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Vern Edwards

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About Vern Edwards

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    Portland, Oregon

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  1. Evaluation Factors

    There are two problems with that assertion. The first problem is that you presume that you know enough about the planned undertaking to recognize a good plan when you see one. But do you? How much do you know about staffing and the challenges that will be faced by the people who will have to do it? Have you ever done it yourself? How many times have you done it? Under what range of circumstances? What do you know about the labor market in the industry? What do you know about labor law in the state in which the contract will be executed? What do you know about human resource practice? Would you know if the planner had proposed a course of actions that would be against the law in the state in which the plan was to be executed? The second problem is that the ability to plan an undertaking is not the same as the ability to carry it out. Planning is one thing. Execution is something else. Here's a link to a Wharton School management essay entitled, "Three Reasons Why Good Strategies Fail: Execution, Execution..." http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/three-reasons-why-good-strategies-fail-execution-execution/ Some History The technical proposal approach to government contractor selection was developed in the late 1940s and in the 1950s and early 1960s for space and weapon system development acquisitions. The technical proposals described engineering and design concepts. The people who evaluated the proposals were scientists and experienced engineers (later, the government would have to resort to inexperienced engineers). The technical proposal approach was adopted by agencies for more routine acquisitions after 1984, when passage of the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) authorized agencies to conduct all kinds of acquisitions by means of competitive negotiation instead of sealed bidding. Soon we saw agencies asking prospective janitorial services contractors to write "technical" (or "management") proposals describing their "approach" to providing the service and then evaluating their "understanding of the work" and the "soundness" of their approach and awarding on the basis of a tradeoff analyses instead of the low responsive bid from a responsible bidder. By the way, one of the main reasons this method was adopted for such acquisitions is that the GAO had ruled in 1983 that use of a tradeoff process to choose the contractor allows an agency get around the SBA's certificate of competency program. See Anderson Engineering and Testing Company, B-208632, 83-1 CPD ¶ 99. Suddenly, "best value" was all the rage for even simple buys. But how to do it? The new "best value" advocates knew only sealed bidding. They didn't know how to use the new method. Well, they turned to the experts---the space and weapon system people---and they came to believe that "technical" and "management" proposals were now essential for buying stuff that had long been bought successfully through sealed bidding. (Before CICA, the lowest-price technically-acceptable method of negotiated procurement had been used primarily to buy hardware, and technical acceptability meant conformity to specifications. Technical proposals were hardware specifications. LPTA competitive negotiations were simply streamlined approaches to what we now call "two-step sealed bidding, formerly called two-step formal advertising---one step instead of two.) I defy anyone to produce empirical proof that adoption of the tradeoff approach for simple, nontechnical acquisitions has produced better contracting outcomes overall than sealed bidding. (And I don't give a damn for anyone's anecdotes.) Conclusion So now people like you, Cowboy, have learned to ask for "technical" or "management" proposals in simple procurements as the basis for determining offeror capability, when there is only one real way to know whether a company can do something or not---find out whether they've done it before and done it successfully. The result of this kind of thing? Contractor selection takes more time and more human resources than necessary and competing for contracts costs more than it has to. And yet people ask how they can speed up the source selection process!!! Want to see idiots at work? Read this protest decision: Finlen Complex, B-288280, 2001 CPS ¶ 167, which was for meals, lodging, and transportation. Read it, and know that I claim that I could have done that source selection in a week with the help just a single NCO and no technical or management proposal whatsoever. Want to see an outcome from some people who knew what they were doing? Read CORVAC, Inc., B-244766, 91-2 CPD ¶ 454. Note what they were buying, and note that the only "technical" evaluation factor was past performance. Learn something: compare and contrast Finlen and CORVAC. Yeah, go ahead and ask for your one or two page staffing plan. One or two pages won't cost much or take too much time. But ideas about source selection like the ones in your head are costing us all a fortune. Question: What are you people going to do when cranky old guys like me, who lived through and know all this history, are gone---gone, or just no longer want to waste time trying to teach you what we learned the hard way?
  2. Evaluation Factors

    Then get one. There's nothing more to say.
  3. Fee on Negotiated Changes

    Not analogous to a contract negotiation. Irrelevant to the discussion.
  4. Fee on Negotiated Changes

    Hypothetical: You're in a firm-fixed-price contract negotiation. You've been going back and forth with the other side: offer-counteroffer. Then the other side submits a counteroffer that you believe to be based on a false assumption that works in your favor. They don't say that they made the assumption, and they don't ask you a single question about the matter, but you can tell based on the content of the counteroffer. Do you tell them that you think they made a false assumption?
  5. Math! That's a high class midlife crisis. I wanted to be in the Foreign Legion. (It's a long family history story.) Let myself be talked out of it. Ended up in contracting. What a fail.
  6. Bridge Contracts

    1. Poor planning; incompetence at source selection. 2. Better planning; better training in source selection.
  7. Evaluation Factors

