A recent GAO decision highlights the need for offerors to fully understand a Request for Proposals (RFP) and to pay close attention to the details when preparing a proposal in response to an RFP.  In C. Martin Company, Inc., the agency rejected the protestor’s proposal, determining that it was technically unacceptable.  The agency discovered that the offeror had referenced outdated regulations, standards, and procedures.  Some of the references were to processes and standards that had been obsolete for at least three years.  It became evident that the offeror had incorporated parts of a prior RFP submission years before on a similar project.

The agency’s technical review team concluded that the proposal was deficient and that the offeror did not have a clear understanding of the RFP’s requirements.  The offeror was not given an opportunity to cure the deficiencies. After the offeror learned of the basis of its rejection during a debriefing, it filed a protest contending that the deficiencies in its proposal were minor and that it should have been given the opportunity to correct its proposal. Its main argument was that its proposal could easily have been corrected. 

The GAO, in denying the protest, stated that neither the ease of the corrective effort nor the “minor” nature of the deficiencies were determinative of whether the proposal should be accepted or rejected. Instead, the GAO held that the need for numerous revisions “evidenced an inherent lack of understanding or awareness of the current RFP’s requirements.”    The GAO succinctly stated in upholding the agency’s rejection of the proposal: “Offerors are responsible for submitting an adequately written proposal, and run the risk that their proposals will be evaluated unfavorably where they fail to do so.”

It cannot be overemphasized that offerors must review and address the RFP’s requirements and that they must be very attentive when drafting their proposals, especially if they copy materials from prior submissions.  If offerors incorporate prior safety, quality control or experience statements in their current submissions, they would be well advised to carefully review and tailor these statements to the RFP. Otherwise, they risk rejection of their proposals, as happened in this case.