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Economical LPTA

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Guest Vern Edwards

I was recently asked a question and would like to see if anyone has a reaction to my answer, pro or con. When conducting a lowest price technically acceptable source selection (see FAR 15.101-2), if the offeror with the lowest price is technically acceptable, may the agency award to that offeror without evaluating the technical acceptability of the other offerors?

I said yes, and recommended that the solicitation announce the plan to use the procedure.

I am familiar with the language in FAR Subpart 15.3 and do not think anything therein or elsewhere in FAR bars such a procedure. I found no GAO decisions that bear on the question.

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I was recently asked a question and would like to see if anyone has a reaction to my answer, pro or con. When conducting a lowest price technically acceptable source selection (see FAR 15.101-2), if the offeror with the lowest price is technically acceptable, may the agency award to that offeror without evaluating the technical acceptability of the other offerors?

I said yes, and recommended that the solicitation announce the plan to use the procedure.

I am familiar with the language in FAR Subpart 15.3 and do not think anything therein or elsewhere in FAR bars such a procedure. I found no GAO decisions that bear on the question.

I would say yes, award can be made without evaluating the technical portion of the other offerors. The reason I say that is, what would be achieved by evaluating the remaining proposals? Under LPTA you are awarding to the offeror with the lowest price on a go/no-go basis for technical factors. So it doesn't matter how "good" the offerors technical solution is, as long as they pass the acceptable threshold, then it comes down to price. So common sense would tell me that you would do the price evaluation first, rank the offers by price, and then not need to go any farther once you found a technically acceptable offer.

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Vern: The only downside of not reviewing the other offers for technical acceptability would be if one of those other offers disclosed information that would shed some doubt on the low offeror's promise. For instance, if the solicitation included detailed design specifications and there was some requirement to procure a subassembly from a directed source (such as on a source controlled drawing/spec) and that particular source was no longer in a position to provide that subassembly. The low offeror may have used prior quotes for the obsolete component as the basis for formulating its price without realizing that the component was obsolete, whereas other companies may have learned of the obsolescence and qualified their proposals on developing a new source/component. It may sound unlikely, but I've seen it happen.

But generally, and depending on what you are buying, I agree with Don and jtolli.

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I don't see any reason you'd have to evaluate the technical acceptability of other offerors either - but LindaK does bring up a good example of where doing so may be valuable. I think that the possibility of such an event occurring has to be weighed against the efficiencies gained by not evaluating the remaining proposals. That could be determined on a case by case basis. I do like the idea of saying you'll do this in the solicitation, because even though you may not have to do so, it is one less area that an unsuccessful offeror could protest. I could anticipate if you don't say it, and in a debriefing an offeror asks if his technical proposal was acceptable or not, when you told him you didn't evaluate it some would go through the roof and protest right away. They'd almost certainly lose if it's solely on those grounds, but you'd still have a protest to deal with nonetheless.

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Picking up on Linda's point, another offeror's response may show a problem with the government's spec/SOW or an alternative approach that's more attractive to the government.

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I agree it sounds good and would simplify the evaluation process, but how would you be able to debrief unsuccessful offerors if you haven't even evaluated their proposals?

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I agree with Vern, LindaK and oldarmy, but disagree with Don Acquisition.

The RFP should state this approach because FAR 15.101-2 states:

Proposals are evaluated for acceptability but not ranked using the non-cost/price factors. It doesn't state that proposals with a higher evaluated price aren't evaluated. Based on this language, I think not evaluating proposals is risky without some language in the RFP letting offerors know up front.

Following up on oldarmy's post: FAR 15.506 states that the CO needs to identify significant weaknesses and deficiencies and you won't be able to do that without first evaluating the proposals. How would you provide reasonable responses to their questions? However, if the RFP states up front that if the lowest evaluated price is technically acceptable as stated in jtolli's post then I think it would be OK to not evaluate the other proposals. That way the offerors would know that they may not get more information in the debriefing and could fend off a protest at mike-wolff observed. If they found out at the debriefing that technical proposals weren't evaluated, then they'd probably protest. Might not win, but they'd protest.

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I agree with Vern, LindaK and oldarmy, but disagree with Don Acquisition.

