U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE BOARD OF CONTRACT APPEALS The Appeal of Automated Datatron, Inc. Docket No. GPO BCA 3-87 March 31, 1989 Michael F. DiMario Administrative Law Judge Opinion This appeal, timely filed by Automated Datatron, Inc. (Appellant), 4318 Gallatin Street, Hyattsville, MD 20781, dated January 27, 1987, is from the final decision of Jack Scott, Contracting Officer (CO), U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20401 (Respondent), dated January 20, 1987, completely terminating contract Purchase Order 70019, Program C151-S, Jacket No. 181-554, for default because of Appellant's "continuing failure to comply with the delivery and Quality Assurance requirements." The appeal is denied and the decision of the CO is affirmed for the reasons set forth hereinbelow. Background Appellant was competitively awarded the Program C151-S single-award term contract by Purchase Order 70019 dated August 27, 1986, to produce such Federal Register microfiche as might be requisitioned from Respondent by the Office of Federal Register during the term October 1, 1986, to September 30, 1987. The contract in the amount of $84,324.10 was made in strict accordance with Appellant's quotation of August 18, 1986, and Respondent's specifications. (Rule 4 File, hereinafter "R4 File," Tab E.) On October 6, 1986, the CO sent Appellant a letter stating that an examination of microfiche samples produced by Appellant under Print Order 60000 reflected the defects shown on an inspection report attached thereto and that based on such defects, the work had been determined to be rejectable and would require remanufacturing by Appellant in strict accordance with the specifications and at no additional cost to the Government. (Ninety-one such complaint letters, including the referenced letter, were sent to the Appellant from October 6, 1986, through January 22, 1987, on various print orders numbering 60000 through 60078.) (R4 File, Tab F.) By letter dated October 9, 1986, referencing Print Orders 60000 through, and including 60003, the CO notified Appellant that he considered Appellant's failure to comply with the quality attributes and delivery schedule of the specifications to be a condition that was endangering the performance of the contract in accordance with its terms. The notice gave the Appellant 10 days from its receipt to advise Respondent of the measures it had taken or was then taking to cure such condition. The notice also advised Appellant that unless such condition had been cured, the Government might terminate the contract for default pursuant to the contract's "default" clause. (R4 File, Tab G.) A second "Cure Notice" on Print Order 60002 was sent to Appellant by the CO on November 5, 1986. (R4 File, Tab H.) In response to the second cure notice, Appellant's T.D. Marlatt, Vice President, by letter dated November 14, 1986, advised the CO that: Sample copies for the Print Order were initially rejected because the length of the first and second generation microfiche were not within specifications (147.25-148.0mm). The second submission was rejected again for length. The next sample provided GPO was rejected for loss of data on the second and third generation. Subsequently the 3rd generation samples were accepted on October 23rd and the second generation submission accepted on the 24th. Distribution copies were prepared when the 3rd generation was accepted. Techniques have been established which now make it possible for ADI to evaluate microfiche dimensions, and other attributes, in essentially the same manner as GPO quality assurance personnel. Repeated submissions of samples are thus avoided. R4 File, Tab I. A "Cure Notice" respecting Print Orders 60028, 60029, and 60039 was sent to Appellant by the CO on November 26, 1986. (R4 File, Tab J.) In response to this "Cure Notice" Marlatt, on December 5, 1986, wrote the CO that: During the past 45 days, we have expanded and reorganized the micrographics quality assurance section, installing equipment of the same type employed by GPO to verify specifications of microfiche manufactured under Program C151-S. . . . . Sent managers, supervisors and quality control personnel to train with GPO quality control personnel. Use these individuals to provide additional training to all personnel who work on this project. Establish priorities to assure that pick-up, filming and subsequent actions required by the contract will not be delayed by other production. Researched problems which cause rejections and determined means to eliminate the cause of the deficiency. As an example, we have recently seen that excessive cleaning of the first and second generation microfiche after inspection introduces minute scratches which then go undetected as the microfiche is dispatched to GPO for examination. Developed closer coordination with GPO quality control personnel to expedite corrections when these are necessary. In summary, we have reorganized our quality assurance section to enhance not only its performance but to improve training, highlight problem areas quickly, and provide solutions to meeting the requirements of this contract. Rule 4 File, Tab K. On December 23, 1986, the CO again sent Appellant a "Cure Notice" on Print Orders 60040, 60042, 60043, 60046, 60048, 60049, 60051-60055, 60058, and 60059. (R4 File, Tab L.) In response to this "Cure Notice," Marlatt, by letter dated December 