Aug 10, 2017

In its July 28, 2017 decision, the GAO denied a protest and found an agency’s decision to negotiate a sole-source contract with a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) to be reasonable based on the agency’s lack of progress in meeting its HUBZone goals. JRS Staffing Services, B-414630, B414630.2 (July 28, 2017).

The original solicitation process from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons (BOP), underwent several rounds. The BOP originally issued a solicitation without any restriction on competition. However, following a protest from JRS, they agency canceled the solicitation in order to conduct market research to determine whether it would be feasible to set the contract aside for small businesses. Several months later, the BOP awarded a HUBZone sole-source contract to ProHill. JRS subsequently protested that award, challenging the BOP’s failure to post a notice of its intent to award a sole-source contract on the FedBizOpps website. The BOP subsequently terminated the sole-source contract in order to being the procurement process over. One month later, the BOP posted a statement of work and a sources sought notice for the requirement on the FedBizOpps website, which included a market research questionnaire. One more month later, BOP posted a notice of the agency’s intent to negotiate a sole-source contract with ProHill, a HUBZone. JRS subsequently filed its third protest regarding this BOP contract.

In challenging the BOP’s decision to negotiate a HUBZone sole-source award with ProHill, JRS argued that the award was based on flawed market research as the solicitation could have been competed as a WOSB set aside as both JRS and ProHill are WOSBs. In denying JRS’s protest, the GAO noted that the FAR expressly provides that there is no order of precedence between the WOSB and HUBZone programs and agencies may consider both the results of their market research and their progress in fulfilling their small business goals. Here, it was reasonable that the agency’s decision to use the HUBZone program was based primarily on its lack of progress in meeting its HUBZone goals whereas the agency had already exceeded its WOSB goals. Therefore, the GAO dismissed JRS’s protest.


About the Author:

Heather Mims | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA Heather Mims
Associate Attorney

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.

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  • Saundra Thurman-Custis says:

    In this case it appears contractors would benefit from researching the Agencies compliance with set-aside goals.
    We’ve noticed solicitations posting two set-asides, e.g. 8(a) and RSA or Hubzone and RSA. We noted an 8(a) contract that was sole-sourced to a Hubzone; without conducting market research.
    These practices appear to defy FAR regulations.