The RFP should state this approach because FAR 15.101-2 states:

Proposals are evaluated for acceptability but not ranked using the non-cost/price factors. It doesn't state that proposals with a higher evaluated price aren't evaluated. Based on this language, I think not evaluating proposals is risky without some language in the RFP letting offerors know up front.

I don't understand your argument. Are you saying that FAR 15.101-2 precludes the use of an Economical LPTA unless such an approach is stated in the solicitation? Or are you saying that you think it's a good idea to state that you are using the Economical LPTA approach in the solicitation?

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I don't understand your argument. Are you saying that FAR 15.101-2 precludes the use of an Economical LPTA unless such an approach is stated in the solicitation? Or are you saying that you think it's a good idea to state that you are using the Economical LPTA approach in the solicitation?

I prefer the "better safe than sorry" approach and think that it's a good idea to state that you're using the economical LPTA approach in the solicitation.

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I was recently asked a question and would like to see if anyone has a reaction to my answer, pro or con. When conducting a lowest price technically acceptable source selection (see FAR 15.101-2), if the offeror with the lowest price is technically acceptable, may the agency award to that offeror without evaluating the technical acceptability of the other offerors?

I said yes, and recommended that the solicitation announce the plan to use the procedure.

I am familiar with the language in FAR Subpart 15.3 and do not think anything therein or elsewhere in FAR bars such a procedure. I found no GAO decisions that bear on the question.

Vern,

You may have already considered this, but FAR 15.305(a)(3) only requires an assessment of each offeror's ability to accomplish the technical requirements of the solicitation when the tradeoff process will be used:

Technical evaluation. When tradeoffs are performed (see 15.101-1), the source selection records shall include?

(i) An assessment of each offeror?s ability to accomplish the technical requirements

If this requirement applies to LPTA, then why would it specify "when tradeoffs are performed"?

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I prefer the "better safe than sorry" approach and think that it's a good idea to state that you're using the economical LPTA approach in the solicitation.

Then I don't know why we disagree. My position was that the FAR permits the approach that Vern proposed and does not require that the solicitation state anything special (other than what's required by FAR 15.101-2). Whether or not it's a good idea to announce your intent to use the Economical LPTA approach is a different issue.

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I agree with the "better safe than sorry" concept of stating the intentions upfront but I don't think there's a requirment to do so.

FAR 15.102 ( B) states:

"When using the lowest price technically acceptable process, the following apply:

(1) The evaluation factors and significant subfactors that establish the requirements of acceptability shall be set forth in the solicitation. Solicitations shall specify that award will be made on the basis of the lowest evaluated price of proposals meeting or exceeding the acceptability standards for non-cost factors....

(2) Tradeoffs are not permitted.

(3) Proposals are evaluated for acceptability but not ranked using the non-cost/price factors.

(4) Exchanges may occur (see 15.306). "

While you could make an interpretation that (3) implies all proposals must be evaluated, I don't see that's true. (1) clearly states that award is made on the basis of lowest price of proposals meeting or exceeding the acceptability standards. Linda (and I) added some reasons why evaluation of all proposals makes sense, I don't see a requirement to do so. I know it's commom practice with sealed bids when a large number are received to only examine the acceptability of the low apparent bidder and not go through all the others. I tried to do a quick search of GAO decisions and came up with nothing but I also don't have access to Westlaw. Perhaps it can produce something relevant.

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I didn't say it was required; I said it was a good idea to play it safe. At least we agree on that.

However, I interpret (3) in your post as applying to all proposals. That's why I think it's a good idea to state up front that you may not evaluate all proposals.

Just my interpretation. B)

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I ask for proposals to come in two volumes, 1. A technical volume 2. A price volume and I do not open the price volume until the technical evaluations are complete. Then I rank all the technically acceptable proposals by price from lowest to highest. Knowing all the technical proposals helps me in the following ways:

1. In my letters to unsuccessful offerors I can detail why they were not selected either they were technically acceptable and not the lowest price, or they were technically unacceptable and I can tell them where their proposal was deficient.

