May 2017 Bid Protest Review: Minimally Compliant Designs and Unstated Evaluation Criteria

This article is a review of the recently published protest decision Matter of: Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation; B-414312; B-414312.2; B-414312.3. The subject procurement provided radio frequency countermeasures for Special Operations Forces AC-130J and MC-130J aircraft. It was designed as two-step acquisition with a down-select at CDR. Winner: BAE. Northrop Grumman (NG) protest: denied. NG and BAE had equal technical and risk ratings, but BAE was 7% lower in price. BAE’s design minimally met the requirements with high Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) architecture. NG’s design offered a “slightly” superior technical capability, but had a design maturity risk inherent in its solution. My takeaways are:

  • A mature architecture with a high TRL/MRL that minimally meets requirements and is 7% less expensive can win over a slightly technically superior capability that has an inherent design maturity risk.

  • “Unstated” evaluation criteria may be considered if reasonably related to, and encompassed by, stated evaluation criteria. In this case, an “unstated” power consumption comparison was deemed proper as within the stated criteria of impacts to aircraft integration and overall system performance.

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