle offered a lower interior noise, vibration, acoustic signature, and increased horizontal armor protection than the vehicle proposed by United Defense LP. In contrast, the United Defense LP vehicle offered significantly disadvantageous self-recovery and short track degraded operations as compared to the awardee's proposed vehicle. The awardee's vehicle was also significantly superior to the United Defense LP vehicle in the lesser-weighted supportability and reliability area. After the agency awarded to the awardee, this protest followed.

In a 36-page decision following a hearing, GAO initially stated that in reviewing an agency's evaluation of proposals and source selection decision, its review is confined to a determination of whether the agency acted reasonably and consistent with the stated evaluation factors and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. With respect to the agency's evaluation of the protester's Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV), although United Defense LP correctly asserted that the RFP documents included several references to the importance of tactical and cross-country mobility (which the protester's tracked vehicle possessed), GAO concluded that the agency's evaluation took into account the United Defense LP advantage in this area in the context of various operational scenarios.

With respect to the United Defense LP assertion that speed was overemphasized, GAO noted that the RFP documents repeatedly emphasized the importance of high-speed mobility such that it could find no basis to question the agency's position that - even with respect to operations in the area of operations during the 72-hour small scale contingency envisioned by the RFP - the awardee's lesser cross-country capability was not a critical weakness. Moreover, the hearing testimony confirmed that the increasing prevalence of roads and the fact that urban operations are likely to be funneled into the road network makes roads an increasingly important factor in mobility such that the awardee's wheeled vehicle will enjoy an advantage relative to the United Defense LP tracked vehicle on both primary and secondary roads.

With respect to the agency's evaluation of the reliability of the United Defense LP proposed vehicle, GAO found that during discussions the agency advised United Defense LP that its information was based upon inconsistent failure definitions and properly noted the United Defense LP failure to explain in its proposal the precise basis for its upward rescoring of the official test results of the M113A3 vehicle. GAO noted that the agency's treatment of the United Defense LP reliability growth as being offset by integration risk and additional complexity was more favorable to United Defense LP than was the United Defense LP treatment of reliability growth (which would have resulted in a net decrease in reliability). As for the United Defense LP assertion that it furnished additional reliability data to the agency, GAO found the agency's position that that information did not warrant a higher predicted reliability score reasonable. As regards the agency's evaluation of the reliability of the awardee's proposed vehicle, GAO concluded there was nothing improper in the agency's consideration of the bid sample test results or the rescoring of the awardee' test results.

United Defense LP also challenged the agency's selection of the awardee's Mobile Gun System (MGS). GAO found that even though the United Defense LP schedule was evaluated as more favorable than the awardee's, the agency did not understate the awardee's actual likely schedule since the five vehicles proposed by the awardee would be production representative units. With respect to the United Defense LP assertion that the awardee's schedule was inconsistent with the RFP's funding restrictions, GAO could find no competitive prejudice since United Defense LP did not prove that it would have increased its development efforts had it known that an additional $21 million in development funds were available at the start of the contract.

GAO rejected the United Defense LP assertion that (1) the existence of a program office schedule demonstrated that the SSA's schedule was an unreasonable estimate of the likely actual awardee schedule, and (2) the lengthy development period required for the awardee's MGS was inconsistent with statements in the RFP. With respect to the United Defense LP assertion that the awardee's MGS did not comply with three ammunition requirements (storage, minimum sustained rate of fire, and separation), GAO found that the first item had been the subject of discussions (and the agency had downgraded the awardee's proposal accordingly), but the agency's evaluation failed to reasonably account for the seriousness of the awardee's proposal with respect to weaknesses associated with the second and third items.

Nevertheless, GAO did not agree with United Defense LP that these weaknesses rendered the awardee's proposal as unacceptable and there was no reason to believe that according more weight to those weaknesses would have affected the award decision. Finally, GAO found that the agency's conclusion that enhanced commonality would result from selecting the awardee's MGS and ICV was reasonable and was identified as an evaluation element in the RFP.

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