2. If asked for a debriefing, either in person or via a formal letter, I will have knowledge of their proposal to outline their weaknesses and inform them how to better prepare their next proposal.

3. If I receive a protest I will be prepared with the required information to answer that protest.

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Guest Vern Edwards

So, you're doing traditional LPTA.

In an LPTA source selection, there is always one and only one reason why an offeror was not selected: It was not the lowest-price technically-acceptable. Period. That's true whether or not its proposal was technically acceptable. If the offeror with the lowest price is found to be technically acceptable, why bother evaluating the others? That costs money. If a loser who was not evaluated for technical acceptability asks if it was technically acceptable, you answer: We don't know. We did not evaluate your technical proposal because even if you had been technically acceptable you would not have had the lowest price and could not have won.

I don't see any point in evaluating proposals just so you can tell losers whether and why they were or were not technically acceptable when it would not have made any difference to the outcome one way or the other. That strikes me as form over substance.

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I would think that the technical evaluation has to come first. If you look at the price first, sort the offers by price and then give the proposals one-by-one to the technical evaluators to determine if it is technically-acceptable and then stop when you reach the first one may not be fair to all offers. The technically-acceptable bar may not be so clear cut or black and white. The evaluator knowing the price rank may be influenced in their technical evaluation.

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So, you're doing traditional LPTA.

In an LPTA source selection, there is always one and only one reason why an offeror was not selected: It was not the lowest-price technically-acceptable. Period. That's true whether or not its proposal was technically acceptable. If the offeror with the lowest price is found to be technically acceptable, why bother evaluating the others? That costs money. If a loser who was not evaluated for technical acceptability asks if it was technically acceptable, you answer: We don't know. We did not evaluate your technical proposal because even if you had been technically acceptable you would not have had the lowest price and could not have won.

I don't see any point in evaluating proposals just so you can tell losers whether and why they were or were not technically acceptable when it would not have made any difference to the outcome one way or the other. That strikes me as form over substance.

This is my first post. We are contemplating using LPTA for a Design Build to be competed among three IDIQ contractors. We have very little time, so we have thought of opening the prices, then giving the technical package of the lowest priced proposal to the evaluation team to have them say whether he is technically acceptable. the evaluation team will not be told what the other prices are.

I note the concerns mentioned above about not opening the techanial proposals of the other contractors, but I think it is best that the evaluation team not be influenced by higher, or lower, quality proposals in grading. It's either go or no-go. Has anyone actually done this yet? If so., what was the result.

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Guest Vern Edwards
This is my first post. We are contemplating using LPTA for a Design Build to be competed among three IDIQ contractors. We have very little time, so we have thought of opening the prices, then giving the technical package of the lowest priced proposal to the evaluation team to have them say whether he is technically acceptable. the evaluation team will not be told what the other prices are.

I note the concerns mentioned above about not opening the techanial proposals of the other contractors, but I think it is best that the evaluation team not be influenced by higher, or lower, quality proposals in grading. It's either go or no-go. Has anyone actually done this yet? If so., what was the result.

I don't know if anyone has done it. A Navy attorney called me a while back to ask my opinion about the method, and I said I thought it was okay. I suspect that they might have done it, but I don't know. I know that Professor Ralph Nash thinks it's okay. In any case, in order to win a protest the protester would have to show that it was prejudiced by the agency's action. If the lowest-priced offeror is validly technically acceptable, no other firm could prove that it was prejudiced.

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I don't know if anyone has done it. A Navy attorney called me a while back to ask my opinion about the method, and I said I thought it was okay. I suspect that they might have done it, but I don't know. I know that Professor Ralph Nash thinks it's okay. In any case, in order to win a protest the protester would have to show that it was prejudiced by the agency's action. If the lowest-priced offeror is validly technically acceptable, no other firm could prove that it was prejudiced.

Thanks. I'll post how it turns out.

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I was recently asked a question and would like to see if anyone has a reaction to my answer, pro or con. When conducting a lowest price technically acceptable source selection (see FAR 15.101-2), if the offeror with the lowest price is technically acceptable, may the agency award to that offeror without evaluating the technical acceptability of the other offerors?

I said yes, and recommended that the solicitation announce the plan to use the procedure.

