The FBI is very good at tracking down terrorist threats and catching criminals. It appears, however, that it needs some help in choosing contractors to support its mission.

The FBI wanted a contractor for its Name Check and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)/Declassification programs. Specifically, the FBI needed personnel to conduct research and to provide analysis and reporting services. The FBI decided to procure these services under the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) using streamlined procedures. So, the FBI issued a Request for Quotations (RFQ) with these labor categories: research analysts; program managers, general consultants; and legal administrative assistants. That much is clear.

The rest is less clear. Apparently, the FBI selected a contractor that did not have the required personnel. Instead of personnel with experience in paralegal, records management and declassification review, the FBI got personnel with capabilities in the development of business methods and identification of best practices. That’s according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) decision in US Investigations Services, Professional Services Division, Inc., B-410454.2, Jan. 15, 2015, 2015 CPD ¶ 44.

That case was cited by GAO’s general counsel, Susan A. Poling, recently in the GAO Bid Protest Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2015. Ms. Poling cited to US Investigations Services as an example of GAO’s Most Prevalent Grounds for Sustaining Protests. GAO notified Congress that “unreasonable technical evaluation” was no. 5 on the list and described the decision as follows: “finding that the agency erred in concluding that the labor categories included on the awardee’s Federal Supply Schedule contract encompassed the requirements of the task order.”

Contractors can learn valuable lessons from this case. First, don’t leave the Government hanging. Make sure the labor categories in your proposal match the categories listed in the Solicitation. If there is not a direct match, make sure you explain how your personnel fit the requirements. For task orders under FSS contracts, the law is clear. All solicited labor categories must be on the successful offeror’s FSS contract. Here, maybe the awardee was surprised that it won. More likely, the awardee just failed to explain what it was offering. That was fatal. If you can’t explain how your labor categories fit the RFQ requirements, maybe you should take a pass on the bid.

For protesters and disappointed bidders, this case demonstrates a solid ground for protest. In truth, you probably already know what your competitors are offering, at least when it comes to FSS contract offerings. A quick check on after you receive an award notice is always a good idea.