    Emphasis added. What do you know about retaining personnel? What do you know about refilling positions? Have you ever done those things for a private firm, for a pharmaceutical services contractor, and for a living? If not, how will you judge what you read? Do you think you can really judge a one or two page description of those activities when you don't know anything about them? And if its the kind of thing that anybody can judge, even thought they've never done it, then maybe its the kind of thing that a good writer could describe for someone who might turn out to be not very good at it. Do you think a techncal description describes a good approach if it sounds good to you? That's what cracks me up about the whole technical proposal thing: people who've never done something judging people who actually do it on the basis of something written by who knows who? And if it does not read well, might that be because people who do something for a living don't spend time writing about how to do it? What kind of account would you get from the typical framing carpenter about house framing? He or she does not spend their time writing about framing. Hell, they don't spend their time reading about framing. They spend their time framing. And a person who could write a good account of framing probably does not spend a lot of time framing. The "technical" proposal approach to evaluating companies is one of the most absurd methods of choosing a contractor that has ever been devised.
  8. Evaluation Factors

    It's the same scenario as in the OP.
  9. Actually, what the OP shows is the insanity of competitive pricing of cost-reimbursement contracts. You can read many bid protests in which agencies got wrapped around the axle trying to perform cost analyses of multiple proposals during the liar's (or fool's) contest we call source selection. For a classic and terrifying example see DZSP-21 LLC v. U.S., COFC No. 18-86 C, 2018 WL 1530654, March 29, 2018, in which the parties have been going at each other in the GAO and the Court of Federal Claims over the evaluation of labor cost since 2014, and it still isn't over. Much of the trouble has been due to a needlessly complex cost evaluation process and to agency incompetence. All contracting professionals should be urging, even demanding, that Congress amend the Competition in Contracting Act to provide that estimated cost shall not be an evaluation factor in source selections for cost-reimbursement contracts. The government should select a prospective cost-reimbursement contractor on the basis of its qualifications and its proposed fixed or incentive fee, then work with the selectee to develop a mutually acceptable estimate of the cost of performance and final fee agreement, and then sign a contract. If the parties cannot reach agreement on estimated cost, the government should resort to the second-ranked offeror.
  10. Don, you're reading too much of that kind of crap. Life is too short. There are wonderful new translations of The Three Musketeers and The Odyssey. Would you like me to send you a copy of one of them? Or maybe you just want a little plastic wind-up Robby the Robot toy for your desk at DAU. Or maybe a DVD of "Colossus: The Forbin Project."
  11. I can't. If a DOE certified public accountant can't figure it out, I sure as heck can't. Reading the OP's first sentence made my head hurt. What's an ODC "plug number"? I can't find that term in my accounting dictionary. If he wants to know how much the offerors will spend on DBA insurance, why not just ask them?
  12. Evaluation Factors

    But it's a commercial service. (Right?) If they are in the business and have been in the business for a while it is likely that they understand what they are doing. Establish a well-documented special responsibility standard (FAR 9.104-2) (GAO uses the term "definitive responsibility criterion") requiring specific experience, assets, and capacity. What you want to do is conduct an essay contest. What would that prove? You wouldn't even know who wrote it. Maybe you should tell us more about what you mean by "courier services."
  13. Fee on Negotiated Changes

    I think win-lose thinking and behavior is perfectly natural in market situations in which exchanges are entirely transactional: there is no past, there is no future, there is only the present. The classic case is a sale in which the parties haggle over nothing but the purchase price and do not expect to ever see each other again. The more money the buyer pays, the less money the buyer will have and the more the seller will have. It's a zero sum game every. But such thinking and behavior becomes problematic when the exchange is relational, and there will the exchange will take the form of an ongoing relationship between the parties. The classic discussion of this can be found in "The Many Futures of Contracts" by Ian R. Macneil, which appeared in Southern California Law Review, 1974 (47 S.Cal. L. Rev. 691, 1973 - 74). The article was the foundation of the relational theory of contract. Many things have been said here, but much of the debate has been prompted by careless expression, such as "misrepresentation of fact" and saying that government negotiators do it "routinely." When Matthew said it was a euphemism for lying, some people back-peddled off a tough stance, because that's not what they meant by the term. They were referring to deceptive behavior, like saying that they could not pay more because they did not have enough money, a more sophisticated version of the old market game of reacting to a seller's price by saying, "What do you think I am, a rich man?" or "But I have a poor, sick mother at home to take care of" or pretending to walk away. Something like the legendary care salesman's tactic of saying, "Let me go talk to my boss," only to come back and say that the boss wouldn't go for it, but how about....? And see the "haggling" episode in "Monty Python's Life of Brian." I know here_2_help personally, and I do not believe that he advocated lying. Reading some of his posts of late and having discussed some cases with him, I think that he has become somewhat embittered by some of his experiences with the government. On the basis of my knowledge of him, I say he is a very upright and trustworthy person.
  14. Probability Problem #1

    I'm wondering if you can consider an appellate ruling on the COFC's decision as an independent event, since the appellate court does not review the protest de novo.