Jump to content
The Wifcon Forums and Blogs

Recommended Posts

Hello All,

I was doing some reading and trying to figure out more information on the "down-select process" (if there is one), and was reading Vern's “Competitive Processes in Government Contracting: The FAR Part 15 Process Model and Process Inefficiency." (http://www.wifcon.com/anal/analcomproc.htm#note4) Reading this left me with more questions on making the process more efficient than what it is now.

Question 1) Is it appropriate to assume that the "down-select" process mentioned in this article and mentioned in other DoD websites (Ask a professor) is now the Advisory Multi-Step Process as detailed in FAR 15.202?

I was reading through the references in Vern's article and the reference for the "down-select" definition points to The Government Contracts Reference Book (2nd Edition)(I have the third edition). The definition in this book states “A two-step procurement technique where, as a first step, the number of competitors are reduced by preliminary screening, and in the second step, a best value procurement is conducted between the remaining competitors. FAR 15.102 provides for the use of an advisory multi-step source selection when appropriate.” I have taken FAR Bootcamp and learned many lessons of not relying entirely on the information in the reference book, so I assume that the “down-select” process is the Advisory Multi-Step Process now covered in FAR 15.202.

Based on your responses, I may have more questions to follow on this question.

Question 2) Can a competitive range be established if the Government does not conduct negotiations or have communications etc.? For instance let’s say you have 200 proposals come in for a cost reimbursement acquisition conducted under FAR Part 15. About 100 of those proposals are technically acceptable; wouldn’t it be an absolute waste of tax payer dollars to do a full blow cost analysis on those proposals not found technically acceptable? Could a competitive range be put in place to afford the Government the opportunity to only do a cost analysis on those in the range (technically accptable)? The FAR only disuscusse when it should be used.

Link to post
Share on other sites

QUESTION 1

There is no FAR-defined downselect process. The FAR 15.202 advisory multi-step process is not the one-and-only downselect process; rather, it is an advisory mult-step process.

If you will go to the GAO website at www.gao.gov and do a search under bid protests for "downselect," you will see all sorts of examples where downselects were done, using all sorts of approaches that differ from the FAR 15.202 advisory multi-step process.

In summary, you should not assume that the “down-select” process is the Advisory Multi-Step Process now covered in FAR 15.202.

QUESTION 2

lf your market research suggests you might get 200 proposals, then it makes sense for you to design you acquisition strategy accordingly. I recently issued a solicitation where we had five factors and we asked for complete proposals, but we said that we will evaluate two of the factors in the first step and only those with certain ratings would proceed to the second step where the other factors would be evaluated. You could call this a downselect process (alothough we didn't use that term -- I prefer to look at it as pre-screening criteria -- I think they call it a quality ranking factor in the personnel world).

EDIT -- Yes, Vern's term of phased evaluation is the right way to say it...

You should not speak of a competitive range for the purpose of limiting the number of offers on which you will do the cost evaluation -- you should only speak of a competitive range in the context of conducting discussions.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think if they are technically unacceptable, they by definition are not in your competitive range.

Then you have to do some mail-merging to generate 100 rejection letters, but you shouldn't have to do a cost analysis on those proposals. Shoot, a simple price analysis ought to be sufficient. Am I comprehending your question?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Vern Edwards

Forget the term "downselect" and don't use "prescreening criteria." You're talking about phased evaluation.

Go find a copy of Source Selection Answer Book, 2d ed., published by Management Concepts. Look up "phased evaluation" in the index and read the entries.

Here is some solicitation verbiage for one approach to phased evaluation:

We will evaluate offerors in phases and progressively reduce the number being considered for contract award. The purpose of this procedure is to reduce the time and cost of source selection, both for ourselves and for the competing offerors. We will execute the procedure as follows:

1. We will determine the acceptability of each offer in accordance with the acceptability criteria in this RFP. We will eliminate from further consideration any offerors that submitted unacceptable offers.
2. We will then perform a price analysis and eliminate offerors whose prices we consider to be too high to be competitive in light of the prices offered by other offerors and our estimate of price.
3. We will then evaluate the experience, past performance, and prices of the remaining offerors and eliminate any that are not sufficiently competitive to be selected for contract award.
4. Once we have reduced the number of offerors to what we consider to be an appropriate number we will schedule oral presentations by the remaining offerors and select the contractor by comparing those offerors on the basis of experience, past performance, understanding of the work, and price, and make an award without discussions.
The decision to eliminate any offeror through this procedure will not constitute the establishment of a competitive range, as described in FAR 15.306[c], and it will not obligate us to conduct discussions or to solicit or entertain proposal revisions. However, we reserve the right to establish a competitive range and conduct discussions if we decide that it is in the best interest of the Government to do so.
Note that price is considered in each step.
Link to post
Share on other sites

So, using the downselect or contingency procedure described in the Source Selection Answer Book (Second ed), If used on a MA IDIQ, what element of price/cost would us suggest in evaluating in Step 2 of the approach listed by Vern above?

Would it be a labor rate analysis proposed for the Labor Categories or would it potentially be the total cost proposed for the Seed Task Order?

Any ideas?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Vern!

Then reading between the lines, Phase 2 = evaluation on total Price/cost. Phase 3 = compelet analysis of Price/Cost; Correct? May seem like a stupid question, but I have to ask.

Also, Vern, the book is awsome. I hear that you are handing these out at Boot Camp. Is that still the case?

Link to post
Share on other sites

FARmer - Think. What makes sense for your current requirement? Processes are often not defined and should not be because mandating a standard procedure often leads to bad results because some requirements do not fit. Phase 3 as you mention would not make sense for something that is a competitive FFP contract because you are not doing a cost analysis there. Not everything fits into a defined process, think through the requirement to see what best fits your current situation.

Link to post
Share on other sites

dcarver - Thanks for the response...... I do understand that processes are often not defined and its mostly because all requirements are not the same. HOWEVER, please understand that the purpose of my post is to learn more about this subject. There really isn't much information nor many subject matter experts that I can have a conversation with on the use of this phased approach. Hence the reason why people post on this forum.... To ask questions.

Overall, I was just trying to get ideas on doing this phased approach to a predominantly COST type MA IDIQ.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

Vern et al,

I had a very interesting conversation with legal on some phased evaluation language and it revolved around the past performance evaluation aspect in a phased approach.

For this example, lets use Phase #3 in the example provided by Vern on 9/15. If you have an offeror with no past performance, and per FAR 15.305(a)(2)(iv), "...the offeror may not be evaluated favorably or unfavorably on past performance," how do you eliminate an offeror in this phase because of "neutral" rated performance? Isn't this essentially rating them "unfavorably."? (hopefully this made sense.... it's been a long day)

My thought on this is that you are not necessarily rating them unfavorably and therefor eliminating them from the next phase, but based on your analysis, the neutral rating may be determined to not sufficiently be competitive to be selected for contract award. In my opinion, this could be seen as two different things a rating vs. what is sufficient to be competitive.

Thoughts?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds about right. Here's my 30 second a assessment of what I believe you said.

Offeror 'A' is neutral, which could result in the government having unknown confidence in their ability to perform, however, the remaining offerors are [insert your agency's rating nomenclature], which produces [insert confidence rating]. The Government performed some sort of trade-off/comparative analysis and as a result, offeror 'A' is excluded from the 'competitive range'.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Jamaal - Spot on my friend. Now the question is, that using a phased approach and eliminating Offeror 'A', wouldn't this going against FAR 15.305(a)(2)(iv) and "evaluating" them unfavorably?

My thought is No. Since the agency followed the FAR and gave Offeror 'A' the appropriate evaluation/rating for having no past performance, the neutral rating may be determined to not sufficiently be competitive to be selected for contract award. Therefore the Offeror is eliminated from further consideration.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In support of FARmer's thought, see GAO Bid Protest decision Richen Management LLC, B-409697, July 11, 2014. The lower-priced offer had a "neutral" rating for past performance, but the selecting official selected the higher-priced offer as the best value.

Richen Sparkle

Past Performance Neutral Very Good

Price $451,425 $535,371

The contracting officer, the source selection authority for this procurement, determined that Sparkle’s qualitative advantage (i.e., superior past performance) outweighed Richen’s $83,946 (19%) price advantage, and that Sparkle’s proposal represented the best value to the government.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Jamaal - Spot on my friend. Now the question is, that using a phased approach and eliminating Offeror 'A', wouldn't this going against FAR 15.305(a)(2)(iv) and "evaluating" them unfavorably?

My thought is No. Since the agency followed the FAR and gave Offeror 'A' the appropriate evaluation/rating for having no past performance, the neutral rating may be determined to not sufficiently be competitive to be selected for contract award. Therefore the Offeror is eliminated from further consideration.

FARmer, you do know that you can downgrade proposal for lack of recent, relevant experience, separately from lack of a past performance record, right? That is why you want to evaluate "experience" under a separate factor or subfactor than lumping it into the umbrella of "past performance".

The DOD mmandated method for evaluating past performance based upon a confidence rating can confuse the distinction between pp and experience. In the first step of that pp evaluation scheme, the government determines the degree of relevancy of past performance on cited project experience to the scope of the instant solicitation. In the second step the government evaluates the past performance of the various projects.

In step/phase 2, past performance on those projects more relevant are given more consideration in assigning the rating for degree of confidence that the offeror/proposer will succeed in performing the scope of the instant contract/task order.

Thus, the past performance record of a candy maker with outstanding past performance should not carry as much significance in assessing the government's degree of confidence for performance on a construction project, for example, as the past performance record of a company on construction projects that bear relevance to the instant project/scope. And the degree of relevance of construction project experience to the instant solicitation between firms with construction experience will also be a discriminator. The past performance record on more relevant projects is given more consideration (positive or negative) than the record on less relevant projects.

However, you can use the extent of recent, relative experience as a separate factor/sub factor in a multi phased/multi stepped evaluation scheme. You CAN treat the extent of recent, relative experience of a firm with little or no relevancy favorably or unfavorably in determining who will make it to the next step.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In support of FARmer's thought, see GAO Bid Protest decision Richen Management LLC, B-409697, July 11, 2014. The lower-priced offer had a "neutral" rating for past performance, but the selecting official selected the higher-priced offer as the best value.

Richen Sparkle

Past Performance Neutral Very Good

Price $451,425 $535,371

The contracting officer, the source selection authority for this procurement, determined that Sparkles qualitative advantage (i.e., superior past performance) outweighed Richens $83,946 (19%) price advantage, and that Sparkles proposal represented the best value to the government.

ji, your cited example concerns the best value tradeoff comparison for award, not a decision to eliminate a firm from further competition based upon a neutral or unknown" past performance/confidence rating. The former is a relative comparison, while the latter usually is a cut-off determination in a step preceding the best value comparison between proposals.
Link to post
Share on other sites

FARmer:

I don't think it's contrary or rating the contractor unfavorably. The contractor scored a neutral. In turn, you're rating the government and your confidence in the contractor based on what you know. I see the two actions as distinct and separate.

Given the discussion, is it odd that FAR 1.102-2( a )(3) states: When selecting contractors to provide products or perform services, the Government will use contractors who have a track record of successful past performance or who demonstrate a current superior ability to perform?

Link to post
Share on other sites

EDITED: Jamaal, I checked a January 1, 1996 hard copy of the FAR, which contains the same wording in 1.102 ( a )(3) through FAC 90-26 and 90-29 as of 7/3/1995. It also includes the requirement to rate firms lacking relevant past performance under a "neutral" rating in the pre-FAR 15 rewrite version at paragraph 15.608 ( a ) (2) III.

FAC 90-26 added the neutral rating requirement a couple of months prior to FAC 90-29. Paragraph 1.102-( a )(3) was not part of either of those FACs, therefore it must have preceded them. The "neutral" term in Part 15 was subsequently replaced by a requirement to not rate them favorably or unfavorably but to consider it an "unknown" performance risk.

