(ICE photo)

Booz Allen Hamilton’s Protest Over ICE Contract is Denied

Booz Allen Hamilton’s protest against the contract award to support Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Law Enforcement Systems & Analysis (LESA) program has been denied by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Booz Allen filed its protest after Deloitte Consulting LLP won the contract with a bid worth $50.4 million. Booz Allen put in a $44.7 million bid and argued that ICE failed to document adequately oral presentations, and contends that the agency made an unreasonable source selection decision.

On June 25, 2020, the agency issued the solicitation, which sought proposals for the provision of LESA program management services. The successful contractor would be required “to conduct analysis to ensure better accountability, consistency, and efficiency of statistical reports, briefing papers” and other materials provided by ICE to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Congress, and the White House. The successful contractor also would be required to “provide deployment support for ICE Information Technology (IT) initiatives, operations research and strategic analytics, and business process analysis and transformation project support.” 

The solicitation provided that the agency would conduct a two-phased evaluation. During Phase I, the agency would evaluate the most important factor–prior relevant experience. The solicitation required interested offerors to submit a request to schedule a phone interview, and to then submit a written summary of their prior relevant experience at least 48 hours prior to their scheduled phone interview, during which the offerors would be asked to go into more detail about their summary submittals. The solicitation explained that the phone interviews would be considered oral presentations, that offerors were not permitted to record them, and that the agency “may record” them. 

The solicitation established that the agency would evaluate offerors prior relevant experience based on a combination of their written summaries and phone interviews, and assign each offeror a “confidence interval rating” of high, some, or low confidence that the offeror would “perform successfully.” 

During Phase II, the agency would evaluate the second most important factor–offerors’ oral presentations related to their technical approaches. In advance of Phase II oral presentations, the solicitation required offerors to submit a PowerPoint presentation of no more than 15 slides, which the solicitation advised would not be evaluated “but may be used as a reference for evaluation.” The solicitation provided that offerors would be provided three hours to make their oral presentations, during which they were required to address five questions set forth in the solicitation and would also be required to respond to “on-the-spot” and “scenario-based” questions posed by the agency during the presentation. The solicitation provided that recording of Phase II oral presentations by offerors was “strictly prohibited,” and that the agency “may elect to video or audio record” the oral presentations. The solicitation explained that, after each oral presentation concluded, agency personnel would “do an on-the-spot consensus of the presentation, and determine a confidence rating” of high, some, or low confidence that the offeror understood the requirements and would “perform successfully.” 

Also as part of Phase II, the solicitation required offerors to submit a three-volume “Administrative Proposal.” The solicitation required offerors to address the following five sub-elements in volume one of their proposals: representations and certifications; key personnel commitment letters and resumes; organizational conflict of interest mitigation plan; subcontracting goals; and mentor-protégé information.

The solicitation established that the agency would make the award on a best-value tradeoff basis, considering price and non-price evaluation factors, and provided that the non-price factors combined were significantly more important than price. 

Both Booz Allen and Deloitte participated in both phases of the evaluation. Deloitte received a High Confidence rating for both phases. Booz Allen received a High Confidence rating for Phase I and a Some Confidence rating for Phase II.

Booz Allen argued that DHS/ICE failed to maintain an adequate record of the content of the firm’s Phase II oral presentation. But GAO has found that the agency maintained a sufficient record “where, in addition to contemporaneous individual evaluator notes, the agency retained copies of the vendors’ briefing slides, which guided the vendors’ presentations”.

During its oral presentation, Booz Allen spent 7 to 11 minutes discussing both its transition in and transition out plans, and that approximately 25-30 percent of this discussion time focused on the firm’s transition out plan. The agency does not dispute the protester’s representations regarding the content of its oral presentation, but maintains that it reasonably found the firm’s presentation of its transition out plan inadequate. In particular, the evaluators expressed concern with the protester’s “ability to transition adequately to another vendor if not selected” for a follow-on contract during the next procurement cycle for the LESA requirement. Booz Allen contended that the assessment of a confidence decrease for its alleged failure to address its transition out plan must have resulted from the evaluators ignoring or misunderstanding the firm’s discussion of its transition plan. Booz Allen also said due to time constraints, it did not go into greater detail on its transition out plans, but the agency said the firm had a further 17 minutes of time remaining.

Read the full decision at GAO

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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