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How detailed does a LPTA Source Selection Decision Document (SSDD) have to be? I have seen where the TEP members/evaluators used an Evaluation Worksheet Template for each proposal.

The Template had a simple grid chart with a column for "Acceptable" and a column for "Unacceptable" where they could enter a checkmark and also the page/section number of the proposal where the supporting language appeared in the proposal.

There was no narrative allowed on the Template, unless a proposal was found technically unacceptable. In that case, the evaluator had a block of lines to write a narrative explaining why they found the proposal technically unacceptable on that particular criteria.

Once the TEP report is finalized, it goes to the SSA, who writes the SSDD. Can the SSA simply write 1-2 sentences stating that the awardee's proposal is technically acceptable and is the lowest price? As there is no Tradeoff, then there really doesn't seem to be much to say. Does the SSA have a duty to "talk up" the contents of the awardee's proposal? What of the other offerors' proposals?

The concern is that the SSA usually relies upon the TEP Report and pulls narrative from it. That works fine in a Tradeoff. But for LPTA, if the TEP members simply put checkmarks and marked the page/section of the proposal, with no narrative, what is the SSA supposed to do? The SSA has a duty to review the proposals themselves, but usually they do that and then still rely upon the TEP report in their SSDD.

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What if it is not a LPTA but a Performance Price Trade-off (PPT)?

If the apparent awardee is not the lowest priced offeror, but say, out of 10 proposals, #3 is the first proposal to have a rating of SUBSTANTIAL CONFIDENCE, which is the highest rating possible in the 5-tier adjectival rating system, and the agency wants to award to #3. In the SSDD, is it OK for the SSA to only address the actual tradeoff by comparing #3 to #1 and #2, who were obviously lower priced, but had lower Past Performance ratings? I mean, does the SSA have a duty to provide narrative providing a comparative assessment between #3 and the offerors #4 to #10, who were obviously more expensive and lower-rated on PP? As there is no tradeoff with these higher-priced, lower-rated proposals, what is there to say?

And what happens in this situation:

In a PPT, #3 and #4 have the same exact PP rating of SUBSTANTIAL CONFIDENCE. #3 is lower-priced. Can the SSA simply write in the SSDD that #3 is lower priced, so award goes to #3?

GAO has held that, where a solicitation provides for Best Value via Tradeoff (and PPT is Tradeoff), a "proper evaluation" is not limited to a consideration of the proposal's adjectival ratings. Philips Healthcare Informatics, B-405382.2 et al., May 14, 2012. Further, GAO has held that SSAs should reasonably consider content of competing proposals and not just go by the adjectival ratings. See Trailboss Enterprises, Inc., B-407093, Nov. 6, 2012. Trailboss involved a Tradeoff as well. GAO stated:

“. . . Evaluation ratings should be merely guides for intelligent decision making . . . and that therefore evaluators and SSAs should reasonably consider the underlying bases for ratings, including the advantages and disadvantages associated with the specific content of competing proposals . . .”

GAO has held that proposals with the same adjectival ratings are not necessarily equal. Pemco Aeroplex, Inc., B-310372, Dec. 27, 2007. But I believe that case also involved Tradeoff.

So if PPT is a type of Best Value "Tradeoff" source selection method, then, all of the GAO cases I cited above apply to PPT, right? So if two proposals have the same PP rating, the SSA cannot just say in the SSDD, hey we are going with the lower-priced of the two, the SSA has to actually provide narrative on the relative merits of the competing proposals. The SSA must talk about their actual Past Performance, what they did, how well they did it, how relevant it was, etc.

I ask this because it appears that, in some GAO decisions on PPT, if you actually read the background of the cases, the agency was NOT doing a real PPT involving Tradeoff. Rather, there was no Tradeoff at all, but it was LPTA.

For LPTA, the GAO has held that, where two proposals were "essentially equal" with regard to PP, and the agency simply awarded to the lower-priced proposal, the GAO found "no basis to question the agency's source selection decision." See American Environmental Services, Inc., B-406952.2 and .3, Oct. 11, 2012.

So I am just trying to understand how detailed a SSDD has to be for a Tradeoff procurement v. a LPTA procurement.

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Offeror Offeror Offeror

A B C

---------- ---------- ----------

Acceptable: YES YES YES

---------- ---------- ----------

Price: $100 $105 $110

---------- ---------- ----------

Past Low Some High

Performance: Confidence Confidence Confidence

---------- ---------- ----------

Starting with the lowest price offer, I considered offers until I arrived at one that was rated with high confidence for past performance. Here, this is Offerors A, B, and C. I reviewed the reasons the evaluation team made its past performance rating assessments, and I agree with all of these ratings.

