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FAR 13.5 Test Program for Commercial Items - expires Jan 1, 2012?

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FAR 13.5(d) says that "The authority to issue solicitations under this subpart expires on January 1, 2012." In the past, this commercial item test program has been extended repeatedly. Has it been extended again or did it really expire on January 1, 2012? I have been on vacation and just got back, so I apologize if the answer is "obvious" and I missed hearing about it.

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Good question. Previously the authority was included in the National Defense Authorization Bill. I checked through the 2012 bill that was signed a few days ago and it's not in there.

I wonder if they decided the test wasn't benefical and just dropped it. Much of what the government buys that's commercial is included on GSA Schedule. If you're buying something that's not, it doesn't take much more time to put together a non-SAT solicitation as it does a SAT one. While one could argue a CO make make a much similer source selection process using SAT, most of the ones I've seen at no different than a FAR 15 one. So maybe a conculsion was reached that the test should be over.

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Good question. Previously the authority was included in the National Defense Authorization Bill. I checked through the 2012 bill that was signed a few days ago and it's not in there.

I wonder if they decided the test wasn't benefical and just dropped it. Much of what the government buys that's commercial is included on GSA Schedule. If you're buying something that's not, it doesn't take much more time to put together a non-SAT solicitation as it does a SAT one. While one could argue a CO make make a much similer source selection process using SAT, most of the ones I've seen at no different than a FAR 15 one. So maybe a conculsion was reached that the test should be over.

I just learned that the FAR 13.5 Test Program is dead for now, as far as DoD is concerned. I suspect that neither GSA nor NASA will push for its renewal. It seems that the test program was used only 7,200 times in a universe of 3.2 million DoD actions.

If it is to be resurrected - an unlikely occurrence, it won't reappear before FY13.

No More Test Program

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Yes, I hope it gets reinstated. I already had my Procurement Executive checking into the expiration.

It does not affect me much on my current job but I used it extensively in my previous position. It allowed me to treat commercial services, such as audit or evaluation services, of $3 or $4M as simplified acquisitions. I could just get 3 to 5 proposals from companies with good past performance and known to not be sore losers. I could solicit and award in 2 to 3 months with no issues.

Now I would have to post the same solicitation on FEDBIZOPPs, get 10 or more proposals, evaluate them all, make a selection, get protested by 2 or 3, reevaluate or recompete, then go through it all again and get an award in maybe 9 months or a year. I am very negative on protests due to our agency being swamped with them this year.

I think the test program may have been used more and just coded wrong in FPDS. That is shame on us.

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I think the test program may have been used more and just coded wrong in FPDS. That is shame on us.

My agency suspects this as well. In fact, we have already found evidence of possible mis coding on what could be a significant scale. As you said, shame on us if that's true.

However, I can't believe for the life of me why no one questioned the tiny percentages of less than 1% reported in FPDS. It would have made more sense for the someone to at least ask the questions they are asking now in the referenced memorandum before throwing out the baby with the bath water. But that makes too much sense, sorry, I forgot. :lol:

Our Agency for one HEAVILY relies on 13.5, so this is going to be a rather painful impact when we are already short handed. Maybe this is the higher up's way of "encouraging" greater use of GSA / FSS?

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Wow.

Why are you surprised? Congress is relying ever more on data from FPDS and yet the contract community has not even though the FAR holds Contracting Officers and Agency Heads accountable for accurate data in FPDS. I am not surprised this program was cancelled if the decision was based solely on FPDS data.

Regardless of what one in the contracting community thinks of data entry into the numerous systems they are faced with and even though it is not considered an important task Contracting Officers must be certain the data they enter into systems such as FPDS are accurate since decision makers are using this data to make decisions.

One may not like it but this is the new reality - systems and the data they receive and contain matter!

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...we have already found evidence of mis-coding on what could be a pretty significant scale. As you said, shame on us.

However, I can't believe for the life of me why no one questioned the tiny percentages of less than 1% reported in FPDS. That would be like a study that claims that only 1% of Americans shop at frickin' Wal-Mart. You'd have to be dense not to question the validity of the data before making a decision. It would have made more sense for the someone to at least ask the questions they are asking now in the referenced memorandum before throwing out the baby with the bath water. But that makes too much sense, sorry, I forgot. :lol: This is about the most dain bread thing I've seen in a while. At a time when the government is bleeding red ink, we are going to loosen the turniquit a little bit by making things more cumbersome, time consuming and therefore expensive. Brilliant!