30, 1986, stated: The major factor involved in the delay in complying with the distribution schedule is our inability to secure sufficient Government furnished envelopes in a timely manner. It is necessary to notify GPO representatives weekly that envelopes are required for future distribution. The time delay between notification and the availability of envelopes for pickup, however, has caused more than 50 percent of the scheduled shipments to be held up from one to ten days after GPO Quality Assurance release. With respect to your quality assurance concerns, we have previously emphasized the difficulty encountered in meeting the new microfiche length tolerances; [sic] which provide only .75 millimeter margin for error. The vendors have recently informed us that they will not be able to modify the TDC cameras to guarantee our ability to meet these requirements. Camera manufacturers state the pulldown between microfiche frequently will vary enough to generate a cumulative difference in the position of the cut mark on adjacent microfiche. This makes it impossible to depend upon either an automatic cutter or manual cutting utilizing a template registered upon the cut mark to maintain each microfiche within this .75 range. Parallax in eye position makes it very difficult to detect minute variations exceeding the less than one millimeter range, further complicating the matter. R4 File, Tab M. Thereafter, by letter of January 20, 1987, the CO advised Marlatt of the termination. (R4 File, Tab N.) By letter dated January 27, 1987, Appellant noted its appeal as follows: Automated Datatron, Incorporated (ADI) hereby appeals the Contracting Officers decision to terminate the referenced contracts for "Default". While agreeing that rejections of microfiche occurred, resulting in shipping delays for both contracts, ADI believes the reason for termination should be for "Convenience of the Government". This appeal is based upon the fact that despite diligent effort, and at considerable additional expense, the contractor was unable to procure equipment that consistently creates microfiche which meet the extremely tight specifications stipulated in the contracts. This problem has been identified to the vendors of camera and duplicator equipment. Their position is that the tolerances, particularly for length, exceed the capability of current equipment on a continuous basis. We advised the Government Printing Office of the problems encountered several times. Our most recent letter requesting that the remainder of the contract be cancelled for "Convenience of the Government" is attached at Appendix A. 1/ In summary, we believe that the new specifications for Programs (151 and 90) are excessively restrictive for currently available equipment. No other GPO, or other Government contracts, to our knowledge, contain these same specifications. Therefore, if these specifications for this particular job are necessary for the convenience of the Government, the cancellations should be for that same reason, rather than default. Official File, Tab 1. By letter dated February 3, 1987, this Board notified Appellant and Respondent that the appeal had been docketed, provided Appellant with a copy of the Board's Rules of Practice and Procedure, advised Respondent of its duty to assemble and furnish to this Board and Appellant a copy of all documents pertinent to the appeal (the R4 File), and advised Appellant that, within 30 days after receipt of such documents, it should transmit to the Board and Respondent any documents not contained therein which it considers to be relevant to the appeal. The Appellant was also advised of the requirement for filing a complaint and for making an election respecting the desire for a hearing. Respondent complied with the R4 File requirement on March 10, 1987. The file contained all of the documents referenced above, plus a copy of the specifications (Tab B), the original bidders list (Tab C), the abstract and confirmation of 1/ Tab A, referenced by Appellant, is its letter of December 30, 1986, supra. bid prices (Tab D), a record of quality problems and late deliveries kept by GPO's Quality Assurance Section (Tab F), and a memorandum of February 17, 1987, with attachments referenced therein (Tab K) from Robert M. Saholsky, Industrial Engineer, Quality Systems Division, Quality Control and Technical Department, GPO, to Printing Specialist, Term Contract Division, Printing Procurement Department, GPO, respecting microfiche length. The memorandum stated: In the establishment of microfiche standards for the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), the GPO has attempted to adhere to the recognized national standards for microfiche created by the American National Standards Institute and the Association for Information and Image Management (ANSI/AIIM). The ANSI/AIIM Committees that prepare and approve these microfiche standards are comprised of the most knowledgeable authorities in the field of micrographics from both private industry and the federal government. The most current standard for microfiche length is ANSI/AIIM MS5-1985, approved as a national standard on May 13, 1985. MS5-1985 requires a microfiche length of 148 millimeters with a tolerance of plus zero millimeters and minus .75 millimeters (see attached MS5-1985). MS5-1985 represents a tightening of the previous microfiche length standard MS5-1975, (see attached