The Government Accountability Office in a legal decision released Tuesday partially denied and partially dismissed a protest of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement solicitation for data analytics to support its forthcoming criminal investigations platform.
GAO found that key personnel requirements in the Repository for Analytics in Virtualized Environment (RAVEn) platform contract’s request for quotations were “reasonably limited” to ICE‘s minimum needs, denying the Ambit Group’s allegation to the contrary, ruling that the company failed to prove its quote was “competitively prejudiced.”
ICE stayed the award of the task order to Booz Allen Hamilton, the only vendor remaining in the competition, until the protest was resolved. But now the agency can proceed with work on the first of three parts to its next-generation RAVEn platform, which ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit will use to compare intelligence against federal and outside databases during cybercrime, drug smuggling and human trafficking cases.
“Because we find that the RFQ is not unduly restrictive under the key personnel factor, and have no basis to disturb the agency’s rating of Ambit’s quotation as no-go under this factor, we need not reach its remaining challenges,” reads GAO’s decision made Nov. 19. “Even if we were to agree with Ambit that the agency erred in those respects, its quotation would remain technically unacceptable, and an unacceptable quotation cannot form the basis for award.”
Ambit argued ICE’s key personnel requirements were “unreasonable” and “unduly restrictive of competition” because more than 25 skill or experience requirements for the lead senior data scientist role were overstated. Finding a person with the minimum required experience and a top-secret clearance is “nearly impossible,” according to the protest.
GAO found Ambit neither specified which requirements exceeded ICE’s minimum requirements in its protest nor refuted the agency’s subsequent explanation for them. ICE also isn’t obligated to eliminate a disadvantage Ambit faces due to business circumstances, according to the decision.
ICE said it prioritized the lead senior data scientist position because it must be staffed and ready to work at the start of contract work, which GAO found reasonable.
The agency ultimately eliminated Ambit’s quote from competition as a “no-go” under the key personnel factor because its candidate lacked experience in three areas that went unaddressed in its protest.
Ambit, ICE and Booz Allen did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.
RAVEn will be supported by two additional task orders covering the user interface and software DevSecOps, all initially valued between $50 million and $100 million. The task orders recompete their predecessors for the current RAVEn platform, where Booz Allen is the incumbent contractor for DevSecOps, DirectViz Solutions for data analytics, and KCI Acuity for the user interface.