Sometimes What You Know Can Hurt You

I ran across an article in the Washington Business Journal by Lee Dougherty, Attorney, General Counsel PC that showed an example of where “Incumbent Ego” can lead to losing a competition.  Mr. Dougherty cites a recent GAO Protest Decision where the incumbent contractor’s proposal “failed to provide adequate support” for their exception to the stated range of personnel required for performance of the sample task order, and as a consequence was rated as marginal.

I decided to read the decision to learn more, and this is certainly a case of ego getting in the way of success.  The RFP specifically instructed offerors to provide a complete explanation of why any exception was taken, what benefit would accrue to the government and its impact, if any, on the performance, schedule, cost and specific requirements of the RFP.  The incumbent’s proposal stated, “Because Team Piton’s partners are the current incumbents executing the work described in STO1 and understand intrinsically the current contractor support required, we take exception to this given range of 23-31 CMEs.”  They went on to state that the Government would experience significant savings due to their use of 18 CMEs.

Apparently, this contractor assumed that because they were the incumbent, the evaluation team would place great weight on their knowledge and insight and wouldn’t require an explanation of how they could perform the work requirements with a significantly smaller staff than was called for in the Governments own published estimate!

This brings to mind a story Tom Stover has told where an incumbent who had learned that an increase in base personnel may occur within the next year, which would increase the workload of their operation.  They based their proposal on the “anticipated” workload rather than the workload provided in the RFP and subsequently lost.

Incumbents can have a distinct advantage in a competition, but they can’t let “what they know” cloud their judgment.  Superior knowledge does not necessarily translate to a superior proposal!

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