Contrary to the cliché that “the devil is in the details,” an offeror’s proposal must give the agency evaluating the proposal enough information – details – to let the agency evaluate how well the offeror can do the contract work. Lack of details was a factor in a contractor losing a contract recently.

Valbin Corporation submitted a proposal to Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for the agency’s National Media Exploitation Center (NMEC) Linguist Intelligence Operations NMEC (LION) services. The contract would require the winning contractor to provide all personnel necessary to support the NMEC’s operational responsibilities, provide foreign language and content exploitation of digital media and documents, and perform translation services.  One reason Valbin lost was because the agency evaluated Valbin’s proposal to have six weaknesses.  According to GAO, each evaluated weakness was based on DIA’s conclusion “that the offeror’s submission was incomplete, limited, or lacking detail (e.g., the offeror’s approach for staffing and providing 24/7 support to operational DOMEX requirements lacks specific details, the offeror did not provide any detail regarding experience or expertise in recruiting linguists/translators in hard-to-fill language categories.”

After DIA concluded that Valbin’s proposal was not the best value to the government, Valbin protested to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), arguing that the agency’s evaluation of Valbin’s weaknesses was unreasonable. Specifically, Valbin argued that DIA’s solicitation said that proposals should be “concise” and that the solicitation did not require offerors to provide specific details of, for example, staffing roles and responsibilities.

GAO disagreed. It cited, for example, the cryptic way Valbin’s proposal addressed the RFP’s statement that DIA would “evaluate the extent of the offeror’s experience and expertise” in recruiting linguists/translators in hard-to-fill language categories.  Valbin’s proposal devoted in GAO words “one short paragraph to this issue and stated that it would utilize its pool of cleared candidates to respond to hard-to-fill language requirements.” Valbin gave no details on how it would recruit other than reaching out to its pool of cleared candidates. GAO denied the protest. Valbin Corporation, B- 416680, Nov. 9, 2018, 2018 CPD P 388, 2018 WL 6191077

It’s the offeror’s job to write a proposal that shows its capabilities and gives the agency the ability to make a meaningful review of the proposal. Although page limits routinely force offerors to decide what to leave in and what to leave out, lack of details will always hurt a contractor’s chances of winning the contract.

Berenzweig Leonard  is teaming up with Red Team Consulting for a monthly newsletter featuring upcoming contracts, key protest decisions, events, and more. This post was published in the December 2018 Monthly Insights newsletter. To sign up for Monthly Insights, please click here.

Terry O’Connor is a Partner at Berenzweig Leonard. Terry and Stephanie Wilson lead the firm’s Government Contracts practice. Terry can be reached at [email protected].