It is my decision that the best value offer is provided by Offeror <A, B, or C, take your pick>.

- If Offeror A: I appreciate the high confidence of Offeror C's offer, but I do not perceive any benefits of that higher-priced offer. I also do not perceive any benefits of Offeror B's higher-priced proposal. I am satisfied that the risk to the Govenrment associated with Offeror A's offer can be managed.

- If Offeror B: I appreciate the high confidence of Offeror C's offer, but I do not perceive any benefits of that higher-priced offer. However, I am concerned with the risk associated with Offeror A's offer due to its low confidence past performance rating. The benefits of Offeror B's offer merit its higher price in comparison to Offeror A, and any risk to the Government associated with Offeror B's offer can be managed.

- If Offeror C: I appreciate the high confidence of Offeror C's offer. The lower risk to the Government, in comparison to Offeror A's and Offeror B's offers, merits the higher price.

This is simplified, but it shows the approach I would take. In my decision documents, I never put complete reliance in ratings but always look at the reasons behind the ratings.

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Guest Vern Edwards
So I am just trying to understand how detailed a SSDD has to be for a Tradeoff procurement v. a LPTA procurement.

Okay, see EER Systems, Inc., GAO B-290971.3, 2002 CPD ¶ 186:

While the selection official's judgment must be documented in sufficient detail to show it is not arbitrary, a source selection official's failure to specifically discuss every detail regarding the relative merit of the proposals in the selection decision document does not affect the validity of the decision if the record shows that the agency's award decision was reasonable. Development Alternatives, Inc., B-279920, Aug. 6, 1998, 98-2 CPD ¶ 54 at 9.

* * *

For a proper tradeoff, the record must show that the SSA was aware of the technical advantages of the awardee's proposal, and specifically determined that those advantages were worth the awardee's higher cost. 4-D Neuroimaging, B-286155.2, B-286155.3, Oct. 10, 2001, 2001 CPD ¶ 183 at 11. There is no requirement that an agency restate each of an offeror's strengths when comparing proposals, and nothing unreasonable about the decision to not elevate any of these strengths to the tradeoff decision. Medical Dev. Int'l, B-281484.2, Mar. 29, 1999, 99-1 CPD ¶ 68 at 14.

See also Fort Carson Support Services v. U.S., 71 Fed. Cl. 571 (2006):

In the SSDD, the Source Selection Authority provides a summary of the proposal evaluations based on the relevant factors identified in the Solicitation, and a supporting narrative, see AR Tab 214, as the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) require. See 48 C.F.R. § 15.305(a)(3). The SSA's rationale for his business judgment and tradeoff decision is also supplied. After explaining that KIRA's “substantially better PPE than [FCSS]'s more than offset [FCSS]'s slightly better Management subfactor proposal,” the SSA turned to an analysis of the Cost factor. AR Tab 214 at 4. He noted that the $11 million difference between the proposed costs of KIRA and FCSS was “mostly attributable to [FCSS]' s understaffing.” Id. He looked at the Most Probable Cost for the two proposals, as mandated by the FAR, see 48 C.F.R. § 15.404–1(d)(2)(i), and determined that KIRA's $700,000 higher MPC was a “minor difference over ten years and in relation to the overall cost of over $200 million is essentially insignificant, certainly not enough to offset [KIRA]'s advantage in the Quality factor.” AR Tab 214 at 4.

Fort Carson Support Services argues that the Army failed to “articulate what it gained in Quality by awarding to KIRA.” FCSS Mot. at 35; see also id. at 39. But the SSA plainly explained that FCSS's “overall manpower shortage ... was considered detrimental,” AR Tab 214 at 4, and that he found KIRA's proposal preferable, despite KIRA's “significant staffing issue,” because KIRA's “proposal for the first full contract year showed reasonable staffing, although with some shortfalls, thus allowing a conclusion that its technical approach was credible.” Id. at 4–5. The SSA's confidence in the staffing level proposed by KIRA for the first full year of performance, and KIRA's “substantially” smaller variance between proposed and probable costs, relative to FCSS, were the benefits received by the Army in return for the higher price. This explanation satisfies the FAR, as “documentation need not quantify the tradeoffs that led to the decision.” 48 C.F.R. § 15.308 (2005). The record contains an adequate, rational basis for the award to KIRA, and this ground for protest is accordingly denied. [Footnote omitted.]

Those are the closest things to answers as you are going to get.

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