Experience is the teacher of all things.
― Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Civili (Commentaries on the Civil War), (c. 52 B.C.).
In a previous Blog, I said:
Note that the evaluation approach put forth as a solution in West Coast is somewhat different than what I suggest, which has not been addressed by the Comptroller General. For those of you who are concerned about my approach giving an unfair advantage to an offeror with no past performance information let me suggest, as Mr. McGuire did to Benjamin in The Graduate, “ I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.” Experience. But, that is a subject for another Blog.
What am I suggesting by that?
In acquisitions exceeding the simplified acquisition threshold past performance shall be evaluated, unless waived by the contracting officer. (FAR 15.304( c )(3). In addition to, and separate from, past performance the source selection should evaluate “Experience.” Past performance deals with how well an offeror has performed prior efforts. Experience deals with whether the offeror has performed such efforts. Absent past performance information, the Federal Government may not treat the offeror favorably or unfavorably. Absent experience, the Federal Government may evaluate an offeror unfavorably, if the evaluation factors for award in the solicitation so state.
Can you do that? According to the Comptroller General of the United States, you can. Let me provide you pertinent parts from just two Government Accountability Office protest decisions that demonstrate that you can.
Commercial Window Shield, B-400154, July 2, 2008
CWS’s argument, however, fails to recognize that the experience and past performance factors reflected separate and distinct concepts. Under the experience factor, the agency examined the degree to which a vendor had experience performing similar projects; under the past performance factor, the agency considered the quality of a vendor’s performance history. Given the fundamentally different nature of the evaluations, a rating in one factor would not automatically result in the same rating under the other.
Shaw-Parsons Infrastructure Recovery Consultants, LLC; Vanguard Recovery Assistance, Joint Venture; B-401679.4, March 10, 2010
Generally, an agency’s evaluation under an experience factor is distinct from its evaluation of an offeror’s past performance. Specifically, the former focuses on the degree to which an offeror has actually performed similar work, whereas the latter focuses on the quality of the work.
You remember the concern expressed by Frere Two?
To me the Government is disadvantaged by a proposer with no relevant past performance. Why did they write the regulation in such a manner? Just as you would not want to ignore favorable or unfavorable information, why would you ignore the lack of?
The approach described above, addresses his concern. Well, it doesn't address his concern about why they wrote the regulation is written in such a manner. Unfortunately, the answer to that is the same as Inspector Javert gave to Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, “Right or wrong, the law is the law and it must be obeyed to the letter.” But, it does provide a way for him to work within the law to achieve, essentially, the same effect.