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Can a Synopsis Impose Requirements to Receive the Solicitation Document and Still Have the Acquisition Be Considered Full and Open Competition?

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If I have a requirement that will ultimately need the contractor to have certain security clearances to receive the award, and I am conducting full and open competition, can my synopsis posting require potential offerors to submit their clearance information for verification, and then we only provide those offerors who met the clearance requirement to receive a copy of the solicitation?  Does that still provide for full and open competition? My thought was that the FAR 6.101(a) requires us to "...promote and provide for full and open competition in SOLICITING offers and awarding Government contracts" (emphasis mine). Since a synopsis is not a solicitation, and is simply a notice of a forthcoming solicitation, I do not see how we are providing for full and open competition through the solicitation if we are only handing out the solicitation to the pre-approved offerors who responded to the synopsis and had their clearances verified. Yes, overall we have given everyone an opportunity to submit an offer if they meet the security requirements, however it required the synopsis for us to do so. I think we need to give everyone an opportunity through the solicitation only, without using the synopsis as a screening tool. Other pertinent info: The synopsis adequately describes the process for submitting the clearance verification request and being eligible to receive the solicitation.  the nature of the required work allows a synopsis and solicitation to be publically posted without compromising national security, thus a J&A pursuant to FAR 6.302-6 was not pursued. In addition, this would mean that the FAR 5.102(a)(5) national security exception to making the solicitation available on the GPE could not be used as well.

My proposed solution would be to post a synopsis that adequately describes what the solicitation procedures will be (i.e. once the solicitation is posted, you will need to submit clearance verification information, and if you meet the clearance requirements, you will be given further solicitation documentation to be able to submit an offer). Then the solicitation would be posted publically on the GPE, and it would require potential offerors to submit their clearance information for verification prior to them receiving certain documents that would allow them to propose. The outcome is the same as the previous paragraph, but this way the solicitation was publically posted and the solicitation in and of itself provided for full and open competition, as opposed to the synopsis and solicitation providing for full and open competition only when considered jointly.

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Guest Vern Edwards

Did you read the definition of full and open competition in FAR 2.101?

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“Full and open competition,” when used with respect to a contract action, means that all responsible sources are permitted to compete.

Emphasis added. "Responsible sources." Responsibility, while ordinarily determined after receipt of proposals, may be determined prior to receipt of proposals. See FAR 9.105-1(b)(1):

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(b)(1) Generally, the contracting officer shall obtain information regarding the responsibility of prospective contractors, including requesting preaward surveys when necessary (see 9.106), promptly after a bid opening or receipt of offers. However, in negotiated contracting, especially when research and development is involved, the contracting officer may obtain this information before issuing the request for proposals.

 

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Guest Vern Edwards

I should add that if the solicitation itself is not classified, or you don't need access to classified info in order to prepare a proposal, then there might be a question about why a firm has to have a clearance to see the solicitation. But if you can establish a good reason you should be okay.

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Just out of curiosity, are you talking about facility clearance or personnel clearance as a responsibility criteria?

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If I have a requirement that will ultimately need the contractor to have certain security clearances to receive the award, 

One is not a big deal; the other probably is....

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