Superior Optical Laboratories, Inc. | USGAO

PUBLIC RELEASE DOCUMENT
The decision rendered on the date below was subject to a protective order from the GAO. This redacted version has been approved for public release.

Decision

Matter of: Superior Optical Laboratories, Inc.

File: B-420428; B-420428.2

Dated: March 14, 2022

John E. McCarthy, Jr., Esq., and Zachary H. Schroeder, Esq., Crowell & Moring LLP; and Elizabeth Haws Connally, Esq., Connally Law, PLLC, for the protester.
David S. Gallacher, Esq., Emily S. Theriault, Esq., and Adam A. Bartolanzo, Esq., Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, for PDS Consultants, Inc., an intervener.
Natica Chapman Neely, Esq., Department of Veterans Affairs, for the agency.
Christine Milne, Esq., Scott H. Riback, Esq., and Tania Calhoun, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, assisted in the preparation of the decision.

DIGEST

A challenge to the agency’s evaluation of the recipient’s proposal is denied when the record shows that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the call for tenders and applicable laws and regulations.

Superior Optical Labs, Inc., of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, protests the award of a contract to PDS Consultants, Inc., of Sparta, New Jersey, under Request for Proposal (RFP) # 36C24221R0056 , issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for prescription eyewear. The protester argues that the agency’s assessment of the PDS proposal was unreasonable.

We deny the protest.

CONTEXT

The solicitation is for the provision of prescription eyewear within the Integrated Veteran Services Network for the Upstate New York/New Jersey (VISN 2) region and contemplates the award of a single fixed price, indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contract with one one-year base period contract and four one-year option periods. RFP at 54-55, 134. The RFP provided that the award would be made on the basis of the best compromise, taking into account the price and the experience of the offeror, the experience being more important than the price. ID. at 132-133.[1]

The RFP provided that the agency would rate each bidder’s manufacturing experience against the experience factor based on a narrative description and references to previous contracts included in their technical proposals. RFP at 133. Proposals were to be assigned adjectival ratings of good, satisfactory, marginal and unsatisfactory. Agency report (AR), exh. 2, Source Selection Decision Document (SSDD) to 4. Price had to be evaluated for reasonableness. DP at 135.

The agency received a number of proposals, including those from Superior and PDS. AR, exp. 2, SSDD to 2. Proposals were first evaluated by a Source Selection Evaluation Board (SSEB) and then by the Source Selection Authority (SSA), which awarded final scores. Superior’s proposal was rated good on the experience factor and PDS’s proposal (which was initially rated good by the SSEB) received a final satisfactory rating. ID. at 7. Superior’s total assessed price was $8,373,375, while PDS’s was $3,726,705. ID. to 9. Based on these evaluation results, the agency awarded PDS an award, concluding that PDS’s proposal offered the best value to the government. ID. at 13-14. After learning of the agency’s selection decision and requesting and receiving a debriefing, Superior filed the immediate protest.

DISCUSSION

Superior argues that the agency unreasonably assessed PDS’s proposal on the experience factor.[2] As we will see below, we find no basis for Superior’s protest. We note at the outset that in reviewing a protest challenging an organization’s assessment, our Office does not independently assess proposals; rather, we review the file to ensure that the agency’s evaluation is reasonable and complies with the terms of the call for tenders and applicable laws and regulations. Laboratory Society of AmericaB‑414896.3, B-414896.4, July 13, 2018, DPC 2018 ¶ 264 at 4.

Superior alleges that the agency improperly considered PDS’ non-manufacturing experience in awarding its proposal a satisfactory rating. According to the protester, PDS has only been an eyewear manufacturer since 2019, and the agency unreasonably attributed to him when evaluating his experience providing eyewear before that date as a non-manufacturer.

We find no basis for this allegation. The record shows that to demonstrate that she met the experience factor requirements, PDS’s proposal included a narrative description of her experience, stating that she had provided prescription eyewear services to the VA since 1995. AR, exh . 4, PDS proposal at 90. The PDS narrative further explained that PDS currently operates more than 100 optical stores and manufactures approximately 1 million pairs of eyeglasses per year. ID. The PDS account further clarifies that PDS manufactures eyewear for a significant number of agency VISNs, and PDS also claims to be the largest manufacturer of eyewear for the VA nationwide. ID.

