GSA upholds Boeing protest of Seat Management

The General Services Administration has sustained Boeing Information Services' agency-level protest against GSA's $9 billion Seat Management contract, but work on the contract will continue until a final decision is announced.

The agency protest official delivered the response to Boeing and GSA Aug. 20 in a letter outlining the basis for the decision, and GSA has until Sept. 20 to issue its response to the case.

"Basically the ruling said that we did everything we were supposed to, but we failed to document the analysis fully," said Charles Self, assistant commissioner of the Office of Information Technology Integration, which manages the program. "We have two choices. We can award to Boeing or go back and fully document it. It is my belief that we did document it."

Eight companies won Seat Management contracts, including Wang Government Services, Multimax, Litton/PRC Inc., EER Systems, IBM Global, Federal Data Corp., TechServ (a subsidiary of DynCorp) and Science Applications International Corp. The contract lets agencies give vendors the full management responsibility of desktop PCs, including the ownership and upgrades of hardware and software, local-area networks and maintenance as well as help-desk and other support services.

But Boeing, one of the unsuccessful Seat Management bidders, lodged a protest in July, charging that GSA misled the company into believing that price would not be a major factor in the award decision. Boeing's bid for the contract was one of the highest among the 13 bidders, according to Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc.

Following the Paper Trail

One analyst familiar with the procurement suggested that GSA did make a best-value decision— deciding that the difference in service did not justify the difference in price— but then did not adequately show how the agency reached that decision. It is that analysis of the award decision that the protest official wants GSA to provide, the analyst added.

"It's a victory for Boeing but not a great victory," said John Tolle, a lawyer with the law firm Barton, Mountain & Tolle, McLean, Va. "That's not even saying you did anything wrong, just that you didn't say how you did it."

Unlike a General Accounting Office protest, there will be no suspension of business on the Seat Management contract, Tolle said. But if GSA ignores the recommendation or provides the documentation and still refuses to give Boeing a contract, "the protester could go to federal district court and get an injunction, which [GSA] cannot ignore," he said.

A Boeing spokeswoman last week declined to comment until GSA issues its final response.

Other unsuccessful Seat Management bidders— Computer Sciences Corp., Electronic Data Systems Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Artel Inc.— probably will not be affected by the ruling or any decision GSA makes because they missed the time limit for protests as outlined in the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the Administrative Procedure Act, lawyers said last week. Spokesmen from three of the four firms said there would be no comment until GSA's decision is announced.

Because Seat Management is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, a decision by GSA to award a contract to Boeing would not guarantee the company business, Dornan said.

"I think GSA made a policy decision that they were not going to be like [the National Institutes of Health] and NASA and give a contract to everyone that bid," Dornan said. "[That] certainly would have been the least risky way out, but I think it would have been a disservice" to the vendors, the users and GSA.

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