By Heather Mims,
On September 13, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the Army acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it failed to buy commercially available products whenever possible or, in terms of the statute at issue, to the maximum extent practicable.
This litigation began when Palantir USG, Inc. filed a pre-award bid protest in the Court of Federal Claims (although Palantir previously filed a pre-award bid protest with the GAO, which was denied). Palantir’s protest challenged the Army’s solicitation to develop and integrate the Army’s Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS-A2), which is the Army’s primary system for processing and disseminating multi-sensor intelligence and weather information. Palantir argued that the Army violated a federal statute (the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act or “FASA”) by failing to determine whether its needs could be met by commercial items before issuing the solicitation. Generally, FASA ” requires that federal agencies, to the maximum extent practicable, procure commercially available technology to meet their needs. Specifically, Palantir argued that its flagship software product could satisfy the Army’s requirements.
In finding that the Army failed to determine whether its needs could be met by a commercially available product, the Court found that the Army was, or should have been, aware of Palantir’s data management platform. Thus, the Court found, the Army acted arbitrarily and capriciously in failing to fully evaluate commercial options. As such, prior to issuing the solicitation at issue, the Army’s conclusion to exclude commercial items from consideration was not rational and was not in accordance with the applicable law, which required an agency to use its market research to determine whether there are available commercial items that: (A) meet the agency’s requirements; (B) could be modified to meet the agency’s requirements; or (C) could meet the agency’s requirements if those requirements were modified to a reasonable extent.
While this was a pre-award protest, the Court did not go so far as to recommend that the Army choose Palantir as the awardee. Rather, the Court simply required the Army to satisfy the requirements of FASA and determine whether its needs could rationally be met by a commercially available product, which it has thus far failed to do.
About the Author:
Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.