In support of these claims, PDS’s proposal included some 15 separate contract references that detailed its past and current experience in supplying eyewear to the AV. AR, exp. 4, PDS Proposal, p. 93-107. These references confirm the assertions made in the narrative portion of the PDS proposal that PDS has provided or is currently providing eyewear manufacturing services to the AV in VISNs 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22 and 23. Identifier. These same references also generally support PDS’ claims regarding the quantities of eyewear produced on an annual basis. Identifier.

As noted above, the record shows that the SSEB initially rated the PDS as good under the experience factor, but that rating was later downgraded to satisfactory by the SSA. The main reason for this change had to do with the fact that the SSA knew that PDS had only been manufacturing eyewear since 2019 and prior to that date PDS had outsourced the manufacturing aspect of the requirement. The SSA found the following:

The rationale for this adjustment is that although PDS has extensive experience supplying prescription eyewear (and has been supplying prescription eyewear to VA since 1998) they have primarily done so as a non-manufacturer and the postman evaluation specified that “The VA will evaluate an Offeror’s experience by evaluating the Offeror’s narrative response detailing their experience providing prescription eyewear manufacturing services…“PDS purchased Korrect Optical (including all of its manufacturing equipment) on August 28, 2019, but prior to this purchase, PDS outsourced the manufacturing portion of its prescription eyewear contracts, rather than directly manufacturing glasses itself. glasses SSEB members were probably unaware of this distinction….

AR, exp. 2, SSDD, p. 7-8 (emphasis in original).

The SSA also specifically took into account that, although much of PDS’ previous experience was in supplying eyewear as a non-manufacturer, it nevertheless had experience as a manufacturer and that its experience overall as an eyewear supplier and as a manufacturer was beneficial for the agency to determine that PDS could meet the requirement. The SSA found the following:

Taken together, PDS’s proposal demonstrates that PDS has “sufficient” experience in providing prescription eyewear manufacturing services, but does not have “depth and breadth of experience” in providing such manufacturing services. , as it has only been located as a manufacturer since 2019. Although it does not have a “depth and breadth” of experience in providing manufacturing services, there is great confidence that PDS will be successful in providing the services required by the supply as although they have only been a manufacturer for just over 2 years, they still have extensive experience supplying eyewear prescriptions to the VA as a non- manufacturer (21 years, 1998-2019).

AR, exp. 2, SSDD, p. 10.

We have no reason to object to the agency’s assessment. As noted, the agency acknowledged that PDS’s manufacturing experience was relatively limited, but also expressly acknowledged that PDS’s other experience was helpful to the agency as a whole in demonstrating PDS’s ability to respond to the requested requirement. Although the protester alleges that the agency’s actions were unreasonable, his position amounts to nothing more than disagreement with the substance of the agency’s findings, which does not entitle our Office to object to agency assessment.[3] Federal Acquisition Services Team OASIS JV, LLCB-418776.6, B‑418776.7, June 22, 2021, DPC 2021 ¶ 244 at 6.

In the final analysis, the agency understood that PDS’s manufacturing experience was not as extensive as its overall experience (or as extensive as Superior’s experience as a manufacturer), but nevertheless concluded that its overall was sufficient to merit a satisfactory rating under the experience factor. In this case, we have no reason to oppose the agency’s assessment.

Finally, Superior challenges the agency’s decision regarding the selection of the best value. Superior’s objection is based on its position that PDS’ proposal did not merit a satisfactory rating on the experience factor.

As discussed, we have no reason to oppose the awarding of a satisfactory rating on the experience factor to the PDS proposal for the reasons given by Superior. Moreover, as noted, the record shows that Superior’s price was more than double the price offered by PDS. The record shows that the agency recognized the higher rating given to Superior’s proposal under the experience factor, but nevertheless concluded that its slight superiority under this factor did not merit paying a price premium. 124% associated with Superior’s proposal. AR, exp. 2, SSDD, p. 11-13. In light of these circumstances, we have no reason to object to the agency’s source selection decision.

The protest is dismissed.

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
General Counsel