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Comptroller General of the United States United States Government Accountability Office Washington, DC 20548 Decision Matter of: File: Date: IVI Corp. B-310766 January 23, 2008 George J. Mackertich for the protester. Col. Timothy J. Cothrel, Steven R. Fuscher, Esq., and Col. Neil S. Whiteman, Department of the Air Force, for the agency. Eric M. Ransom, Esq., and Christine S. Melody, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preperation of this decision. DIGEST 1. Under bran
    Comptroller General   United States Government Accountability Office Washington, DC 20548of the United States Decision Matter of: IVI Corp. File: B-310766 Date: January 23, 2008George J. Mackertich for the protester.Col. Timothy J. Cothrel, Steven R. Fuscher, Esq., and Col. Neil S. Whiteman,Department of the Air Force, for the agency.Eric M. Ransom, Esq., and Christine S. Melody, Esq., Office of the General Counsel,GAO, participated in the preperation of this decision. DIGEST 1. Under brand name or equal procurement, the contracting agency’s determinationregarding whether an offered product is acceptable will not be disturbed unless it isunreasonable.2. Offer of an “equal” product under brand name or equal solicitation was properlyrejected where the technical information provided to the contracting agency failed todemonstrate that the “equal” product met all of the salient characteristics set forth inthe solicitation. DECISION IVI Corp. protests the award of a contract to Vacuum Precision Technologies underrequest for proposals (RFP) No. FA7000-07-R-0032, issued by the Department of the Air Force for a Multi-Layer Precision Optical Coating System. IVI argues that theagency failed to timely evaluate its proposal. The Air Force acknowledges that ittemporarily lost IVI’s proposal, but argues that it has now evaluated the proposal andreasonably determined that it is not technically acceptable. In response, IVI assertsthat the agency’s evaluation of its proposal was unreasonable.We deny the protest.BACKGROUNDThe RFP was issued on June 11, 2007 as a brand name or equal solicitation includinga detailed listing of salient characteristics. The RFP directed that proposals could be  emailed or faxed to the attention of the contract specialist, and to contact thecontracting officer in the contract specialist’s absence.The agency received four proposals by the closing time of the solicitation. Two of the proposals were sent by email to the contract specialist, while the remaining two proposals, including IVI’s, were sent by email to the contracting officer, despite thefact that the contract specialist was present on the closing date. Agency Report(AR), Tab 2, Contracting Officer’s Statement of Facts, at 1. The contracting officerneglected to forward IVI’s proposal to the contract specialist, though he did forwardthe other proposal he received. Id. The three proposals received by the contractspecialist were sent to the customer for technical evaluation, and the customerdetermined that all three proposals that it reviewed were technically acceptable. Id.The award was made to the lowest-priced technically acceptable offeror, VacuumPrecision Technologies, on September 8.IVI claims that it contacted the agency three times between the closing date of thesolicitation and the date of the award, and that on each occasion it was informedthat its proposal was under consideration. Protest, Tab 2, Telephone Log; Tab 3, Agency Protest, at 1-2. The agency has no record of this correspondence, however,both parties agree that IVI contacted the agency on October 10, to inquire as to thestatus of the solicitation, and was informed by the contracting officer that an awardhad been made on September 8, at a price higher than that of IVI’s proposal. AR,Tab 2, Contracting Officer’s Statement of Facts, at 2. During the October 10conversation with IVI, the contracting officer was unable to locate IVI’s proposal andstated to IVI that its proposal had not been received by the agency. Id.; Protest,Tab 3, Agency Protest, at 2.IVI filed an agency-level protest of the award on October 15. In response to this protest the contracting officer conducted a search of the agency’s records, whichrevealed that IVI had by email submitted a timely proposal of an “or equal” item. Thecontracting officer then immediately sent the proposal to the customer for technicalevaluation. The technical evaluation concluded that IVI’s proposal was notacceptable, and the agency was therefore in the process of denying IVI’s agency-level protest when IVI filed its protest with our Office on November 7. ANALYSIS Although it is clear that the agency mishandled IVI’s proposal in this case, this is nota “lost proposal” situation in which