The Randolph-Sheppard Act (“RSA”) grants blind persons, operating through State Licensing Agencies, mandatory priority in the award of contracts for the operation of vending facilities on federal property so long as the SLA contractor satisfies criteria established by the RSA’s implementing regulations prescribed by the U.S. Secretary of Education. In its recent decision in State of Texas v. United States, the Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) made two key rulings in relation to the RSA:
- Prior Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) decisions related to the RSA are not persuasive on the COFC, as GAO lacked jurisdiction to hear these protests, and
- The RSA creates a two pronged test before granting a State Licensing Agency (“SLA”) priority in a solicitation for vending services — (i) the SLA must be within the procurement’s competitive range, and (ii) the the contracting agency must perform cost and food quality evaluations pursuant to the solicitation, which may be in addition to a determination of whether the proposal falls within the competitive range.
In State of Texas v. United States, the Air Force issued a solicitation for vending services at Joint Base San Antonio. The State of Texas, acting by and through one its state agencies that qualified as a SLA under the RSA for the purposes of the procurement, submitted a proposal. The Air Force originally found that the State of Texas’ proposal did not fall within the competitive range. In response to being excluded from the competitive range, the State of Texas filed for arbitration with the U.S. Department of Education, as is required by the RSA.