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brian

What is "competition ?"

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After seeing on fbo.gov that the SBSA on an RFQ that I had furnished a Quote on was being dissolved, I emailed to ask why they didn't award to one of the SB's who had Quoted.

I just got an email from a contracting official. It said the government was dissolving the SBSA because they didn't get 2 Quotes from SB concerns. It sounds like they feel that they didn't get any SB Quotes, notwithstanding what I sent them.

"Brian,

We did not get two or more quotes from small business, therefore there was no competition. The only quote we did receive was unreasonable and did not include information to determine responsiveness. As the FBO posting clearly states that an award is anticipated to be within the Simplified Acquisition Procedures threshold. We are well within our rights to Amend this solicitation.
"

I should fashion a question, but I'm really here just to cry in my beer.

Doesn't CICA say that competition is decided by who is solicited, not by who responds ?

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Brian, As I read it, maybe your quote was the only quote -- yes, the contracting officer could have made award to the sole quoter if the price was reasonable, but apparently it wasn't. However, you can still quote on the new solicitation, and you have the advantage over other offerors of knowing a little about the pricing.

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The definition of "full and open competition" is in 41 USC Sec. 107:

In this subtitle, the term “full and open competition”, when used with respect to a procurement, means that all responsible sources are permitted to submit sealed bids or competitive proposals on the procurement.

See also FAR 2.101. There is no definition in CICA or in FAR of just the word competition.

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Perhaps, as ji alludes to, the official meant that there was not adequate price competition, as described in 15.403-1©(1) and in 15.404 because they didn't consider the price to be reasonable.

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Maybe, but I doubt it. I doubt that the official could give a coherent explanation beyond, "Well, there was only one, so how could there have been competition?"

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In the case of SBSA SBA rules could be construed as determining the what "competition" is. In this case FAR 19.502-2 is the read.

In the end it probably does not change what the agency has done but there appears to be some real questions as to the response received. Acknowledging that in the case of what I will call a "pure RFQ" the agency need only have a reasonable basis to cancel the solicitation yet mentioning "responsiveness" by the CO just makes me wonder. Likewise, as an RFQ, what happened to to age old idea of "negotiation".

I am with Vern and his last post on this one!

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I admit that I wasn't sure of the Level of Effort that would satisfy the tech requirements, so I bid 2 FTE at each of 2 different locations.

A cap of $150K - in extremely remote locations - for folks who need both advanced degrees and specialized experience, now I think they wanted about 1/2 FTE at each location.

So, yes, my price was over their estimate. Way, way over. And they clearly don't think it is reasonable.

That completely justifies dissolving the SBSA. I agree.

I'm chagrinned, if that's the right word, by the assertion that they only got one bid (mine) is an indication that there was no competition.

Joel,

I think of 15.403-1 and stuff about obtaining certified pricing data or other than certified pricing data as being about ways a CO can determine a price to be reasonable. That question was already answered for the CO in my case. "He!! NO!, it's not reasonable."

I've thought for some time that, as long as a sole bidder expected others to bid, then that bidder's state of mind is what constituted "competition."

There's no way for me to do this work for even double that cap, unless the Govt clarifies the LOE required, or at least how much work has to be done, and what hours someone has to be on-call.

Once again, I've quoted on something I shouldn't have.

Fortunately, this time I didn't get stuck with a contract I couldn't perform for the price I bid.

That has happened. Those are painful jobs.

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I admit that I wasn't sure of the Level of Effort that would satisfy the tech requirements, so I bid 2 FTE at each of 2 different locations.

A cap of $150K - in extremely remote locations - for folks who need both advanced degrees and specialized experience, now I think they wanted about 1/2 FTE at each location.

So, yes, my price was over their estimate. Way, way over. And they clearly don't think it is reasonable.

That completely justifies dissolving the SBSA. I agree.

I'm chagrinned, if that's the right word, by the assertion that they only got one bid (mine) is an indication that there was no competition.

Joel,

I think of 15.403-1 and stuff about obtaining certified pricing data or other than certified pricing data as being about ways a CO can determine a price to be reasonable. That question was already answered for the CO in my case. "He!! NO!, it's not reasonable."

I've thought for some time that, as long as a sole bidder expected others to bid, then that bidder's state of mind is what constituted "competition."

There's no way for me to do this work for even double that cap, unless the Govt clarifies the LOE required, or at least how much work has to be done, and what hours someone has to be on-call.

Once again, I've quoted on something I shouldn't have.

Fortunately, this time I didn't get stuck with a contract I couldn't perform for the price I bid.

That has happened. Those are painful jobs.

Brian, my post above wasn't concerned with TINA or "data other than cost or pricing data". The premise was that it can be determined that there is "adequate price competition" even when only one quote or proposal is received. Among other things, the government must consider the quote reasonable in that event. Here, the agency didnt think so.

Another good point made here is that it seems that the requirement wasn't clear enough for a meeting of the minds on the level of effort required to meet them. Perhaps negotiations could have resolved scope and price issues - perhaps not. In this case, nobody else even quoted. I don't know if it was evident that the prices were not expected or intended to exceed $150k.

Unfortunately, from my experience with gov't acquisition personnel in general, many are often reluctant to directly discuss price in negotiated acquisitions, let alone scope. This is not specifically directed at the 1102 community, it includes other disciplines associated with acquisitions as well.

My latest experience was an urgent need last summer to hire construction scheduling expertise for the government on a high visibility project that was going South, so that the government could work with the contractor to get the schedule back on track. The project HAS to finish within a mandated limit. It took over 3 weeks to contract with one firm from the GSA schedule - after receiving the requested quote or proposal. Nobody would CALL the firm and negotiate an acceptable and affordable scope of services within the simplified acquisition price limit. Despite the firm's willingness and attempts to talk directly, it was handled by email at a snail's pace. I was finally able to get the folks responsible to CALL and work out the details. Meanwhile, the impact on the job was tens of thousands of dollars per day for lack of a working schedule. The scheduler contract was within the simplied acquisition limit.

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Joel:

You wrote:

Brian, my post above wasn't concerned with TINA or "data other than cost or pricing data". The premise was that it can be determined that there is "adequate price competition" even when only one quote or proposal is received.

Emphasis added. That is not necessarily the case in DOD. See DFARS 215.403-1( c)(1)(B) and PGI 215.371-3.

You also made the following point:

My latest experience was an urgent need last summer to hire construction scheduling expertise for the government on a high visibility project that was going South, so that the government could work with the contractor to get the schedule back on track. The project HAS to finish within a mandated limit. It took over 3 weeks to contract with one firm from the GSA schedule - after receiving the requested quote or proposal. Nobody would CALL the firm and negotiate an acceptable and affordable scope of services within the simplified acquisition price limit. Despite the firm's willingness and attempts to talk directly, it was handled by email at a snail's pace. I was finally able to get the folks responsible to CALL and work out the details. Meanwhile, the impact on the job was tens of thousands of dollars per day for lack of a working schedule. The scheduler contract was within the simplied acquisition limit.

It's interesting that you bring up the unwillingness to make a phone call. Professor Nash wrote this in the November 2012 issue of The Nash & Cibinic Report:

A senior Contracting Officer in a class I taught recently raised an issue that seems to be recurring in Government contracting. She commented that she found it very difficult to persuade young people entering the field to communicate with contractors face-to-face or even to pick up the phone and call them when there was some contracting issue that needed to be addressed. She said that they preferred to send an email or use some other electronic media. This may explain comments that I received from two contractor representatives during a recent trip to the West Coast. They each told me of separate situations where a call to their CO requesting a meeting to resolve a problem was met by a refusal to meet!

I'm not sure that this is a generational problem although there has been some recent literature discussing the fact that young folks are so imbued with electronic communication that they have a difficult time dealing with people face-to-face. Whatever the explanation for the problem, it may explain some of the difficulties that are being encountered in our field. For example, it may explain the great reluctance to hold one-on-one meetings during the acquisition planning process even though such meetings are encouraged by Federal Acquisition Regulation 15.201 as a technique to promote early exchanges of information between agencies and industry and addressed in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy's February 2, 2011 “Myth-Busting” memorandum that we discussed in ‘‘Myth-Busting”: A Great New Endeavor, 25 N&CR ¶ 11. It may also explain the difficulties some contractors are encountering in reaching a quick resolution of contract administration issues.

Wherever communication between a contractor and Government personnel is needed, the most effective method is a face-to-face meeting. In a meeting, the parties can look each other in the eye and engage in a free-flowing discussion until they get to the heart of the problem. In the course of such a meeting, each party can assess the reliability and trustworthiness of the other party. They can also build the rapport that is so necessary to a successful business relationship. I would argue that none of these results is possible if the communication is conducted entirely through electronic media.

My response to the CO who raised the problem was a simple one. When any of us encounters this problem, we have an additional training requirement. We have to teach our employees to schedule meetings or, at least, use the telephone. If they respond that they are uncomfortable meeting with folks on the other side of the bargain, take them to a meeting and show them the benefits of working through a problem on a real-time basis. We need to nip this problem in the bud.

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Thanks for the article, Vern. That may partly explain my observation of what happened in our case.

Gosh, it is pervasive. While perusing the "Cosco Connection" magazine at my daughter's house in Gig Harbor, today, I read a review of a n article advising about The "The New Rules of Social Business" , stressing the importance of putting down the phone, turning off electronic devices, closing Twitter and Facebook during meetings

- - and limiting any meeting to 20 minutes or less if you intend to hold your team members's attention.

Sheesh.

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