Our Agency for one HEAVILY relies on 13.5, so this is going to be a rather painful impact when we are already short handed. Maybe this is the higher up's way of "encouraging" greater use of GSA / FSS?

Folks, if your agencies are under DoD, I suggest that all of you or someone in your agencies quickly contact the POC identified in Mr. Ginman's memo at:

http://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/policy/policyv...339-11-DPAP.pdf.

If you are not under DoD, I also suggest contacting her ASAP to obtain the POC for non-Defense agencies (probably in GSA).

The suspense for input to DoD is 27 January. DO something - don't just complain about possible mass mis-coding of acquisition methods.

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Our Agency for one HEAVILY relies on 13.5, so this is going to be a rather painful impact when we are already short handed. Maybe this is the higher up's way of "encouraging" greater use of GSA / FSS?

I liked 13.5 very much; I am sorry to see it go. However, can we not do the same thing in the same time as FAR 13.5 using FAR 12.6?

What extra steps and time are required using 12.6?

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I liked 13.5 very much; I am sorry to see it go. However, can we not do the same thing in the same time as FAR 13.5 using FAR 12.6?

What extra steps and time are required using 12.6?

You are correct. We are already in the process of re-edumacating ourselves into the world of Part 12/15 and are looking closely at the language in 12.6. We certainly don't care to go back to the old "FAR Part 15 Plus" way of doing business, what Vern Edwards described as "The FAR Part 15 Process Model" in is excellent article at http://www.wifcon.com/anal/analcomproc.htm.

Joel,

My Agency is already working on a response to the DPAP memo.

However, I suspect some agencies (like the one I used to work for) probably won't bother because they never followed the spirit of 13.5 anyway. The prior agency was in the habit of developing 60 page source selection plans, conducting the evaluation using a formal evaluation / SSA structure, establising a competitive range, conducting formal discussions, requesting FPRs ... even requiring each eval team member to sign and date every single note, worksheet, coffee stained napkin, etc they used to develop their formal tech report ... for commercial procurements as low as $180,000 in one case. :lol:

Interesting, when you consider that even if agencies report 13.5 actions, how many of those really followed the spirit of 13.5 in the first place vs how many are literally just "checking the box"?

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Why are you surprised? Congress is relying ever more on data from FPDS and yet the contract community has not even though the FAR holds Contracting Officers and Agency Heads accountable for accurate data in FPDS. I am not surprised this program was cancelled if the decision was based solely on FPDS data.

Regardless of what one in the contracting community thinks of data entry into the numerous systems they are faced with and even though it is not considered an important task Contracting Officers must be certain the data they enter into systems such as FPDS are accurate since decision makers are using this data to make decisions.

One may not like it but this is the new reality - systems and the data they receive and contain matter!

policyguy:

I don't know anyone who thinks that data entry doesn't matter. It matters, I just don't think contracting officers and contract specialists should be the ones doing it. But I don't believe for a minute that some congressional staff looked at FPDS data and decided that the program was not necessary. I think renewal was simply overlooked because DOD and GSA policy people didn't do their job.

The program was not cancelled or terminated. It lapsed. I think it lapsed because policy people in DOD and GSA dropped the ball. Look at the next to the last paragraph in the Ginman memo and the comment "we need data on [the program's] importance" and then the line "Request each activity review your use of the test program and provide justification for its reinstatement if appropriate." Why did they wait until now to ask for data? Policy staffs are supposed to be up to speed on that kind of thing and do what needs doing when it needs doing, which in this case was early last year. Hell, DOD policy people didn't even send out the Ginman memo until yesterday. If a conscious decision was made they should have sent it out last year to give people a heads up that the program was coming to an end. I hope they enjoyed their Christmas dinner and New Year champagne.

This was an oversight, a screw up by the policy people, not a conscious decision to let the program lapse. If you think I'm wrong, tell me who on what congressional staff looked at the FPDS data and told what committee not to renew the program.

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P.S. The statistical "analysis" in the second paragraph of the Ginman memo comes across as half-baked. Why look at test program buys as percentages of "all" FY10 and FY11 purchases? If they mean "all" literally, then they included purchases that were not eligible for use of the test program. What percentage were they of the actions eligible for the use of the test program? And are the percentages percentages of actions or of dollars?

