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Guest Vern Edwards

Interesting Article

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I have felt this pain often, although not in the space technology industry. The way the cycle goes is you win a contract based on your belief that you can work smarter and leaner than the incumbent, you get mobilized and settled in, you think you're doing OK, then you realize your margins are nowhere near where they need to be, but you tough it out, do the best job you can for the client with the resources you have, you work the numbers for the re-compete, and you lose to somebody who believes he can work smarter and leaner...

The only fix I have seen for an incumbent is to put heavy spin doctoration into your re-compete proposal, avoid reliance solely on your numbers, and make sure your proposal stresses all the times you have exceeded customer expectations, includes all the testimonials you can gather, and shamelessly toots your horn in an attention-grabbing, almost a comic book style, format that emphasizes your discriminators and is easy for the busiest source selection people to digest.

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As an incumbent, using the question and answer process to strategically ensure that competitors are aware of "hidden" costs can sometimes be useful.

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There are so many assertions in this article without reference it's mind boggling. Sounds like the whining of a losing incumbent.

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Guest Vern Edwards

There are so many assertions in this article without reference it's mind boggling. Sounds like the whining of a losing incumbent.

Please quote one of those.

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Here is my one:

1) "It is also interesting to note that incumbents on “poorly performing” contracts often win against successful incumbents on other competitions."

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Adding to mm6's list:

2) Incumbents do not do well in government competitions, especially in the services arena.

3) in government contracting, successful incumbents are treated as poor performers.

4) Procurements do not properly apply criteria that assess all relevant aspects of proposals, including past performance.

5) numerous grand and noble studies and reviews observed that incumbents lose at a very high rate

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I assume we're talking about cost-plus-whatever-fee, term support services contracts and task orders.

I concur with the examples of whining. The author's contentions simply don't hold water in my experience.

And yet, I also sympathize with the author's overall point. Incumbents ARE being underbid by competitors with unrealistic cost proposals. I've awarded contracts to unrealistically low offerors, myself. And I think it's become more common in the past several years of lean budgets as we look to do "more with less."

I was generally fairly aggressive in increasing evaluated costs of proposals whenever I detected a specific anomaly. But there were plenty of times that I had to let it pass because I had nothing better than a strong gut feeling that the offeror couldn't perform--for long or particularly well--at his proposed cost. The trouble is, I don't think my gut feeling would've impressed GAO as being something other than my being arbitrary and capricious. So, I had to let it go.

The success of support services contracts tends to ride entirely on the quality of the supplied personnel. In most services procurements, the offerors are all competing in the same labor market. Do we really believe that Offeror A will be able to supply the same quality workers for substantially less than Offeror B? Maybe at any given point in time, but not in the long haul. And yet, we implicitly contend that they can.

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