Protest of DHA Theater Medical Information Program – Joint (TMIP-J) system modernization award denied

“DIGEST – Protest that agency’s issuance of a small business innovation research (SBIR) phase III sole-source task order was improper because the work required by the order did not derive from, extend, or complete a prior SBIR phase I or II agreement is denied where protester fails to show that the order’s requirements do not incorporate any original concepts, findings, ideas, or research results generated through performance of a prior SBIR phase I or II contract.” 

“BACKGROUND -… This protest involves the Theater Medical Information Program – Joint (TMIP-J) healthcare delivery system, which comprises at least 11 different software systems and products that collect a variety of data related to the healthcare of service members … According to the agency, the TMIP-J “enhances the clinical care and information capture at all levels of care in [t]heater, transmits critical information to the [t]heater [c]ommander, [identifies] the evacuation chain for combat and non-combat casualties and forges the theater links of the longitudinal health record to the [military healthcare system] and the Department of Veterans Affairs.”  Id. at 3.  TMIP-J also supports healthcare delivery, including “the application of routine and emergency medical practices such as preventive, routine, emergency, surgical, enroute care, and diagnostic care in complex dynamic environments.”  Id.  The TMIP-J software suite is used by all branches of the Armed Forces to provide healthcare data and logistics for service members deployed around the world.” 

“The TMIP-J software systems are old and disparate; each system has independent architectures, code baselines, schedules, and sustainment methods.  Id. at 4.  The systems are becoming obsolete and currently the agency has contracted with American Systems to sustain and maintain the current capabilities of each system…” 

“On September 20, 2019, the agency issued to American Systems an SBIR phase III basic ordering agreement (BOA) that was intended to “build on efforts that derive from, extend, or complete efforts that were generated under previous SBIR

hase I and II work.”  Agency Report (AR), Tab 1, BOA No. HT003819G0001 at 6.  That same day, the agency also issued under the BOA an order to transform and support the TMIP-J software suite.  Protest at 5.  On September 25, 2019, AFDNT protested with our Office the issuance of the BOA and order to American Systems, arguing that American Systems was ineligible to receive an SBIR phase III award under relevant provisions of the SBIR statute and the SBIR Program Policy Directive promulgated by the Small Business Administration (SBA) because American Systems had not performed, was not novated, and had not been recognized as a successor in interest to the underlying SBIR phase I or II contracts from which the phase III award allegedly derived…” 

“DISCUSSION – AFDNT protests that the new phase III order issued to American Systems is improper because it does not derive from, extend, or complete work performed by American Systems under a prior SBIR phase I or II agreement.  For the reasons discussed below, we deny the protest. 

As noted above, an agency may issue a phase III SBIR award for “work that derives from, extends, or completes efforts made under prior funding agreements under the SBIR program…”  

“With respect to an SBIR phase III award, our Office has previously found that to show that one effort derives from, extends, or completes another, “it must be evident that the requirements for the second effort incorporated original concepts, findings, ideas, or research results that were generated in the first…” 

 “DECISION – ASRC Federal Data Network Technologies, LLC (AFDNT), a small business of McLean, Virginia, protests the issuance of a small business innovation research (SBIR) phase III sole-source task order to American Systems Corporation, of Chantilly, Virginia, by the Defense Health Agency (DHA) for the modernization of an existing military healthcare delivery system.  AFDNT contends that the agency’s phase III order was improper because it did not derive from, extend, or complete a prior SBIR phase I or II agreement performed by American Systems. 

We deny the protest.” 

Access the full 12-page decision here. 

G2X TAKE: After a series of back and forth protests were filed over the past year challenging the award of this BOA by way of an SBIR Phase III Sole Source action, GAO has sided with the Government, denying the latest protest. This is a good read for those following the rise of SBIR Phase III awards as others can learn from the missteps that come with any new approach.  

Details related to the DHA Theater Medical Information Program-Joint SBIR Phase III transformation task award can be found here.

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