MS5-1975), requiring a microfiche length of 148 millimeters with a tolerance of plus zero millimeters and minus 1.00 millimeters. The tightening of this standard is the result of improvements in micrographics equipment and technology over the last 12 years. Considering the possible difficulty in attaining this microfiche length standard on a consistent production basis, Mr. Ray Gulick (Documents Technical Support Group, Superintendent of Documents) and myself contacted the Engineering Division of Consolidated Micrographics, Inc. and the Southeastern Regional Manager of the Photomatrix Corporation. Consolidated Micrographics and Photomatrix Corporation are large manufacturers of microfiche duplicators. Both Consolidated Micrographics and the Photomatrix Corporation confirmed the fact that a microfiche length standard of 147.25 millimeters to 148.00 millimeters is warranted and can easily be achieved on a consistent production basis. It is therefore, recommended that the Government Printing Office ultimately adhere to the ANSI/AIIM standards, including the ANSI/AIIM standard for microfiche length. By letter dated April 16, 1987, the Board, having received no answer to Appellant's complaint from the Respondent, advised Appellant that it had entered a general denial on behalf of the Government pursuant to Rule 6.(b) of the Board's Rules of Practice and Procedure. On April 22, 1987, the Board received a letter from Marlatt dated April 9, 1987, which stated: Automated Datatron, Inc. (ADI) wishes the Board to note the following: Both of the referenced files contain GPO Memoranda stating that Consolidated Micrographics, Inc. confirmed that "a micrographic length standard of 147.25 millimeters to 148.00 millimeters is warranted and can easily be achieved on a consistent production basis." ADI has received information from Consolidated Micrographics that only its most recently manufactured machines can be modified to meet this standard. We will forward written confirmation of this information when it is received from Consolidated micrographics. Official File, Tab 7. No further correspondence was received from either party. Accordingly, the record was administratively closed in accordance with the Board's Rules and comes on for decision on the written record in this manner, Appellant having failed to exercise its right to a hearing. Discussion The appeal raises the question of whether the specification's provision respecting the length of microfiche is excessively restrictive. The question is substantially the same as that raised by Appellant in Docket No. GPO BCA 4-87 decided this date upon identical specification language and similar facts. In the instant case, as in Docket No. GPO BCA 4-87, the Appellant has offered no evidence whatsoever to support the primary assertion of its complaint that "the new specifications . . . are excessively restrictive for currently available equipment." Moreover, the Board's examination of the record convinces it that such assertion is clearly erroneous for the following reasons: (1) The solicitation advised: "BIDDERS PLEASE NOTE: "This contract has been extensively revised; therefore, all bidders are cautioned to familiarize themselves with all provisions of this contract before bidding." (R4 File, Tab B, page 1 of the specifications.) (2) The specifications state the size of the microfiche to be 148 by 105 millimeters and that the microfiche "shall conform to the microfiche Format 24/98, as specified in 'ANSI/AIM MS5-1985, American National Standard for Micrographics - Microfiche'," and that the microfiche conform to the quality assurance for microfiche provisions set forth in Section 3 of the specifications. (3) Among the provisions of Section 3 is a quality attribute for length which states the nominal standard for such attribute as 148 millimeters as per table 5 of "ANSI PH 1.51-1983 American National Standard 'Dimensions for Micrographic Sheet and Roll Films.'"; with tolerances for such standard to be as per Defect Classification Table included in such specifications as follows: LENGTH Defect Classification less than 147.25 mm (5.797") critical greater than 148.0 mm (5.827") critical Rule 4 File, Tab B, specifications, page 9 of 22. (4) The Government based its inclusion of such provision upon a highly regarded, universally accepted standard. (R4 File, Tab P.) (5) There is no evidence of any protest of these specifications by Appellant or any other vendor to whom the solicitation was sent. The bidder's list reflects that Respondent received 4 responsive bids to the solicitation, including Appellant's bid. (R4 File, Tab C.) (6) Moreover, because of the differences in the 4 bids, Appellant was apparently asked to review and confirm its bid for possible errors which it did affirmatively by letter dated August 22, 1986. (R4 File, Tab D, sheet 2.) (7) Performance records indicate that while Appellant had great difficulty in meeting the specifications respecting length, acceptance was achieved after correction in certain instances, thus confirming that while the specifications were difficult to meet, performance was not impossible. (R4 File, Tab O.) The Board believes that given such findings, the decision of the Contracting Officer, as in Docket No. GPO BCA 4-87, was fully supported by the evidence and should not be disturbed. Accordingly, the appeal is denied and the decision of the Contracting Officer is affirmed.