In initiating the Source Selection procedure, several preliminary matters were necessary. Pursuant to AFR 70-15 the delegate defendant Acting Secretary appointed Major General W. Y. Smith, Commander, Oklahoma City Air Material Area (OCAMA), to serve as the Source Selection authority (SSA) for this project. The function of the SSA is to appoint the Source Selection Advisory Council (SSAC) and Source Selection Evaluation Board (SSEB) Chairmen, select SSAC personnel, generally oversee the Source Selection project, and, most important, make the contract award. The function of the SSAC is to establish specific evaluation criteria, determine their relative importance by assigning a weight to each factor considered and to appoint SSEB personnel and direct their work. Upon receipt of the SSEB findings, the SSAC prepares a proposal analysis for the SSA to enable him to make a proper judgment in awarding the contract. General Smith appointed Colonel J. A. Muehlenweg, Director of Procurement and Production, OCAMA, to serve as the SSAC Chairman.
The primary function of the SSEB is the evaluation of proposals as initially received and the negotiation of contract details with each company within a competitive range permitted by the contract specifications set out by the LRFP. Colonel Jack R. Lindeman, Program Manager, Worldwide Airborne Command Post Systems, Directorate of Materiel Management, OCAMA, was appointed to serve as the Chairman of the SSEB. To assist the SSEB Chairman in evaluating the proposals to be solicited a co-chairman was appointed for each of six technical areas in which the offerors would be evaluated.
Once these preliminary matters had been accomplished, the project moved to the solicitation stage, to be followed by proposal evaluation and the adjustment of contract details. The latter process is known as the contract definitization phase and is administered by the Contract Definitization Group (CDG). The original contract specifications were, of course, set out in LRFP F34601-73-R-6000, which was mailed to eight, preselected contractors on November 22, 1972. These included both Southwest Airmotive and Curtiss-Wright. Subsequently, six other contractors requested and were given the LRFP.
LRFP F34601-73-R-6000 is a voluminous, comprehensive document running approximately 250 pages. It sets out in technical detail the exact Air Force requirements and specifications, the criteria for evaluating offers, and the documentation needed from the offeror to establish his competence. Minor amendments of the LRFP were in fact made on three occasions, none of which concern us since those changes were essentially administrative and did not modify the evaluation criteria or their respective weight.
The LRFP lists eight evaluation factors in Section D to which all offerors must respond with appropriate information. The fifth factor is entitled "GENERAL INFORMATION AND SELECTION CRITERIA" and includes six general areas of technical competence. Listed as they appear in the LRFP in order of importance they are: (1) Management Capabilities; (2) Facilities and Equipment; (3) Production Plan; (4) Quality Control; (5) Experience; and (6) Safety. Attachments to the LRFP broke down these general areas into "items," "factors," and "sub-factors." Items were to be given a raw, numerical score by the SSEB, while factors and sub-factors were to be given only a subjective rating of check, plus or minus. Once compiled, the scores were ultimately weighted by the SSAC to indicate a final numerical score. It should be noted that price is the sixth of eight general evaluation factors listed in Section D and is mentioned elsewhere in the LRFP as a consideration in making the award.
Following the issuance and distribution of the LRFP, six contractors submitted timely proposals on or before January 26, 1973. Among them were Curtiss-Wright and Southwest Airmotive. Once received, the information in the proposals was sent to an appropriate evaluation committee; there was a single cost-price panel as well as a panel for each of the general areas of technical competence cited heretofore.
Applying the pre-established standards and procedures each SSEB panel evaluated the particular area for which it was responsible. Scores were assigned and deficiencies noted in Deficiency Report forms. After those deficiencies had been collated by area co-chairmen at the conclusion of the SSEB evaluation, the contractor was advised of any such deficiencies. In turn, the contractor responded to the deficiency notice and was re-evaluated. Both Curtiss-Wright and Southwest Airmotive underwent this procedure. Where a contractor's response was still inadequate, the remaining discrepancies were adjusted by face-to-face negotiations, which were conducted with each offeror in February and March 1973. The results of these conferences were similarly evaluated by the SSEB.
A nine-volume summary report of all evaluations was prepared by the SSEB and presented to the SSAC on March 23, 1973. The SSAC directed an on-site review shortly thereafter to determine whether each offeror had been able to resolve reported weaknesses so as to bring his proposal into compliance with the specific requirements of the LRFP. The SSAC then analyzed the SSEB Report and prepared a Proposal Analysis Report of some 150 pages, which was submitted to the SSA on April 9. The SSCA Report reflected the weighing of scores prepared by the SSEB, which, to preserve the integrity of the scoring system, had not been advised of the actual weights involved.
After reviewing the SSAC Report and an oral briefing, General Smith, the SAA, determined that three offerors, including Curtiss-Wright and Southwest Airmotive, had the technical capacity to perform the required overhauling and repair services. Considering the technical evaluations before him and the fact that the Southwest Airmotive proposal was substantially less costly, he awarded the contract to Southwest Airmotive. His decision was subsequently approved by the Commander, Air Force Logistics Command after review by the Commander's staff. On April 17, 1973 Southwest Airmotive was formally awarded the contract. The next day all unsuccessful offerors were notified of the selection. It may be finally noted that the entire Source Selection process for Contract No. F34601-73-D-1444 required some 14,000 man-hours of Air Force Personnel.
It is the contention of Curtiss-Wright that the statistical data cited in the SSAC Report as well as the information reaped from the Post-Award Conference Record (prepared by the Post-Award Orientation Team) conclusively demonstrates that the proposal of Southwest Airmotive was non-responsive to and non-compliant with the LRFP and should have been rejected. Section D-8 of the LRFP does in fact refer to the "very critical" nature of the services to be rendered, which, if improperly performed, "may endanger human life." Besides listing six specific areas of technical competence in Section D-5 the LRFP in Section D-8 makes it "mandatory" that:
(1) The facility proposed for contract performance must have prior to award of a contract: