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I have a technical evaluation question about the difference between subfactors and elements.

FAR 15.304(d) states that all "factors and significant subfactors that will affect contract award" shall be stated clearly in the solicitation. In Marine Animal Prods. Int'l, INc., B-247150.2, Ju. 13, 1992, 92-2 CPD P 16, GAO held that a solicitation need not identify each "element" to be considered by the agency during hte course of hte evaluation where such element is intrinsic to hte stated factors or subfactors. So "elements" of technical evaluation factors do NOT have to be stated in the solicitation but the Technical Evaluation Panel is allowed to use these "elements" in conducting its evaluation of the proposals.

The difference between subfactors and elements is, for subfactors, the government is required to do adjectival ratings for each subfactors when evaluating proposals. For elements, the government may consider them, but does not have to provide any adjectival ratings to these elements. Subfactors are required to be clearly stated in the solicitation. Elements can be stated in a solicitation, but are not required to be in the solicitation at all.

Now here is my question: what happens if a proposal is missing or does not address a particular "element"? Let's assume for this scenario that the solicitation involved actually did clearly state the "elements" of the Technical Evaluation Factor, so the offerors were on notice of what the "elements" were and what they should address in their proposals. Can the technical evaluation team mark this as a "deficiency"?

If it was a factor or subfactor, of course the answer is it would be rated as deficient. But what if it is an element?

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Guest Vern Edwards

The structure of evaluation factors is hierarchical. For example:

Technical evaluation factor: Soundness of design approach

Subfactor 1: Approach to conceptual design

Subfactor 2: Approach to preliminary system design

Element A: Approach to functional analysis

Element B: Approach to requirements allocation

Subfactor 3: Approach to detailed design and development

Subfactor 4: Approach to system test and evaluation

Factor, subfactor, and element are simply names for divisions and subdivisions. The whole is the sum of its parts. Evaluation takes place at the lowest level of subdivision and is "rolled up." Any deficiency (see the definition at FAR 15.001) at a lower level makes the proposal unacceptable at the highest level.

Some other points: There is no governmentwide rule about the use of adjectival ratings. So it was incorrect of you to say:

The difference between subfactors and elements is, for subfactors, the government is required to do adjectival ratings for each subfactors when evaluating proposals. For elements, the government may consider them, but does not have to provide any adjectival ratings to these elements. Subfactors are required to be clearly stated in the solicitation.

That may be true for some agencies, but it is not true for all.

Also, in the GAO's terminology, "subfactors" may refer to what some call "subfactors," "sub-subfactors," "elements," "subelements," etc. Don't get carried away thinking that each of those terms formally signifies any specific thing or that they are used in the same way in all procurements. You wrote:

So "elements" of technical evaluation factors do NOT have to be stated in the solicitation but the Technical Evaluation Panel is allowed to use these "elements" in conducting its evaluation of the proposals. Elements can be stated in a solicitation, but are not required to be in the solicitation at all.

That is not a valid statement. Read the decision you cited again. It said that "elements," i.e., lower level factors (e.g., "sub-subfactors) need not be identified in a solicitation if they are intrinsic to the factors that are identified. Thus, for example, in order to evaluate fuel efficiency (miles per gallon) you have to consider fuel consumption (gallons consumed over a given distance while traveling at a given speed carrying a given payload), which is an "element" of fuel efficiency. Thus, if you say you are going to evaluate fuel efficiency you need not say that you are going to evaluate fuel consumption, since consideration of fuel consumption is intrinsic to any evaluation of fuel efficiency. But not all "elements" are intrinsic to the fact under which they will be considered.

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Thanks, Vern!

And yes, you are right, I was coming from the perspective of a particular agency with specific rules on "elements". The Army Source Selection Manual uses the terminology "Factors - Subfactors - Elements" in its Chapter 5.

http://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/ccap/cc/jcchb/files/topical/source_selection/guides/assm_feb_09.pdf

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  • 9 months later...

I have a follow up question on this topic. If a solicitation sets forth evaluation factors that contain what it refers to as "elements," must the SSEB Report contain detailed explanations addressing each of these "elements"? One time at a different agency, they did not address the elements listed in the solicitation and this was considered normal, as they were just "elements." Now I am at a new agency, and there is debate over this. Somebody here believes that the elements under each eval. factor must be addressed one by one, expressly, in the evaluation report, because these elements were expressly set forth in the solicitation. I would like to hear what others' experience is with this.

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Guest Vern Edwards

If the higher level findings are based on the findings at the element level, then you'd better document the evaluations at the element level in detail.

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It is my opinion that if the solicitation lists these "elements" (or whatever they are called) as part of the evaluation criteria, then each of them should be listed in your SSEB report and any other evaluation documents. Otherwise, you can open yourself up to a protest stating that you did not follow the criteria as stated in your solicitation.

Heaven knows I'm not nearly as well-versed as Vern is on protests, but I try to read each one as they are posted here on WIFCON and it appears to me that one of the biggest mistakes that causes the gov't to lose protests is that COs and SSAs do not follow the evaluation criteria as set forth in their solicitation.

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