Labor facing protest of ‘winner take all’ telecom contract

The Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract from the General Services Administration is facing its first protest of an agency task order.

Granite Telecommunications filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office on Aug. 27 about the Labor Department’s fair opportunity solicitation. Labor released the estimated $340 million solicitation June 7 and some in industry have described it as a “winner take all” approach for voice, video and data.

GAO has until Dec. 5 to decide the protest.

A Labor Department spokesman declined to comment on the protest.

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“I think this is the first protest of an agency’s EIS-related solicitation but probably won’t be the last. It appears that DoL crafted a solicitation for comprehensive agencywide telecommunications services with several mandatory requirements that are optional services under the basic EIS contract and in many more geographic areas than the 25 mandatory Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs)  in EIS,” said John Okay, an executive consultant at Topside Consulting, who retired after 30 years in government, where he was the deputy commissioner of GSA’s old Federal Technology Service during the FTS2001 transition effort. “The stated evaluation criteria penalize any offeror that doesn’t already have all the required services on its contract. Although RFQ leaves open the option to make multiple awards it seems clear that the agency really wants to make a single award. That tees it up for one of the large companies such as the Networx incumbents.”

Okay added Granite, as one of six new federal telecommunications vendors under EIS, doesn’t believe Labor is giving them a level playing field.

“It’s understandable that an agency might prefer to have one contractor do it all, but that’s inconsistent with GSA’s goal of fostering competition,” Okay said. “If this pattern continues through the transition period, GSA could end up with nothing more than Networx Phase II.”

GSA awarded 10 vendors a spot under the $50 billion EIS contract in August 2017. CenturyLink and Level 3 merged leaving nine to compete for task order awards.

Granite states in its protest, which Federal News Radio obtained, that Labor is not providing a fair opportunity to compete because, for example, it is requiring the vendor to provide Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Service (MTIPS). Under EIS, MTIPS is an optional capability and only AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink provide this service.

Granite states that while it understands Labor has broad discretion under EIS, the contract and the Part 16 of the Federal Acquisition Regulations say the agency can’t use “any method … that would not result in fair consideration being given to all awardees prior to place each order.”

“Granite cannot currently offer MTIPS, nor can it reasonably or fairly compete for the award of single task order that needlessly bundles the services it does currently offer together with MTIPS,” the protest states. “There is neither a logical nor a technical justification for such bundling.”

Granites suggested that Labor could group these services in a different manner that is less restrictive of competition and in which there is a more logical connection.

“DoL created a false interdependency among many unrelated services by bundling all of them into a single solicitation with the intent to award only a single task order,” the protest states.

Additionally, Granite questions Labor’s fairness around the technical and past performance evaluation factors it chose.

“Remarkably, the agency seems unaware of the harmful effect of its procurement approach on competition among EIS contractors,” the protest states. “In explaining its decision to implement a ‘single award task order competition,’ for services that the EIS contract did not require and that most EIS contractors cannot offer, the agency asserts that its procurement approach will actually enhance competition. Such a ‘determination,’ if it exists, lacks any rational approach.”