Federal contractor launches pre-award challenge over Polaris solicitation

The General Services Administration (GSA) Headquarters building. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

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Federal contractor BD Squared has filed a pre-award challenge over the Polaris governmentwide acquisition contract, citing concerns that the solicitation may violate Small Business Administration regulations.

In a complaint submitted with the Government Accountability Office Tuesday, the company says small companies such as itself may stand to lose out because the procurement terms allow companies involved in mentor-protégé arrangements to rely solely on the experience of larger, mentor companies.

“The solicitation … permits a mentor-protégé joint venture to provide qualifications and experience from only the mentor firm. This means that the competition for this small business set-aside contract will ultimately devolve into a comparison of qualifications from large business mentor firms against small businesses like BD Squared,” BD said in its complaint.

It added: “As a small business, BD Squared cannot compete with the experience and qualifications of multi-national IT service providers that serve as the mentor partner in mentor-protégé joint ventures.”

“Nor can BD Squared simply team up with such a large business to form a mentor-protégé joint venture now, given that proposals are due on May 13, 2022, and SBA approvals of mentor-protégé joint ventures currently take at least 105 days,” BD added in its submission.

The company is seeking for the General Services Administration (GSA) to revise the terms of the solicitation for small businesses and for its protest costs to be reimbursed.

BD Squared is a consultancy that works with small and medium-sized companies to win spots on major federal agency solicitations. It was previously awarded contracts within pools one, three and four on GSA’s OASIS solicitation.

BD Squared’s protest comes after GSA last week issued the final solicitation for the contract, following several months of delays. Polaris is the first GWAC to have four different pools of industry partners: small businesses, women-owned small businesses, historically underutilized business zones and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

The question of how much federal contractors involved in joint ventures should be able to rely on the experience of mentor companies – usually larger federal contracting conglomerates – has resulted in several challenges to recent solicitation awards. 

In November last year, the Government Accountability Office partially sustained a pre-award protest over the CIO-SP4 solicitation, overseen by NITAAC, in which plaintiffs argued the procurement unfairly disadvantaged large companies in mentor-protégé arrangements.

GSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Correction: July 6, 2022. An original version of this story incorrectly stated the Polaris contract has a $15 billion ceiling. There is no ceiling.

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General Services Administration (GSA), Government Accountability Office (GAO), Polaris, Small Business Administration (SBA)
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