BNUMBER:  B-270354
DATE:  February 28, 1996
TITLE:  Ogden Support Services, Inc.


A protected decision was issued on the date below and was subject to a 
GAO Protective Order.  This version has been redacted or approved by 
the parties involved for public release.
Matter of:Ogden Support Services, Inc.

File:     B-270354

Date:February 28, 1996

Ronald K. Henry, Esq., and Mark A. Riordan, Esq., Kaye, Scholer, 
Fierman, Hays & Handler, for the protester.
Joel Feidelman, Esq., James J. McCullough, Esq., Catherine E. Pollack, 
Esq., and Lawrence E. Ruggiero, Esq., Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & 
Jacobson, for SSI Services, Inc., an intervenor.
Lisa Miller, Esq., Central Intelligence Agency, for the agency.
Henry J. Gorczycki, Esq., and Guy R. Pietrovito, Esq., Office of the 
General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the 
decision., for the protester.


Agency failed to conduct meaningful discussions with the protester 
where it did not identify during discussions the significant evaluated 
weaknesses and deficiencies in the protester's proposal that needed to 
be addressed in order for the protester's proposal reasonably to be 
considered for award.


Ogden Support Services, Inc. protests the award of a contract to SSI 
Services, Inc. under request for proposals (RFP) No. 95-Z06, issued by 
the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for operations and maintenance 
services at the CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia, and at 13 other 
facilities in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.  Ogden protests 
the CIA's evaluation of proposals, conduct of discussions, and source 
selection decision.

We sustain the protest because the agency failed to conduct meaningful 

The RFP contemplated the award of a cost-plus-award-fee, 
level-of-effort contract for a 5-year contract period.[1]  A best 
value basis for award was stated with technical/management, 
experience/past performance, security, and cost identified as the 
evaluation factors.  The security factor was to be evaluated on a 
pass/fail basis.  The technical/management factor was said to be three 
times more important than experience/past performance factor.  The 
technical/management factor listed a number of subfactors, of which 
the staffing plan subfactor was identified as being substantially more 
important than any of the other subfactors.  The RFP did not identify 
the relative weight of the cost factor, but only stated that cost 
would become more important as the difference in technical evaluation 
scores decreases and that cost "may become" determinative when 
proposals are technically equal.[2]

The agency received seven proposals, of which four, including Ogden's 
and SSI's, were included in the competitive range.  The initial 
technical scores and proposed costs of the competitive range proposals 

Offeror              Technical Score
                     (1,000 points maximum)Cost

SSI                  [DELETED]            [DELETED] 

Offeror A            [DELETED]            [DELETED] 

Offeror B            [DELETED]            [DELETED]

Ogden                [DELETED]            [DELETED]
Ogden's relatively low technical ranking reflected the technical 
evaluators' determination that Ogden's staffing plan contained a 
number of significant weaknesses and deficiencies, including proposed 
organizational structure and overall inadequate staffing. 

Written discussions were conducted with each competitive range offeror 
based on questions prepared by the technical evaluators.  Most of 
these questions requested general clarification or additional 
information.  For example, of the nine questions directed to Ogden 
concerning its technical proposal, four were general questions asked 
of all four offerors and one identified a typographical error in an 
acronym.  The remaining questions identified a few staffing 
deficiencies, which were similar in all four proposals, such as that 
proposed personnel for specifically identified categories fell one or 
a few persons below the minimum required level (e.g., electricians, 
Central Plant staff), and also requested additional information.  No 
question to Ogden identified the agency's concerns with Ogden's 
overall staffing or organizational structure.

 The agency requested and received best and final offers (BAFO), which 
were evaluated as follows:

Offeror              Technical Score      Cost

SSI                  [DELETED]            $87,655,923

Offeror A            [DELETED]            [DELETED]

Offeror B            [DELETED]            [DELETED]

Ogden                [DELETED]            [DELETED]
In selecting SSI for award, the source selection authority (SSA) 

     "[Ogden's] staffing plan is marginal.  Its proposed 
     organizational structure fragments the trade shops and external 
     facilities.  [DELETED].  The total staff of [DELETED] is less 
     than the [g]overnment estimate of [DELETED].  Much of this 
     deficit results from an excessively small management staff 
     [DELETED].  This creates significant span of control concerns for 
     many management positions within the organizations.  [Ogden's] 
     major fragmentation of trade shops and its proposed minimum 
     management staffing contributed to a fourth place ranking.

