A protest was filed recently in the United Stated Court of Federal Claims by our firm on behalf of a small business construction contractor challenging a solicitation issued by the Fort Worth District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The solicitation, No. W9126G-07-R-0123, is one of four similar solicitations for the construction of military projects described as Advanced Individual Training (AIT), Basic Training (BT) Barracks, and Warrior in Transition (WIT) facilities. The construction is being solicited through the use of a negotiated Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (“IDIQ”) procurement on a Single Award Task Order (“SATOC”) basis. Under the terms of the solicitation a single contractor will be selected to perform task orders, without competition, amounting to as much as $330 million over the next three years in an eight state area. The other three similar solicitations contain similar dollar values and apply to similarly extensive geographic areas.
The protest seeks an injunction to prevent the Corps of Engineers from proceeding with the solicitation because of our contention that it is unduly restrictive of competition; it violates the laws prohibiting “bundling” by unlawfully consolidating smaller projects that would have been suitable for small business prime contracting; and, it illegally employs supplies and services indefinite delivery contracting methods under FAR 16.5 to procure large military complexes. There has been a growing outcry from both the small and large business construction communities in recent months regarding the expanded use by the Department of Defense of Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity solicitations to procure construction, seemingly ignoring the fact that indefinite delivery contracts are typically used to acquire supplies and services on a much smaller scale. It is our opinion that Single Award Task Order Contracts and Multiple Award Task Order Contracts are illegally limiting competition and that they may not be appropriately applied to the procurement of major construction projects.
It is also disturbing that the amount of construction work that is available for sealed bidding is declining to the point that many construction contractors are being closed out of the federal market. (See our earlier article). The use of sealed bidding provides the greatest opportunity for competition and ultimately results in the lowest prices to the government. This was confirmed by a recent decision of the Court of Federal Claims that held that sealed bidding was the preferred method for the procurement of maintenance dredging and shore protection work.
Although we cannot predict the outcome of the pending protest, we believe that it is important for the Court to review whether there is legal and rational basis for the use of the IDIQ format to procure major construction. The Corps of Engineers has indefinitely postponed the date for receipt of proposals while this matter is under consideration.