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Government Contracts: Specificity of Contractor Bids

When submitting a bid, it is the duty of the party making the offer to demonstrate an understanding of the project requirements.  This means that the party making the offer must include an adequate approach to performing all requirements and make the written bid specific enough as to leave nothing up to interpretation or misunderstanding by the soliciting agency.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently provided a bid protest decision that highlights the explicit importance of attention to details when submitting bids.  The bid protest at issue was that of LC Engineers Incorporated, who challenged the award of a fixed-priced contract to a competitor.  


The U.S. Department of the Navy sent out a request for proposals for avionic test set cable assemblies.  The request for proposals stated that the bids would be evaluated on three factors: technical approach (how the potential subcontractors intended to fulfill the requirements), management approach (schedule of when different tasks would be completed), and price.  

The request for proposals informed all the potential contractors that the technical and management approach was more important than price in the evaluation of the offers.  LC Engineers Inc. was informed several times that their initial offer was lacking specific details regarding a demonstration of their ability to complete the requirements of the contract.   

Despite the Department of the Navy having informed LC Engineers Inc. to provide more details of their technical approach, LC Engineers’ final written offer was said to have contained many of the same mistakes and vagueness regarding technical and managerial approach to the project as the original proposal.

As a result, the Department of the Navy determined LC Engineers’ offer to be unacceptable due to the high risk of not meeting the contract requirements.  The offer was rejected specifically because LC Engineers Inc. was missing performance steps and did not provide for the testing of the cable assemblies.  

LC Engineers Inc. protested the dismissal of their bid on the grounds that they were using a new technical method that reduced the amount of time necessary to accomplish the contract’s requirements.   LC Engineers argued that the Department of the Navy mistook their shortened schedule for not understanding the contract requirements.  

The GAO rejected this argument and stated that it was LC Engineers’ responsibility to make sure their written offer explained the new methods that they were planning to use.  Without specificity in their written offer, LC Engineers Inc. left it up to the Navy to interpret the proposal based on their own understanding.

The lack of detail in their offer was a double-edged sword.  Not only did they not get offered the contract, but without any technical or managerial specifics to support their bid, the only grounds they had to challenge the dismissal of their offer was simply that they disagreed with the Navy’s bid assessment.

Based on this decision, it is important to remember that when submitting any offers in response to a request for proposal or any solicitations from government agencies, to make sure that every aspect of the project is explained in detail.  Leave nothing up to interpretation. If the agency identifies deficiencies in the offer, make sure to address them in the final written offer.  For additional information on bid protests or general construction law-related questions, contact Matthew G. Hjortsberg at 410-583-2400 or hjortsberg@bowie-jensen.com.

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