The Air Force issued a RFTOP (Request for Task Order Proposals) under its IDIQ contracts for cyber security and information systems technical tasks. Proposals were to be submitted electronically no later than 1:00 p.m. Central Time on July 17, 2017. The solicitation provided that proposal receipt would be acknowledged by return email.
ManTech Advanced Systems submitted a proposal in response to the RFTOP. In fact, ManTech submitted its proposal several times. The first time was at 1:25 p.m (EDT). ManTech received confirmation of completed delivery through its Outlook delivery receipt feature. Seven minutes later, ManTech, after not receiving an acknowledgement from the Air Force that it had received the proposal, contacted the Air Force and was told the proposal had not been received. So ManTech resent its proposal to the designated mailbox, the person it had spoken to, and the contract specialist. Again, ManTech received electronic confirmation that its email had gone through to its destination but once again, no email confirmation from the Air Force. ManTech sent it again at 1:59 p.m. (EDT) with the same result. At 2:01 p.m. the contracting officer instructed ManTech to forget about it - time for receipt had expired. Subsequently, the Air Force informed ManTech that since the Air Force had not received ManTech's proposal, ManTech was not considered for award.
ManTech filed a bid protest with the GAO, asserting that the Air Force should have considered its proposal because the proposal was timely sent to the Air Force's designated mail box and ManTech had received confirmation from its Outlook delivery system that it had been received.
The Air Force contended that ManTech's proposal was not received in the mailbox designated in the solicitation. The Air Force explained that when an email is sent to any recipient that is at an organization that is part of DoD, it is scanned by the enterprise email security gateway for malicious content. The email is then delivered to the recipient's email exchange server if no malicious content is found. The recipient's email exchange server then performs additional scans based on the specific policies of the recipient organization. The recipient's server can block, quarantine, drop, or deliver the email to the recipient's email box. The Air Force determined that based on content, ManTech's proposal was rejected by the Air Force server.
Was the GAO sympathetic to ManTech's plight? Not at all. The GAO wrote that it is an offeror's responsibility to deliver its proposal to the proper place at the proper time. Moreover, an offeror has the burden of showing that it timely delivered its proposal to the agency at the specified address. An agency is not required to consider a proposal where there is no evidence that the proposal was actually received. In this case, ManTech failed to establish that its proposal was actually delivered to the Air Force's designated email prior to the time set for the receipt of proposals, and thus, failed to meet its burden of showing that its proposal was timely delivered to the Air Force.
You can read the full decision here.