Don Mansfield has a blog entry on the subject at http://www.wifcon.com/discussion/index.php?/blog/6/entry-222-myth-information-neutral-past-performance/

At any rate these paragraphs in Parts 1 and 15 are uncoordinated, due to the first paragraph preceding the "neutral" rating language and subsequent updates to those rating requirements.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Vern Edwards

For this example, lets use Phase #3 in the example provided by Vern on 9/15. If you have an offeror with no past performance, and per FAR 15.305(a)(2)(iv), "...the offeror may not be evaluated favorably or unfavorably on past performance," how do you eliminate an offeror in this phase because of "neutral" rated performance? Isn't this essentially rating them "unfavorably."? (hopefully this made sense.... it's been a long day)

Don't confuse the process of "rating" an offeror with the process of comparing it to other offerors. An offeror with no past performance and a price of $1,000,000 might not be competitive with an offeror with excellent past performance and a price of $1,010,000 or $1,100,000. You might eliminate an offeror because it compares poorly, because you don't have enough information to determine the risk associated with choosing it, because it's an unknown.

Link to post
Share on other sites

joel,

I think a contracting officer can reasonably choose not to include an offeror in the competitive range because of a neutral or unknown past performance rating. Contracting agencies are not required to retain in the competitive range proposals that are not among the most highly rated or that the agency otherwise reasonably concludes have no realistic prospect of being selected for award. A competitive range decision can include a comparison -- a competitive range need not be mechanistic.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Vern Edwards

A competitive range decision must not be mechanistic (mechanical). Thus, a CO should not exclude an offeror from the competitive range because of a lack of past performance, but because its lack of past performance makes it less competitive than firms with records of good performance. Don't exclude a firm from the competitive range because of a rating, but because of the result of a comparison made on the basis of ratings and facts.

Link to post
Share on other sites

To go back to the original posting, here is some text that I used for a phased-evaluation fair opportunity consideration back in March. IDIQ contractors had to submit complete written proposals (covering Factors 1, 2, 3, and 5) up front. We anticipated a large number of offers for a very high-dollar acquisition.

Factor 1: Corporate Experience of the Prime Contractor.

Factor 2: Technical Approach of Contractor Team.

Factor 3: Management Approach of the Contractor Team.

Factor 4: Oral Presentation.

Factor 5: Price.

The Government intends to use a three-step approach to evaluate offers under 16.505( b )( 1 ) for each portfolio, as follows—

First-Step Consideration. The Government will consider all offers using Factors 1 and 5. Those offers rated as “high confidence” for Factor 1 and “reasonable” for Factor 5 will proceed to the second step consideration. If necessary to provide for adequate competition in the second step, the Government may select one or more offers rated as “some confidence” for Factor 1 and “reasonable” for Factor 5 to proceed to the second step consideration.

Second-Step Consideration. The Government will continue its consideration by evaluating Factors 2 and 3. The Government intends to select at least two but no more than four offers as being most likely to provide the best value solution based on a trade-off of Factors 1, 2, 3 and 5 to proceed to the third step consideration. For this step, all four factors are of relatively equal importance.

Third-Step Consideration. The Government will continue its consideration by inviting oral presentations and evaluating Factor 4. The Government intends to select the best value offer based a trade-off of Factors 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. For this step, all five factors are of relatively equal importance.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Vern Edwards

Two questions:

1. Do you evaluate oral presentations or do you evaluate the content of statements made in oral presentations? If the latter, what kinds of statements do you solicit and evaluate?

2. Why bother with written descriptions of "approach'? Why not get those descriptions in the oral presentations? The idea behind oral presentations is to replace written descriptions, not to get written descriptions and oral presentations.

Link to post
Share on other sites

WOW! Thanks for all the great info everyone.

So to expand a little more on my question, I do understand that the evaluation and rating given for past performance has nothing to do with the comparison being made in the phased evaluation process, however, the evaluation that is happening during the phased evaluation to past performance, is this a simple comparison of past performance, or is/could this a full blown evaluation that results in a rating? Then that rating is used to do the comparison?

Somewhere down the line we got back into talking about competitive ranges. My understanding is that the phased evaluation has nothing to do with a competitive range. A competitive range still may be applicable after all phases of the phased evaluation has been done; Correct?

Lastly, Vern, I know that your example provided in this discussion and the one provided in the book (just examples) mention "we will then perform a price analysis and eliminate offerors whose prices we consider to be too high...." What about eliminating offerors that propose prices that are too low? Is this because we would then have to go into a realism analysis to make that determination or does it further add to the complexity of the phased evaluation?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
×
×
  • Create New...