                    .     .     .     .     .

     "[Ogden's] technical proposal had some significant weaknesses and 
     is ranked a distant fourth.  [Ogden's] proposed cost is less than 
     SSI's for the full contract term [DELETED]  The significant risks 
     in [Ogden's] technical proposal are not offset by the prospective 
     cost savings."

The CIA awarded the contract to SSI, and Ogden protested to our Office 
within 5 calendar days of receiving its requested debriefing.  
Performance of SSI's contract has not been suspended because the 
agency determined that performance was in the best interest of the 

Ogden protests, among other things, that discussions were not 
meaningful because the CIA did not inform it of the evaluated 
weaknesses and deficiencies in its proposal.

In negotiated procurements, contracting agencies generally must 
conduct discussions with all offerors whose proposals are within the 
competitive range.  FAR  sec.  15.610; E.L. Hamm & Assocs., Inc., B-250932, 
Feb. 19, 1993, 93-1 CPD  para.  156.  Although discussions need not be 
all-encompassing, they must be meaningful; that is, an agency is 
required to point out weaknesses, excesses, or deficiencies in a 
proposal as specifically as practical considerations permit so that 
the agency leads the offeror into areas of its proposal which require 
amplification or correction.  E.L. Hamm & Assocs., Inc., supra; 
Northrop Worldwide Aircraft Servs., Inc., B-262181, Oct. 27, 1995, 
95-2 CPD  para.  196.  Discussions cannot be meaningful if an offeror is not 
advised, in some way, of the weaknesses, excesses, or deficiencies in 
its proposal that must be addressed in order for the offeror to be in 
line for award.  Id.

We find that the agency failed to advise Ogden of the weaknesses and 
deficiencies in its proposal that prevented Ogden from reasonably 
being considered for award, and, accordingly, that the CIA did not 
conduct meaningful discussions with Ogden.  As stated above, the CIA, 
in its initial evaluation, assessed a number of significant weaknesses 
or deficiencies, including Ogden's assertedly inadequate overall 
staffing, inadequate management staffing resulting in "span of control 
concerns," [DELETED], and an organizational structure that allegedly 
fragmented the trade shops and external facilities.  The written 
discussion questions provided to Ogden did not address any of these 
significant evaluation concerns.  While the CIA informed Ogden that 
its proposed electrician staffing and Central Plant staffing were 
below the levels required by the RFP, there was no mention of Ogden's 
management staffing or overall staffing levels.  Nor did the CIA 
identify its concern for trade shop fragmentation in Ogden's proposed 
organizational structure.  As indicated in the above-quoted source 
selection statement, these evaluated staffing and organizational 
problems were the overriding concerns upon which the SSA relied in 
determining that Ogden's lower-cost proposal would not be selected for 

SSI argues that the CIA was not required to identify the weaknesses 
and deficiencies evaluated in Ogden's proposal because they were so 
inherent in Ogden's technical approach that they could not be changed 
without a substantial revision of Ogden's proposal.  We disagree.  
These evaluated weaknesses and deficiencies could be addressed without 
substantial revision of Ogden's proposed approach.  For example, Ogden 
could address the agency's concerns about a minimal number of 
management staff by increasing the proposed staff level.  See Northrop 
Worldwide Aircraft Servs., Inc., supra; Presentations South, Inc., 
B-229842, Apr. 18, 1988, 88-1 CPD  para.  374.  

Also, with regard to the fragmented trade shops, the agency was 
apparently concerned that Ogden's proposed staff organization shows 
that [DELETED].  These functions are but one part of a large 
organization and all of the functions are already unified under the 
same manager, such that any change to Ogden's organization to deal 
with the agency's concern would be minor in the context of its overall 

The agency argues that Ogden was not prejudiced, even assuming 
meaningful discussions were not conducted.  We disagree. 

Competitive prejudice is an essential element of every viable protest.  
Lithos Restoration, Ltd., 71 Comp. Gen. 367 (1992), 92-1 CPD  para.  379.  
Where an agency violates procurement requirements, a reasonable 
possibility of prejudice is a sufficient basis for sustaining a 
protest, and we will resolve any doubts concerning the prejudicial 
effect of the agency's action in favor of the protester.  Foundation 
Health Fed. Servs., Inc.; QualMed, Inc., B-254397.4 et al., Dec. 20, 
1993, 94-1 CPD  para.  3; The Jonathan Corp.; Metro Mach. Corp., B-251698.3; 
B-251698.4, May 17, 1993, 93-2 CPD  para.  174, aff'd, Moon Eng'g Co., 
Inc.--Recon., B-251698.6, Oct. 19, 1993, 93-2 CPD  para.  233.  Where, as 
here, an impropriety in the conduct of discussions is found, it must 
be clear from the record the protester was not prejudiced before we 
will deny the protest.  Alliant Techsystems, Inc.; Olin Corp., 
B-260215.4; B-260215.5, Aug. 4, 1995, 95-2 CPD  para.  79; National Medical 
Staffing, Inc., B-259402; B-259402.2, Mar. 24, 1995, 95-1 CPD  para.  163.  

The CIA alleges that even assigning the maximum possible evaluation 
points in the areas in which Ogden's proposal was downgraded and for 
which Ogden had not received meaningful discussions, the impact on its 
overall technical score would be negligible and that an intervening 
offeror with a higher-rated, lower-cost BAFO would be in line for 
award ahead of Ogden.  However, the agency's calculation of the effect 
of its failure to conduct meaningful discussions ignores virtually all 
of the weaknesses/deficiencies that are the basis for our finding that 
the CIA did not conduct meaningful discussions; the CIA's calculation 
is limited to four other undisclosed "deficiencies" which are minor in 
the overall evaluation.  This does not show that the protester was not 
prejudiced by the agency's failure to conduct meaningful discussions, 
such that the protest should be denied.  Alliant Techsystems, Inc.; 
Olin Corp., supra.  Furthermore, our review shows that, had the agency 
disclosed during discussions the significant evaluated 
weaknesses/deficiencies found in Ogden's proposal, Ogden would have 
had an opportunity to improve its score by more than [DELETED] 
points--to a level approaching SSI's score--and its proposal may well 
have remained low in cost.  Thus, the record evidences a reasonable 
possibility that, but for the deficient discussions, Ogden could have 
been in line for award and was therefore prejudiced.  Id.  We sustain 
Ogden's protest on this basis.

Given our finding above and our recommendation to reopen the 
competition, Ogden's protest of the CIA's evaluation of proposals and 
source selection decision are academic.  Nevertheless, the protester 
has raised some valid concerns about the agency's evaluation of 
proposals that warrant the agency's attention upon reevaluation.  In 
particular, the CIA's evaluation is not sufficiently documented to 
support the technical evaluation consensus scores.  While the 
individual evaluators' worksheets document the individual evaluators' 
scores, the consensus scores are not reasonably related to the 
individual evaluators' scores.  In fact, the consensus scoring of 
SSI's proposal is inexplicably higher than any of the individual 
evaluators' scores, while the consensus scoring of Ogden's proposal is 
inexplicably lower than any of the individual evaluators' scores.  The 
agency should adequately document all aspects of its future evaluation 
and source selection process.  See Southwest Marine, Inc.; Am. Sys. 
Eng'g Corp, B-265865.3; B-265865.4, Jan. 23, 1996, 96-1 CPD   para.  ___.

We recommend that the CIA amend the RFP to state the relative weight 
of cost, reopen discussions with the competitive range offerors, 
request revised BAFOs, and make a new source selection decision based 
upon the evaluation of revised BAFOs.  If the CIA determines that 
award to an offeror other than SSI is appropriate, the agency should 
terminate the contract with SSI and make another award.  We also 
recommend that the protester be reimbursed its costs of filing and 
pursuing its protest, including reasonable attorneys' fees.  Bid 
Protest Regulations,  sec.  21.8(d)(1), 60 Fed. Reg. 40,737, 40,743 (Aug. 
10, 1995) (to be codified at 4 C.F.R.  sec.  21.8).  The protester should 
submit its certified claim for costs to the contracting agency within 
90 days of receiving this decision.  Bid Protest Regulations,  sec.  

The protest is sustained. 

Comptroller General
of the United States

1. This RFP combined the requirements from several contracts, for 
which Ogden was the incumbent contractor.  

2. This scheme fails to state the relative importance of the cost 
factor as required by Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)  sec.  
15.605(e).  Where a solicitation fails to explicitly state the 
relative weight of cost in the evaluation scheme, it must be presumed 
that cost and technical considerations will be accorded equal weight 
and importance in the evaluation.  Meridian Corp., B-246330.3, July 
19, 1993, 93-2 CPD  para.  29.