NTOPS halted after 2 protests filed

The Navy's dual award to Concept Automation Inc. and Cordant Inc. for 60,000 desktop and laptop computers was suspended last week, following a protest to the General Services Administration's Board of Contract Appeals by International Data Products Corp.

Separately, Zenith Data Systems filed an agency-level protest of the awards, which went to the lowest-priced bidders.

The Navy awarded the two-year New Technology for Office and Portable Systems (NTOPS) contracts late last month to Concept Automation and Cordant for $98.1 million and $108 million respectively. According to both IDP and ZDS, the winning NTOPS bids were riddled with errors, including unbalanced pricing, noncompliant configurations and violations of the Buy American and Trade Agreements acts.

Dunn Computer Corp., another bidder, declined to comment but was expected to file a protest or intervene, observers said.

"We felt there were some things that required additional review," said Tom Buchsbaum, senior vice president for ZDS Federal Systems. However, "our opinion was that Navy was in a good position to review these things and make a decision without litigation," so the company filed its protest with the service rather than GSBCA, as IDP did.

Concept Automation (now owned by BTG Inc.), Cordant and IDP declined to comment on the protests. The Naval Information Systems Management Center, the procurement agency on the NTOPS program, also would not comment.

In their protests, IDP and ZDS assert Concept Automation's proposal was mathematically and materially unbalanced. For example, according to IDP's protest, Concept Automation cut pricing on a standard desktop system from $831 in the first year to $348 in the second year. In comparison, Concept Automation asked for $403 for 16M of RAM in the second year, even though 16M of RAM comes bundled in the standard system at a lower price, IDP noted.

"Because of these and other similar instances, CAI's proposal is clearly unbalanced," IDP said in its protest. "Indeed, if base-year pricing alone is examined, IDP's proposed prices are lower than CAI's."

Both winning bids also included systems that should not be categorized as Domestic End Products because they contain more than 50 percent non-U.S. components, the protesters claimed.

Specifically, IDP cited the Elite Group Computer Systems and Commax notebook systems offered by Concept Automation and the Everex desktop and notebook systems offered by Cordant. IDP claims that under the Buy American Act these products should be subject to a 50 percent differential compared with other proposals.

"If the Navy had applied the [differential] correctly, IDP's proposal would have been evaluated as lower in price than either CAI's or Cordant's proposal," the IDP protest states.

Additionally, the protests say, the two proposals violate the Trade Agreements Act by including components from nondesignated countries. As an example, IDP cited Labtech LCS-150 speakers, proposed by Concept Automation, that are reportedly made in China.

The Everex notebook PCs provided by Cordant also fail to meet several NTOPS requirements, according to IDP. For example, Cordant's advanced and standard notebook systems contain the same level processors, even though the solicitation requires the advanced notebook systems to have a higher-performing CPU.

"This strategy enabled Cordant to achieve an economy of scale that was unavailable to those offerors, such as IDP, that complied with the terms of the solicitation," IDP said in its protest.

IDP also states that the memory scheme and battery life of the Everex notebooks bid by Cordant fail to meet the specifications, as do Cordant's desktop monitors.

Given the extensive and detailed charges against the proposals, "I would be surprised if both of these awards were to stand," one industry source said.

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