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Everything posted by Desparado

  1. An obscure regulation buried in an appropriation is not something that 95% of contracting officers would be aware of.
  2. Vern - How would you characterize the difference between a Q&A and a Q&A Discussions page? Each Q, regardless of the forum, will result in several As and on many occasions those As will lead to discussions. I read many questions just to see the conversations happening and have grown in my knowledge because of that. When I go to the "unread" section, I don't even notice what forum the questions are in as it doesn't matter to me if the question was posed by a beginner, a seasoned professional, or by the true experts.... the point for me for this site is to learn (and occasionally help if I can), no matter what forum it is in. Why should someone be admonished just because they posted based on the topic and not whether or not he is a beginner? I guess I'm missing a piece to the puzzle.
  3. Delayn - In my opinion, if your office believes that this is the appropriate course of action, all solicitations would need to go out with the Availability of Funds clause (52.232-18). This would put the contractors on notice that there are not funds currently committed to this acquisition.
  4. To echo what Joel stated with a different take. In many ways, this is a game, and if you want to win this game you have you play by the rules. Ok, that can be done by hiding the information someone within your proposal, but do you think that's the best way to make sure the evaluators see that you have answered their questions? Depending on page limitations, I would recommend one of the following 2 approaches (I have seen both as an 1102 and have found both to be effective). 1) Simply answer the question. In your proposal, repeat the question and then answer it. This is the easiest way to ensure the evaluators see your response. 2) Repeat the question and then state the page/paragraph number where the answer can be found. This can be a little annoying for the evaluator but they will still appreciate being able to find the answers easily. If you want to risk losing the game, just put your answers somewhere in the proposal and hope the evaluators find it. It's sad that an offeror has to resort to these techniques but as Joel stated, for many of the evaluators (if not all), this is an additional duty for them. They are not professional proposal readers. They are technical experts being tasked to read proposals and determine which is best for their requirement. You have to make it as easy as possible for them to do. Imagine someone pulling you from your job, giving you some instructions, and then asking you to perform surgery. Although an extreme example, for many on the SSEB, that is what this feels like.
  5. Have the SSEB be a dedicated team that, once offers are received, have no duties other than to evaluate the proposals. With this age of "category management", we should (especially for large programs) be able to develop technical expertise in evaluating offers. By having a dedicated team, the time it takes for the evaluation process could be reduced by months. Too often the SSEB gets together for 1 week a month, if that. Each time they get together they have to refresh what they discussed previously (wasted time) and then start the review on a single proposal. The same is true for the Contracting Officer. If they have a large, important project, allow that to be their only project. Of course this is a pipe dream in this era of reduced staffing and more additional duties assigned, but I do believe the evaluation process is the single most time-intensive part of the process... and the part that can be reduced the easiest.
  6. If you're willing to be mobile and do a good job (or at least make people think you are), then you can move pretty quickly up the ranks. I know this person who was a GS-7 in 2003 (after 14 years as a GS-4 and GS-6 in non-contracting work) and within 11 years became a GS-15 (you have to judge whether you consider that fast or not). He wasn't in an intern program or anything. He simply applied and moved when opportunities that sounded good came up. It can be done...
  7. Both gentlemen are correct. I was with GSA for 4 years over 2 GSA Schedule contracts and I can confirm that they are right.
  8. I don't know that I would say a non-DoD agency is "less of a challenge". The challenges are just different. Organizational structure (or lack thereof), ambiguity in policy, and other things can make a non-DoD agency very challenging. I actually found working for DoD much easier because of the structure. Everything was already set in place. Granted, it stiffled innovation, but that's a whole different challenge. I recently had an employee leave my current agency because she couldn't deal with the lack of structure and went back to DoD.
  9. I have worked for the Army, the VA, GSA and the EPA and each experience was different. I do believe having experience at different agencies is career enhancing, but then I've known people who have stayed at a single agency and moved all the way up (so no help there, sorry). I am currently a GS-15 and I do believe changing agencies helped me get to this level. I started with the Army entity and primarily completed post support contracts and purchase orders. The grades there were very limited. At GSA the grades were much higher but I found the work much less rewarding and took a downgrade to leave. I've done two separate stints with the VA and found the work rewarding and depending on the office there is upward mobility available.With the EPA I found it rewarding although I have learned that being with a small civilian agency definitely comes with its own problems and many DoDers have difficulty in adjusting to a non-DoD environment (I consider the VA a DoD wannabe). Again, I apologize that this may not be helpful but I believe each individual has unique experiences and what works for one may not work so well for another. As far as additional skills goes the place I learned the most was with the Army where they had a "everyone does everything" approach so I never knew when I walked in the door whether I'd be buying a thermal imager for the fire department, a $2M construction project, training services or buying some commercial products. There were also opportunities to learn about cost contracting there. At the GSA, I learned about Schedules contracting but nothing else. It was very limiting. At the VA they put you in a silo where you only buy one type of thing. Yes, that makes you a specialist at that one thing but doesn't offer you the diversity of knowledge you need to grow in contracting. Would I recommend it? At the very least, since you are with the VA, if you are in a silo situation I would recommend that you move around between the teams to learn about the various types of contracting. I don't know that you'd need to leave the VA to grow but having perspective and experiences from different agencies can be helpful, although not absolutely necessary. So I guess... yes... I would recommend it, but know that you have as much of a chance to going to a worse situation than you do a better one.