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P.S. The statistical "analysis" in the second paragraph of the Ginman memo comes across as half-baked. Why look at test program buys as percentages of "all" FY10 and FY11 purchases? If they mean "all" literally, then they included purchases that were not eligible for use of the test program. What percentage were they of the actions eligible for the use of the test program? And are the percentages percentages of actions or of dollars.

Vern,

In consideration of you other reply to policyguy, probably to get all the way down to the .5% figure in the memo. In other words, it appears that someone played with the math (the numerator and the denominator) to get the 13.5 useage % as low as possible (and unintentionally made it look ridiculous in the process). I guess they figure if they are going to do the CYA thing, they might as well come out with all guns blazing ... "Ah, yes, well you see, that 13.5 test program is so unimporant and insignificant. I mean, look at the tiny percentage of cases where anyone actually used it. So may as well just let it go, ditch it. Just a waste of electrons and ink. Nothing to see here ... " :lol:

Okay, that may be hyperbole on my part, and I might well be full of it. But I suspect many have come to the same basic conclusion, right or wrong.

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Well, let's consider some other things.

1. What about the civilian agencies? Were they in on the "decision" to let the program expire? We've heard nothing from them and the Ginman memo makes no mention of them. Did DOD make the decision for everybody? And did anybody consult OFPP? Was that office in on the "decision"?

2. 7,000 actions and $2 billion are nothing to sneeze at. They only seem unimportant if you are not doing the procurements. Why let the program lapse because of those numbers? Did the program cost anything? If so, was there a cost-benefit analysis? Even if the program accounted for only 7,000 actions and $2 billion, why not let it continue? What harm? Had a goal been set for use that was not met?

3. Were the test program actions scattered throughout the acquisition community, or were they concentrated in a few organizations? If the latter, were those organizations consulted?

4. To what extent were the statistics affected by the fact that many purchases in FY10 and FY11 were in support of contingency ops, where the SAT is higher and so the test program was not needed? With the wars winding down, might the test program be more significant in the future?

5. Finally, if the "decision" was based on the analysis cited in the Ginman memo, and the analysis was not found wanting, why ask for more data now?

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Well, let's consider some other things.

1. What about the civilian agencies? Were they in on the "decision" let the program expire? We've heard nothing from them and the Ginman memo makes no mention of them. Did DOD make the decision for everybody? And did anybody consult OFPP? Was that office in on the "decision"?

2. 7,000 actions and $2 billion are nothing to sneeze at. They only seem unimportant if you are not doing the procurements. Why let the program lapse because of those numbers? Did the program cost anything? If so, was there a cost-benefit analysis? Even if the program accounted for only 7,000 actions and $2 billion, why not let it continue? What harm? Had a goal been set for use that was not met?

3. Were the test program actions scattered throughout the acquisition community, or were they concentrated in a few organizations? If the latter, were those organizations consulted?

4. To what extent were the statistics affected by the fact that many purchases in FY10 and FY11 were in support of contingency ops, where the SAT is higher and so the test program was not needed? With the wars winding down, might the test program be more significant in the future?

5. Finally, if the "decision" was based on the analysis cited in the Ginman memo, and the analysis was not found wanting, why ask for more data now?

I know my Agency wasn't in on the "decision."

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:P I'll take part of the blame on this one because I did not go to my supervisors 6 months ago and asked them to go to their supervisors so they would go to their supervisors... and make sure this was updated (LOL!!)

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I was told by my Policy folks that, for whatever reason, only DOD can resurrect this program but if they are able to do so, it will also apply to Civilian Agencies.

To me, this is one of those things 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' and it should be made a permanent process for commercial items. I think it is going to get ugly as actions over $150k will take more time. And neither the customers or the vendors will be happy and we in procurement will be in the middle paddling as fast as we can (or not...)

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I don't know why it should be the case that only DOD can resurrect the program. Even though the original legislation and the extensions have been included in DOD authorization acts, they have been codified in both Title 10 and Title 41 of the U.S.C.

It sounds to me that somebody is not very enterprising. Couldn't they have gone to OFPP for help?

However, it may be that Congress would not extend the program unless DOD also wanted it extended. I don't know.

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I think it is going to get ugly as actions over $150k will take more time.

Why will use of FAR 12.6 take more time than FAR 13.5? What additional steps must you take under the former that you avoided under the latter?

