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The Government Accountability Office (GAO), in TLS Joint Venture, LLC, B-422275, recently sustained a bid protest alleging that the contract awardee’s System for Award Management (SAM) registration lapsed between the submission of the offer and award of the contract. The key facts, holdings, and takeaways from this noteworthy case are discussed below. 

The Facts

The protester argued that the agency’s contract award was unreasonable because the awardee’s SAM registration had lapsed between the submission of the offer and the date of contract award. In support of this argument, the protester noted that FAR provision 52.204-7 requires an offeror to be continuously registered from submission of the offer, through contract award, and until final payment on any contract.

In response, the agency argued that FAR 52.204-7 does not impose a requirement that an offeror continuously maintain its SAM registration and, further, that the awardee’s SAM registration never lapsed in any event because the awardee submitted its renewal information before expiration of the registration.

The Holdings

The GAO agreed with the protester that FAR 52.204-7 — in relevant part — “plainly and unambiguously requires offerors to maintain their SAM registrations during the evaluation period”:

An Offeror is required to be registered in SAM when submitting an offer or quotation, and shall continue to be registered until time of award, during performance, and through final payment of any contract, basic agreement, basic ordering agreement, or blanket purchasing agreement resulting from this solicitation. FAR 52.204-7(b)(1) (emphasis added)

Accordingly, and because the awardee’s SAM renewal information did not actually cure the lapse, the GAO sustained the protest and recommended that the agency terminate the contract award and make a new award decision.

The Takeaways

The GAO’s holding in this regard comes less than a year after the U.S. Court of Federal Claims found in favor of a protester under similar facts in the case of Myriddian, LLC v. United States, 165 Fed. Cl. 650 (2023). As such, both the GAO and the court have now made clear that the failure to be registered in SAM at the time of submission of the offer and/or a SAM registration lapse while a proposal is being evaluated can be a sufficient basis to sustain a protest.

While some have questioned the fairness of these holdings given the well-documented issues with the SAM registration process, this is a reality that contractors will have to deal with. Thus, unless and until the FAR Council changes the rule, contractors must be particularly vigilant about ensuring not only that they are properly registered in SAM at the time of submission of their offer but also that they do not experience a lapse in their SAM registration after submission of their offer. If you have any questions about this noteworthy development, please do not hesitate to contact Aron Beezley or Gabby Sprio.