Millennials Outraged Over GAO Decision Upholding DoD Determination that Millennials Won’t Keep a Job

Defense(Editor’s Note: The author of this post is millennial, though she does not admit it and we don’t hold it against her.)

“Outraged” may be a tad dramatic, and the Department of Defense (DoD) didn’t actually make any determinations about millennials and their work ethic, but nevertheless millennials took center stage in the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO’s) recent decision in IPT Associates, LLC, B-415277, B-415277.2, in which GAO upheld a DoD evaluation raising concerns about the recruiting and retention of millennials.

In June 2017, DoD’s Washington Headquarters Services issued a Request for Quotations (RFQ) seeking administrative, analytical, and program management services to support the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to small business holders of the Technical Engineering Analytical Management Support blanket purchase agreement (TEAMS BPA). The RFQ anticipated a best-value award based on several factors, including the offerors’ Management and Staffing plan, which included a risk evaluation of the offerors’ plan for staffing and ensuring continuity of operations. Under this factor, offerors would be evaluated against a variety of subfactor requirements, including retention incentives, recruiting strategies and processes, and hiring.

IPT Associates, Inc. (IPT), a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, submitted a quotation in response to the RFQ. Although IPT’s quoted price was slightly lower than the awardee’s ($47,406,023 to the awardee’s $48,717,137), IPT received a Medium Risk rating on the Management and Staffing Factor while the awardee received a Low Risk rating, which DoD ultimately determined to be worth the small price premium.

DoD evaluators noted two concerns with IPT’s Management and Staffing plan. Relevant here, according to DoD, IPT’s “active” recruiting efforts (as opposed to passive efforts via job postings) were limited to recruiting from a single college and employee referrals. DoD stated that this raised concerns due to the “lack of diversity in the vendor’s approach to active candidate outreach.”  According to DoD, IPT intended to largely retain the incumbent staff, three-quarters of whom were millennials. GAO’s helpful footnote (complete with a citation to GAO’s own “Federal Workforce: Lessons Learned for Engaging Millennials and Other Age Groups,” apparently cited by Protestor’s counsel) clarifies that “‘millennial’ generally refers to individuals born between the early 1980’s and 2000.”  According to IPT’s own proposal, these millennials had the shortest retention span of any employee demographic group. Thus, according to DoD evaluators, IPT’s backfill recruiting plan would be very heavily reliant on referrals from the very employees it would most likely need to backfill. IPT protested.

Despite IPT’s arguments that there is no clear connection between employee retention and the demographic of the group referring those employees, GAO found DoD’s evaluation reasonable, noting that DoD’s evaluation was based on the information IPT itself had included in its quotation (why IPT included employee demographics in its proposal in the first place is unclear). GAO found that DoD reasonably assumed that a proportional number of referrals would come from each demographic group employed, and thus concerns about millennial retention that would impact this referral process were reasonable.[1]

Accordingly, despite our headline, the GAO’s focus appears to be far more on the added demographic information IPT included in its proposal rather than the millennial status of the proposed workforce.

[1] GAO similarly rejected IPT’s arguments regarding the agency’s other concern with its Management and Staffing plan and the awardee’s Management and Staffing plan.