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I don't know why it should be the case that only DOD can resurrect the program. Even though the original legislation and the extensions have been included in DOD authorization acts, they have been codified in both Title 10 and Title 41 of the U.S.C.

It sounds to me that somebody is not very enterprising. Couldn't they have gone to OFPP for help?

However, it may be that Congress would not extend the program unless DOD also wanted it extended. I don't know.

I don't have any information on how or why this happened but I understand my Agency, which is not DOD, is gathering data and information in order to consider submitting a legislative proposal to turn this back on. Not sure how successful this will be but I think they will give it a try and see what happens.

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Ah! So now they're gathering information. More confirmation of my hypothesis that the thing was overlooked.

I don't doubt that they'll get the authority reinstated. Maybe even in a few weeks or months, rather than next year. They would already have gotten it extended if they had done their jobs properly -- last year, when they should have.

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Yes, I hope it gets reinstated. I already had my Procurement Executive checking into the expiration.

It does not affect me much on my current job but I used it extensively in my previous position. It allowed me to treat commercial services, such as audit or evaluation services, of $3 or $4M as simplified acquisitions. I could just get 3 to 5 proposals from companies with good past performance and known to not be sore losers. I could solicit and award in 2 to 3 months with no issues.

Now I would have to post the same solicitation on FEDBIZOPPs, get 10 or more proposals, evaluate them all, make a selection, get protested by 2 or 3, reevaluate or recompete, then go through it all again and get an award in maybe 9 months or a year. I am very negative on protests due to our agency being swamped with them this year.

I think the test program may have been used more and just coded wrong in FPDS. That is shame on us.

Test Program (nor SAP in general) is not an exception to use of the GPE. See FAR 13.105(a).

With regard to FPDS-NG coding issues, for some lengthy period of time (I can't recall exactly how long nor exactly when, but it was on the order of many months approx. 1 year ago), data validation rules would not accept "Test Program" unless the acquisition's value exceeded $1M. My agency conducted many test program acquisitions > $100K (at the time) but < $1M under the test program but could not code them correctly. I always suspected it was a programmer's typo, simply adding an extra $0. I, and others, pointed this out to our agency, and in turn our Department's FPDS-NG POC, who notified GSA. GSA's response, in typical GSA fashion, was that it was a known problem and was scheduled to be fixed with the next release. I highly doubt any body went back to correct these records after GSA "fixed" the program.

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With regard to FPDS-NG coding issues, for some lengthy period of time (I can't recall exactly how long nor exactly when, but it was on the order of many months approx. 1 year ago), data validation rules would not accept "Test Program" unless the acquisition's value exceeded $1M. My agency conducted many test program acquisitions > $100K (at the time) but < $1M under the test program but could not code them correctly. I always suspected it was a programmer's typo, simply adding an extra $0. I, and others, pointed this out to our agency, and in turn our Department's FPDS-NG POC, who notified GSA. GSA's response, in typical GSA fashion, was that it was a known problem and was scheduled to be fixed with the next release. I highly doubt any body went back to correct these records after GSA "fixed" the program.

Just curious - has anyone here tried to contact the POC mentioned in the DOD memo and find out what really happened concerning non-renewal? Does Congress have concerns with it that DoD decided not to mess with it? Has anyone called the POC to explain the less than $1 million programming validation problem, which may have skewed the available data? Lots of speculation in this thread. Seems like asking the point of contact might yield some answers for those concerned about the expiration.

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What did the POC say when you contacted her?

Vern, I started to contact her on January 5th, out of curiosity. However, I don't use the program and am not one who is especially concerned about it one way or the other. I don't know whether or not the test program at 13.5 results in the best deal for both the taxpayer and the customer. I don't know what, if any, concerns that the policy makers and/or Congress had about the program. Once all the detailed posts here with various opinions and degrees of speculation started coming in, I realized that I apparently don't know enough about it to know what to ask her. Those that have a vested interest in the program (or their designated internal POC) should be able to call the POC, however.

The folks at DoD are really just people. I've called them and corresponded with them before. I've even asked for and obtained archive background material from old DAR and FAR Cases from them for use in some current USACE policy initiatives. They are usually pretty friendly. If you aren't with DoD, they might refer you to the GSA POC. I've also called GSA points of contact listed in some FAR Cases. Sometimes they politely referred to the DAR Council rep or reps for certain FAR cases or other actions and sometimes directly answered my questions.

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