the missing information cannot be independently verified and meaningfully evaluated. See, e.g., Project Res., Inc., B-297968, Mar. 31,2006, 2006 CPD ¶ 58; S.D.M. Supply, Inc., B-271492, June 26, 1996, 96-1 CPD ¶ 288(lost proposal recovered after contract had been completed); East West Research,Inc., B-239565, Aug. 21, 1990, 90-2 CPD ¶ 147. Here, the “lost” proposal wasdiscovered in the agency’s possession, was known to have been timely received, wassent for a technical evaluation, and was determined to be technically unacceptable.In this context, while the agency’s failure to timely forward the IVI proposal for Page 2 B-310766  evaluation was unfortunate, we view the protest solely as a challenge to thereasonableness of the agency’s technical evaluation. See, e.g., Basic Tech., Inc.,B-214489, July 13, 1984, 84-2 CPD ¶ 45 (late evaluated proposal deemed technicallyunacceptable, protest decided as an evaluation challenge). This is because areasonable determination that IVI’s proposal is technically unacceptable wouldrender IVI ineligible for the award regardless of the agency’s other conduct in the procurement.The agency asserts that its determination was reasonable because, while IVI’s offercontained blanket statements that its “or equal” product would meet the salientcharacteristics in the RFP, the technical information it provided was incomplete andfailed to support those blanket statements. IVI contends that its proposal providedan affirmative response to every characteristic listed in the RFP, and that theagency’s after-the-fact determination is unsupported.It is well-settled that it is the offeror’s duty to include sufficiently detailedinformation in its proposal to establish that the equipment offered will meet thesolicitation requirements, and that blanket statements of full compliance areinsufficient to fulfill this duty. Aztek, B-229525, Mar. 2, 1988, 88-1 CPD ¶ 218 at 3.Likewise, merely restating the RFP’s requirements is no better than a blanket offer of compliance. Id.With respect to the offer of an “or equal” product, an offeror’s proposal mustdemonstrate that its product conforms to the salient characteristics listed in thesolicitation. See CAMSS Shelters, B-309784, B-309784.2, October 19, 2007, 2007 CPD¶ 199 at 4. The contracting agency is responsible for evaluating the data submittedby the offeror and ascertaining if it provides sufficient information to determine if the offeror’s product is acceptable. ACR Elec., Inc., B-266201, Jan. 24, 1996,96-1 CPD ¶ 19 at 4. In making this determination, the agency enjoys a degree of discretion which we will not disturb unless we find that the determination isunreasonable. Id.Here, we find that the agency’s determination was reasonable. The recorddemonstrates that most of IVI’s proposal was a mere restatement of the RFP’s salientcharacteristics, without elaboration. Indeed, the record shows that the technicaldata accompanying IVI’s proposal was limited to a 2-page product brochure thatfailed to address the majority of the more than 100 salient characteristics detailed bythe RFP. In addition, some of the technical data provided in IVI’s product brochurecontradicted its proposal’s claims that its product possessed the required salientcharacteristics. For example, the RFP specified as a salient characteristic that theoptical coating system’s coating chamber be 60 to 80 centimeters in diameter, andwhile IVI’s proposal specified a coating chamber 80 centimeters in diameter, its Page 3 B-310766   product brochure specified a coating chamber 36 inches, or 91.4 centimeters, indiameter. 1  In sum, as the offeror of an “or equal” item, the burden was on IVI to submit a proposal that adequately demonstrated that its offered product met the salientcharacteristics of the solicitation. As mere restatement of the RFP’s salientcharacteristics is insufficient to meet that burden, and IVI’s provided technical datawas incomplete and contradicted its proposal, we cannot find unreasonable theagency’s determination that IVI’s proposal was not technically acceptable.The protest is denied.Gary L. KepplingerGeneral Counsel 1 In its comments, IVI acknowledges that it “was offering a slightly larger chamber”and claims that “[t]he larger size, by any optical technical standards, offers anadvantage in product uniformity and flexibility of process.” Protester’s Commentsat 1. IVI’s claim of a technical advantage is immaterial. When a solicitation setsforth particular features of a brand name item, they are presumed to be material andessential to the government’s needs. CAMSS Shelters, supra. Here, as noted, theagency specified an 80-centimeter maximum coating chamber diameter as a salientcharacteristic. Page 4 B-310766
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