Small-business federal opportunities the most protested in fiscal 2014

July 13

Of the many thousands of procurements solicited by the federal government each year, some receive more protests — disputes against the terms of a solicitation, proposed award or award of a contract — than others.

The top six opportunities with the most Government Accountability Office bid protests in fiscal 2014 were all partially or fully set aside for small businesses. They were also all task orders and valued at least $1 billion.

Homeland Security

The most protested opportunity of fiscal 2014 was Homeland Security’s $22 million Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge II program. EAGLE II received 46 bid protests in fiscal 2014, plus additional protests filed in previous years.

The protests were the combined filings for both the unrestricted and small-business set-aside efforts, with 36 unique contractors filing in fiscal 2014 and 45 contractors overall. Some protesters were subsequently added as awardees, while several others were unable to prove their case to GAO.

General Services Administration

While EAGLE II received more bid protests, the next three most protested opportunities were all part of the GSA’s Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative. These three programs have a combined estimated contract value of more than $4 billion.

The most hotly contested FSSI opportunity is Office Supplies Strategic Sourcing Solution Third Generation Purchasing. Four of the 28 protests filed in fiscal 2014 claimed the GSA did not fully examine the economic impact on small businesses, specifically citing the potential effect on 400-plus vendors currently on GSA Schedule 75, compared to OS3, which may result in only 24 potential awardees.

The GAO sided with the GSA in its June 9 decision. However, with contracts still to be awarded, OS3 may outpace EAGLE II in bid protests.

GSA and Air Force

The GSA’s high-profile One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services program embraced social media through the agency’s Interact system. This increased transparency may have led directly to the large number of proposals received — 330 offers, according to the Federal Procurement Data System.

As of June, 193 contracts had been awarded to 118 unique companies. The number of awardees and contracts decreased from the original February 2014 award announcement; some of the apparent successful offerors were awaiting additional review prior to final award.

The Air Force’s Network-Centric Solutions-2 program consists of seven contract vehicles. Seven years after the first draft documents were released, only five of the contract vehicles have been awarded.

Among those awarded was the sixth most-protested opportunity, the small-business set-aside NetOps and Infrastructure Solutions. Nine companies have filed 14 bid protests since the March 2014 award, and all are awaiting a decision.

The Air Force plans to use both Network-Centric Solutions contract vehicles and OASIS to procure billions of dollars’ worth of goods and services within the coming years.

Future for GAO bid protests

Almost 1,600 GAO bid protests were filed in the first seven months of fiscal 2014. With protest-heavy months August and September to come, fiscal 2014 is on track to have more protests filed than in previous years.

As the federal budget shrinks, more opportunities are consolidated into high-dollar contract vehicles with limited bidding pools. Within the small-business community, the costs associated with filing a protest are often outweighed by the potential loss of business should a company be excluded.

Kathleen Sievers is a senior research manager at Herndon-based Deltek, which conducts analysis on the government contracting market and can be found at www.deltek.com.

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