The National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) will need to rework some requirements in its $50 billion Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 4 (CIO-SP4) IT services contract, after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) partially sustained a bid protest.

In the request for proposals (RFP) for CIO-SP4, NITAAC put limitations on the number of examples of experience that large business mentors could submit in mentor-protégé joint ventures. Specifically, large business mentors could only submit two of the three possible experience examples.

Computer World Services Corporation (CWS) and CWS FMTI JV filed the bid protest with GAO, arguing that the RFP is “unduly restrictive of competition” due to the limitations.

GAO agreed with the plaintiffs that the limitations were restrictive and found that NITAAC did not provide a “reasonable rationale” for the limitations.

“In light of the purpose of the mentor-protégé joint venture program, we do not find that the agency explains why it has the discretion to competitively disfavor a mentor-protégé joint venture with a large business mentor as compared to all other small business offerors,” GAO said in its Nov. 23 opinion. “We also do not find that the agency reasonably explains why it has the discretion to, in effect, favor mentor-protégé joint ventures with small business mentors over mentor-protégé joint ventures with large business mentors. We therefore sustain the protest on this basis.”

The mentor-protégé joint venture program, which is overseen by the Small Business Administration, allows a protégé to benefit from the experience of a mentor.

The expectation was NITAAC would award the CIO-SP4 contract by February 2022, but NITAAC will now have to rework the requirements regarding the limitations in its solicitation.

The long-awaited CIO-SP4 is designed to deliver IT solutions and services in an infinite-delivery and infinite-quality contract, with a ceiling of $50 billion and a five-year option. CIO-SP4 will replace the CIO-SP3 contract, which expires in May 2022.

However, in a Nov. 4 update, NITAAC said “if there is a delay in the award date of CIO-SP4, please know CIO-SP3 and CIO-SP3 Small Business may be extended up to a year and NITAAC will ensure there is no gap in contractual coverage between CIO-SP3 and CIO-SP4.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.