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INFORMATION RESOURCES v. UNITED STATES

September 3, 1987

Information Resources Incorporated, Plaintiff,
v.
United States of America, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRIS

 Stanley S. Harris, United States District Judge.

 On August 28, 1987, the Court conducted a hearing consolidating plaintiff Information Resources Incorporated's (IRI) motion for a preliminary injunction with final argument on the merits. This expedited process was necessary because IRI is seeking to invalidate the award of a Government contract that soon will be fully performed. *fn1" Upon consideration of the administrative record, the pleadings and the attachments thereto, and the arguments of counsel, the Court concludes that the challenged procurement process complied with the applicable statutes and regulations, and therefore was not arbitrary or capricious. Consequently, plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction is denied and judgment is entered for defendants and against plaintiff.

 Facts

 On May 27, 1987, the Farm Disaster Assistance Act of 1987, Pub. L. No. 100-45, 101 Stat. 318, became law. Section 13 of that statute called for the Secretary of Agriculture (the Secretary) to establish an advisory panel (the panel) to study the cost-effectiveness of fuel ethanol production. Panel members were to be appointed within 30 days of enactment (by June 26, 1987), and the panel was to submit a report of its findings within 90 days of enactment (by August 25, 1987). *fn2"

 On or before June 12, the Secretary decided to allocate $ 100,000 to fund technical and logistical support to the panel, and on June 17 the Secretary designated Earle E. Gavett, Director of the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Office of Energy, as the USDA official responsible for arranging support services for the panel. That same day, Frederick L. Potter, IRI's president, wrote to Gavett to follow up on a June 8 telephone conversation with Gavett. In that letter, Potter stated his desire "that you place my name, or Information Resources, Inc., on the list of groups to be considered for the USDA Ethanol Study. . . ." Gavett placed Potter's name on his list of individuals to be considered for appointment to the panel.

 On June 18, Gavett conferred with Charles V. Snearer, Director of USDA's Administrative Services Division, Economics Management Staff. Because of the small amount of time available within which to arrange staff support for the panel, Snearer suggested that Gavett contact officials at the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and attempt to obtain the needed support directly from DOE or, via an interagency agreement, from one of DOE's present contractors. On June 24, Gavett informed Snearer that he had contacted Donald K. Walter, Director of DOE's Biofuels and Municipal Waste Technology Division, and Ronald R. Loose, Director of DOE's Office of Renewable Energy Technologies, but had been unsuccessful in securing staff support through DOE. Gavett told Snearer that based on his conversations with Walter and Loose, he had concluded that Meridian Corporation (Meridian), a firm based in Alexandria, Virginia, was the only available contractor capable of providing the necessary services within the available time.

 On June 29, Gavett signed a document entitled "Justification for Other Than Full and Open Competition" (the justification). The justification outlined the statutory basis for the panel and the short time period available within which to prepare the panel's report. It then summarized the necessary capabilities of the support contractor, and identified Meridian as having "the unique capability" to fulfill the panel's needs. The justification summarized Meridian's qualifications and identified several projects through which DOE officials and Gavett had observed past Meridian work. Gavett indicated that he knew of no other firm that could provide both the technical (e.g., information gathering and report drafting) and logistical (e.g., meeting and travel arrangements) support needed by the panel, and indicated that time did not allow for the identification of other possible contractors. The same day, Meridian submitted its proposal to USDA.

 The USDA reviewed Meridian's proposal on June 30, and July 1, and face-to-face contract negotiations took place on July 1. Upon agreement on the terms of the contract on July 1, the USDA directed Meridian to commence work immediately. On July 7, the contract was executed on behalf of Meridian and submitted to C. William Swank, chairman of the panel, for his approval. Swank approved the contract on July 9, and Snearer signed the contract for the USDA on July 14.

 After learning informally of the Meridian contract, Potter appeared at the panel's first public meeting on July 21 and protested Gavett's apparent failure to have considered IRI for the panel support contract. On July 23, Potter, accompanied by counsel, met with Gavett and Snearer to discuss his concerns. On July 24, Gavett prepared a memorandum to Snearer in which he presented his response to IRI's contention that, based on Potter's telephone call of June 8 and letter of June 17, IRI should have been considered along with

 On August 6, the justification was amended to incorporate Gavett's explanation for not having considered IRI in the initial justification and to include certain other required declarations which were not included in the initial justification. On August 7, Congress voted to extend the deadline for submission of the panel's report by 90 days, to November 28, 1987. IRI commenced this lawsuit the same day.

 Discussion

 I. Failure To Suspend ...


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