The Air Force lost a bid protest involving base operations work at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., because it violated the government's public-private competition rules, according to the General Accounting Office. In a July 17 decision, the GAO reversed an Air Force decision and recommended that the service award a $198 million, five-year contract to DynCorp Technical Services, a Virginia-based contractor. If the Air Force accepts the GAO's decision, 402 civilian jobs at Maxwell will be eliminated, although workers are likely to have the right of first refusal to work for DynCorp. GAO found two problems with the competition that skewed the cost comparison against DynCorp. First, the in-house group subtracted the costs of existing government materials from its total cost estimate for materials, while DynCorp did not. This shaved $1.3 million off the in-house bid. Since either winner of the competition would have access to the materials, they represent a "common item" that must be subtracted from both proposals, according to the GAO. "The value of the government-furnished material, which would be provided to either the successful private-sector offeror or the [in-house group], is a common cost item that should have been deducted from both sides," said the GAO. The Air Force also neglected a performance strength in DynCorp's proposal that should have been factored into the final decision, GAO said. DynCorp offered to begin work 30 days earlier than the Air Force required. While this strength helped DynCorp win the phase of the competition in which private firms compete against one another for a chance to compete against the government, the Air Force did not consider it in the public-private competition. The Air Force considered this strength immaterial because both DynCorp and the in-house team received the same ratings on mobilization, meaning they offered the same level of performance. But this rationale means DynCorp was held to a higher performance standard than the in-house group, according to the GAO. "A generalized comparison of quality, as offered by the Air Force here, cannot substitute for the consideration…of whether the in-house plan offers a level of performance comparable to that of the selected private-sector proposal," said GAO. The Pentagon is crafting guidance to help clarify how personnel should factor performance strengths into contests such as the Maxwell competition. Defense will require performance work statements to be amended to include performance standards of the private sector firm that are relevant to the competition, according to a copy of the draft guidance obtained by GovExec.com.
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