I am familiar with the language in FAR Subpart 15.3 and do not think anything therein or elsewhere in FAR bars such a procedure. I found no GAO decisions that bear on the question.

If you use Economical LPTA, what reason would one have to include solicitation language regarding "establishing a competitive range" and FPRs?

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If you use Economical LPTA, what reason would one have to include solicitation language regarding "establishing a competitive range" and FPRs?

I'm presuming that price is the most important factor in your acquisition strategy. What if the lowest priced offer(s) don't meet all the technical requirements but have the potential to be correctable. I'd want the ability to be able to conduct discussions and to include them, wouldn't you?

I suppose that it depends upon what you are buying.

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Guest Vern Edwards
If you use Economical LPTA, what reason would one have to include solicitation language regarding "establishing a competitive range" and FPRs?

In an LPTA source selection you must proceed to award in two steps. In the first step, you decide which proposals are technically acceptable. In the second step you select the technically acceptable proposal with the lowest price for award. You might want to conduct discussions if the proposal with the lowest price is not technically acceptable due to some minor flaw and could easily be made technically acceptable through discussions. Of course, if you conduct discussions you must establish a competitive range, conduct discussions with all offerors within the competitive range, and solicit final proposal revisions. The competitive range would likely include all acceptable proposals with prices within competitive reach of the lowest price offeror, and the result after final proposal revisions might be different. That would add time to your process, but your process might yield lower (though not necessarily better) prices as a result.

Keep in mind, however, that if you are conducting a source selection under FAR Part 15 you do not ever have to "include" (i.e., add) language about establishing a competitive range. The standard solicitation provision at FAR 52.215-1 provides as follows in paragraph (f)(4):

(f)(4) The Government intends to evaluate proposals and award a contract without discussions with offerors (except clarifications as described in FAR 15.306(a)). Therefore, the offeror?s initial proposal should contain the offeror?s best terms from a cost or price and technical standpoint. The Government reserves the right to conduct discussions if the Contracting Officer later determines them to be necessary. If the Contracting Officer determines that the number of proposals that would otherwise be in the competitive range exceeds the number at which an efficient competition can be conducted, the Contracting Officer may limit the number of proposals in the competitive range to the greatest number that will permit an efficient competition among the most highly rated proposals.

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In an LPTA source selection you must proceed to award in two steps. In the first step, you decide which proposals are technically acceptable. In the second step you select the technically acceptable proposal with the lowest price for award. You might want to conduct discussions if the proposal with the lowest price is not technically acceptable due to some minor flaw and could easily be made technically acceptable through discussions. Of course, if you conduct discussions you must establish a competitive range, conduct discussions with all offerors within the competitive range, and solicit final proposal revisions. The competitive range would likely include all acceptable proposals with prices within competitive reach of the lowest price offeror, and the result after final proposal revisions might be different. That would add time to your process, but your process might yield lower (though not necessarily better) prices as a result.

Keep in mind, however, that if you are conducting a source selection under FAR Part 15 you do not ever have to "include" (i.e., add) language about establishing a competitive range. The standard solicitation provision at FAR 52.215-1 provides as follows in paragraph (f)(4):etc...

Vern, do you think that we may have to also include other proposals in the competitive range which had some potentially fixable deficiencies but were within a competitive price range of the lowest priced (but also deficient) proposal?

I would think that if you include

1) the lowest priced but deficient proposal and

2) Technically acceptable proposals that are higher priced than a proposal that also has minor deficiencies,

...it would also be prudent to include such proposal(s).

I suppose that we could cut off the competitive range at a proposal that is technically acceptable, depending upon the circumstances.

As for extra effort, the government would have already evaluated those proposals during the process of determining a competitive price range, as you described above.

So, in effect, the competitive range would include all proposals within a theoretically competitive price range that were either technically acceptable or deemed capable of becoming technically acceptable.

I'm saying this from the theoretical perspective of a firm that might protest if we include conforming proposals that are higher priced than "mine" as well as lower cost proposals with similar deficiencies as "mine".

What do you think?

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Guest Vern Edwards

Include whomever you like. Include everybody if you are scared of protests.

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