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EDantes

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About EDantes

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  1. Procurement Swamp Article

    The below excerpt from the article jumped out at me: "Whether it’s the F-35 or any other program, the goal for Pentagon managers is always the same, says one GAO auditor: 'Get a ‘go’ decision. Their careers are tied to that—putting a great new product out in the field. So their incentives,' he explains, 'are always to, first, present an estimate that is low enough that it doesn’t get pushed behind some other program; second, to present really cool, cutting-edge features; and, third, have little enough actual knowledge of what it will cost and whether the features are achievable that you’re not deliberately deceiving anyone. Once you get the project underway, it then becomes hard to stop.'" This strikes me as one of the important sources of dysfunction on the defense acquisition system. DOD Military and government officials' career/performance incentives are tied to managing large defense programs. I recognize that many are well-run. Many, like the Missile Defense Agency, are doing their best to field technology on the leading edge of what is physically and technically possible in the face of emerging national security threats. They are forced to do R&D and field missile defense systems at the same time--not an optimal approach, but one that we accept due to the threats we face. Many other defense programs would no doubt characterize themselves the same way, from the F-35 to Army ground programs. All are pressing forward on acquisition fronts to maintain the capability edge over adversaries. But there seems to be an inability and/or unwillingness to recognize risks and problems earlier in the acquisition cycle--probably stemming from a belief that once the program gets underway, it will take on a life of its own, and whatever funding is necessary to help the program across the finish line will be found somewhere. Then, as others in these forums have noted, no one is ever held to account for program/acquisition failures. Some suggest that this would be inconceivable in the private sector, but I'm not so sure ("golden parachutes," etc.) As Vern astutely pointed out, these are human condition problems. That said, in light of the human condition, Palantir representatives would have been wise to throw on some business-casual attire and ratchet down the arrogance for meetings with government folks. The government people already know their processes, rules, and regulations are "Kafkaesque," and I would not be surprised of many of them were indeed idiots, but Palantir's condescension likely did not help its cause. That said, if Palantir's product does have the capability the article suggests at the price tag cited, I hope our acquisition system can find a way to take a serious look at the company's offerings, despite the sunk costs on DCGS.
  2. Multiple sole source contract awards

    Correct, I work in a government contracting office.
  3. Multiple sole source contract awards

    Sir, Thank you. I rushed too quickly to an erroneous interpretation of 35.007. I think I was equating "full and open competition" with posting the RFP to the GPE, thereby making it available to any offeror that chooses to submit a proposal in response to it. If I am understanding the definitions/guidance correctly, that is one approach to providing for full and open competition, but not the only one. Full and open competition also can be provided for when the CO distributes the RFP (I assume not via the GPE, but in a targeted way?) only to "all responsible offerors" and provides it to any prospective offerors who request it who were made aware of the existence of the RFP/contract action via synopsis on the GPE. Is this correct? Regarding FAR 6.302-1(a)(2), it states: if "a limited number of responsible sources, and no other type of supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements, full and open competition need not be provided for." If these tests are met, does that mean that a CO could award contracts on a "limited source" basis to multiple contractors? Or does it simply mean that if a limited number of responsible sources" are identified, then a competition must be held between them, resulting on one being selected for award. In an R&D environment, we seem to run into many situations where the Program Office is interested in pursuing "parallel paths" and I am trying to determine the best way to meet their needs while staying in compliance with all the laws and regulations. Thanks again for the input and guidance.
  4. I work in a research and development contracting organization. I am trying to determine whether awarding two sole source contracts for essentially the same research subject/area of interest is an allowable practice. After reviewing 35.007, the text of the regulation suggests that when contracting for R&D, full and open competition need not be provided for: (a) The submission and subsequent evaluation of an inordinate number of R&D proposals from sources lacking appropriate qualifications is costly and time-consuming to both industry and the Government. Therefore, contracting officers should initially distribute solicitations only to sources technically qualified to perform research or development in the specific field of science or technology involved. Cognizant technical personnel should recommend potential sources that appear qualified, as a result of -- (1) Present and past performance of similar work; (2) Professional stature and reputation; (3) Relative position in a particular field of endeavor; (4) Ability to acquire and retain the professional and technical capability, including facilities, required to perform the work; and (5) Other relevant factors. (b) Proposals generally shall be solicited from technically qualified sources, including sources that become known as a result of synopses or other means of publicizing requirements. If it is not practicable to initially solicit all apparently qualified sources, only a reasonable number need be solicited. In the interest of competition, contracting officers shall furnish copies of the solicitation to other apparently qualified sources. Our office recently conducted a sources sought/RFI, and of the 8 respondents, two were identified as having the technical expertise in our very specific research area. The Program Office would like to award two sole source contracts to these companies for studies on the topic. The text above seems to suggest a limited source competition of sorts in which the most technically qualified and promising proposals are awarded--similar to the BAA solicitation procedure discussed in 35.016. The text above discusses soliciting proposals from a "reasonable number" of sources, which suggests to me that one cannot, pursuant to the above, simply identify the two that were determined to have the technical expertise, solicit proposals from, and award a contract to each. Or can we? I also referred to FAR 6.302-1(a)(2) which discusses the "one responsible source" exception to full and open competition. For DoD (we are DoD), the text also allows for contracting without providing for full and open competition in situations in which a "limited number of sources" can be identified. But to the guidance in FAR 35, need full and open competition even be provided for in the first place for R&D solicitations? Bottom line: Is it possible, in an R&D environment, to solicit proposals from two companies (that were determined to be the only ones with the necessary technical expertise in the relevant research area) on a sole source basis and award each contracts for studies in the research area? Any guidance would be most appreciated.
  5. Thank you for the response. The linked bid protest was a useful read on this topic as well.
  6. I am a Contract Specialist in an R&D office within a Government agency that awards many contracts off BAAs in accordance with FAR 35.016. The contract awards are always Firm Fixed Price (FFP) with the solicitation specifying a not-to-exceed (NTE) dollar limitation such that proposals typically come in at or just below the NTE price. Award is based on evaluation criteria that center on some variation of technical merit and importance to agency programs in accordance with FAR 35.016(e). While price reasonableness is reviewed, price is evaluated as pass/fail, based on whether the offeror proposed at/under the NTE price. I have a customer (Project Manager/COTR) who would like to release a BAA for some exploratory technology development, but would like to use a Cost plus Fixed Fee (CPFF) contract type and also use a best value tradeoff approach (between technical factors and price) for award. This suggestion is generating substantial opposition from acquisition personnel within my office on the grounds that they have never seen either of these things done before and that there are practical problems associated with introducing price into the award decision-making process in the context of a BAA. Specifically, they argue that since a BAA generally specifies a broad "area of interest," we will receive proposals for widely varying technical solutions, precluding comparison between them. FAR 35.016(d) states "...proposals need not be evaluated against each other since they are not submitted in accordance with a common work statement." At the same time, as long as we evaluate the proposals received in accordance with our evaluation criteria (say "technical merit" and "importance to agency programs") and our solicitation clearly states the importance of price relative to non-price factors, I am not sure I understand what precludes us from award based on a tradeoff approach--even if we receive widely divergent technical proposals. I understand that the approach my customer is advocating comes from FAR Part 15, and that the FAR Part 15 source selection procedures are not required for BAAs. Basically, my question is: are there any rules/guidance prohibiting using a tradeoff approach (between technical factors and price) for award under a BAA? Are there practical reasons for not using this approach?
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