  10. Vern brings up an interesting point. Would FedBid or companies like them truly be considered a "marketplace"?
  11. An RFI or Sources Sought Notice is usually given quite a bit of weight in the protest decisions I've read. I instruct my staff to do a fair amount of market research and if it doesn't appear that there will be two small business contractors that will respond with a fair and reasonable price, be sure to do a Sources Sought Notice before making the decision to go out full and open.
  12. What was the reason for the modification? Did you enter into negotiations for some reason? If something happened that caused you to go into negotiations, I can see where your agency/boss may require a PNM. A PNM for "all modifications" is overkill and just stupid.
  13. In regards to meals in the field for military persons, it depends on how they are fed. If they are fed by MREs, there is no need for plates or plasticware. If it is by T-Rations, those are prepared in kitchen trucks and yes... the military provides paper plates and plasticware to use the consumption of the meal. I don't think that this decision will change that one bit.
  14. .... or maybe overworked and understaffed and like all administrative activities, it doesn't receive the priority from management that pre-award and award activities do. It's all about obligating the money and after that senior management doesn't care unless there is a problem.
  15. You are right in that it is supposed to be, but I am facing a situation now where a bad contractor contested their rating. As the reviewing official I reviewed what they wrote and the contract file, spoke with the contractor and the contracting officer and then made a decision to uphold the Unsatisfactory rating. The contractor then proceeded to get political appointees involved and now all heck is busting loose. Sad, but true.
  16. Keep in mind that many interviewers today use "performance based questions" (yes, the hair on the back of my neck stood up when I heard that title) where instead of asking you a question like, "Walk me through source selection", what will be asked is something like... "Tell me about a time when you used source selection procedures on a large contract. What was that contract for and what processes did you use to accomplish the work". The idea behind this is to not only find out what you have done, but to get an indication of what you will do in the future. So if you're the nervous type jot down some large or unique acquisitions you've done so they are fresh in your mind in case you are asked question of this nature.
  17. As someone who has spent time with both DoD and GSA, I have always found DoD's view of GSA's pricing to be interesting. Now that I know how GSA gets its pricing and how they determine a price fair and reasonable (not the lowest) it is interesting to me that DoD has such an objection. Now, I totally agree that you may not want to use GSA pricing to determine the lowest price available, but I personally think that it should be perfectly acceptable to use for a fair and reasonableness determination. Fortunately, other agencies aren't held by these same rules.
  18. When I worked at GSA I lobbied to have the MOT name changed because it is very misleading. Because it would have to go through the rule-making process, I lost every time. Sad...
  19. REA'n - The reason we would prefer LPTA over a Trade-off evaluation methodology is that we aren't willing to pay more for a better approach, or better past performance or anything else. We just want someone who can come in and provide the service. We do need to evaluate their key personnel and technical approach (to ensure that they can in fact do the work), but can do that on a pass/fail basis. We also do our LPTA evaluation by starting with the lowest-priced offer and then stop when we have one that is technically acceptable, which we believe saves valuable time. Why evaluate a bunch of offers that have no chance of winning?
  20. If this was truly a case of the GSA FSS description being too limited, no contractor with that Schedule would be able to complete the work requested by the Navy. The Navy should probably not have used the Schedules for this acquisition and if they had done proper market research they would have been able to determine that.
  21. I was wondering that myself. What/Who is the "FAR Finance Team"
  22. C100 - Didn't catch that these were trade-offs, but even so if the gov't has detailed requirements (aka "specs") shouldn't the approach be easier to write rather than harder? You won't have to go into a lot of detail about the details as the gov't has already provided those (which sounds like an anti-performanced-based approach). How did the CO word the technical approach part of the RFQ? I'm assuming they didn't just say, "Give me your approach and you only got 10 pages to do it". I would hope they would have detailed what the approach should be addressing, and if so... is it really unrealistic to think it could be done in 10 pages or less? One would hope that the CO and requiring activity have worked together to determine an appropriate number of pages necessary to convey what they are looking for in "the approach" and reduce the fluff that isn't necessary to make an award decision. Without knowing more about the solicitation or requirement it's hard to just say off-hand that 10 pages is insufficient. I've awarded multi-million dollar contracts/orders with 10 pages or less and also awarded contracts/orders for less than a million and had the number of pages at 50. I don't think there's a hard and fast rule about how many pages is appropriate. It appears that the assumption of many is that the number is just pulled out of thin air and if that is true, it's sad.
  23. Now I'm going to take a stab at some of the other points... #1: If the government is already providing "fairly elaborate specifications", why would an offeror need to include specifications in their technical approach, which is what was limited to 10 pages? #2: Since the government included "fairly elaborate specifications", I would think that perhaps they do have an idea of what they want and how they want it done, within the variance as defined by the technical approach of the offerors. #3: Already covered #4: Why do you feel technical approaches are meaningless and therefore impossible to compare? I've done many somewhat similar to this when I worked for DoD and the VA and never had any issues. As long as the TEP determines the approach is acceptable, award to the lowest price. It sounds simple because it is. #5: Totally agree with you on that one! Remove the fluff and tell us how you're going to do this task order. #6: I wouldn't advise that one! In short, if the government truly does have elaborate specs or a well-defined PWS/SOW, all we really need to know is that your company has a sound technical approach, acceptable past performance and a fair and reasonable price (awarding to the lowest). I have instituted in my office where an LPTA is appropriate that we evaluate the lowest offer. If it is technically acceptable, we don't evaluate anybody else (why would we?) and we make award.
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