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Hello all,

I would like to request feedback regarding when to use the term "RFQ" vs "RFP." Based on my research, an RFQ is always used under the SAT (FAR 13) and an RFP is used above SAT. However, there have been instances with commercial (FAR 12) buys under FAR 15 or 13 where RFQ was used. This may be wrong.

I've been under different offices and different COs. So I am seeking clarification to see if there is a hard/fast rule or can it come down to CO preference or particular situations.

Thank you.

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1 hour ago, ICE-CO said:

Based on my research, an RFQ is always used under the SAT (FAR 13) and an RFP is used above SAT

Not necessarily, and you can go over SAT and stay in part 13 in certain circumstances.

I would generally agree if you're using FSS or SAP you'd use quotes. when in part 15 you'd use proposals, but see 13.003(g) 

"(1) The simplified acquisition threshold for other than commercial items, use any appropriate combination of the procedures in Parts 13, 14, 15, 35, or 36, including the use of Standard Form 1442, Solicitation, Offer, and Award (Construction, Alteration, or Repair), for construction contracts (see 36.701(a)); or

(2) $7 million ($13 million for acquisitions as described in 13.500(c)), for commercial items, use any appropriate combination of the procedures in Parts 12, 13, 14, and 15 (see paragraph (d) of this section)."

So it looks like you can use RFQ's or RFP's when using simplified acquisition procedures.

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8 hours ago, ICE-CO said:

I would like to request feedback regarding when to use the term "RFQ" vs "RFP."

It's not a matter of Part 13 or Part 15.

You use an RFQ when what you want is information about products, services, and prices, so that after you get the information you can make an offer to buy or ask for offers to sell.

You use an RFP when you want offers that you can accept to form a contract without discussion.

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To piggy back on Vern's point, recommend you read FAR 13.004 "Legal Effect of Quotations" which states:

Quote

(a) A quotation is not an offer and, consequently, cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. Therefore, issuance by the Government of an order in response to a supplier’s quotation does not establish a contract. The order is an offer by the Government to the supplier to buy certain supplies or services upon specified terms and conditions. A contract is established when the supplier accepts the offer.

(b) When appropriate, the contracting officer may ask the supplier to indicate acceptance of an order by notification to the Government, preferably in writing, as defined at 2.101. In other circumstances, the supplier may indicate acceptance by furnishing the supplies or services ordered or by proceeding with the work to the point where substantial performance has occurred.

(c) If the Government issues an order resulting from a quotation, the Government may (by written notice to the supplier, at any time before acceptance occurs) withdraw, amend, or cancel its offer. (See 13.302-4 for procedures on termination or cancellation of purchase orders.)

 

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On Friday, February 24, 2017 at 3:15 AM, ICE-CO said:

However, there have been instances with commercial (FAR 12) buys under FAR 15 or 13 where RFQ was used.

Can you provide an example where an RFQ was issued under FAR Part 15?

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On 2/25/2017 at 6:24 AM, Vern Edwards said:

Does an RFQ have to be issued "under" a FAR part? Can't a CO just ask for quotes, maybe for budgeting purposes?

If one is trying to be consistent with the usage of terms in the FAR an RFI should be used when FAR Part 15 procedures are contemplated/required.  See FAR 15.201(e) which states:

Quote

RFIs may be used when the Government does not presently intend to award a contract, but wants to obtain price, delivery, other market information, or capabilities for planning purposes. Responses to these notices are not offers and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. There is no required format for RFIs.

I consider the difference to be this:

  • for RFQs, an offer/order from the Government may follow.
  • for RFIs, a solicitation for offers may follow.

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On Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 11:24 PM, Vern Edwards said:

Does an RFQ have to be issued "under" a FAR part?

Depends on what you plan on doing with the quote(s) received. The FAR applies to all acquisitions. “Acquisition” means the acquiring by contract with appropriated funds. Acquisition begins at the point when agency needs are established.

On Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 11:24 PM, Vern Edwards said:

Can't a CO just ask for quotes, maybe for budgeting purposes?

If it's not prohibited, which I don't think it is, yes.

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3 hours ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

I consider the difference to be this:

  • for RFQs, an offer/order from the Government may follow.
  • for RFIs, a solicitation for offers may follow.

Not necessarily. An RFQ might produce information showing that the value of a requirement will exceed the SAT or that the requirement cannot be fulfilled by a commercial item, in which case an RFP might follow. An RFI might produce information showing that the value of the requirement will be less than the SAT or that the requirement can be fulfilled by a commercial item that can be acquired using SAP, in which case a purchase order might follow.

Convention is to use the term RFQ in association with Subpart 8.4 and Part 13 and to use the term RFI in association with Part 15. But are we bound by mere convention? Both are requests for information, and RFQs are specifically requests for information (quotes) about pricing.

If I am contemplating an acquisition pursuant to Part 15 and want some information about specs, pricing, and terms prior to issuing an RFP, why can't I send out an RFQ? Do you think industry cares which term we use as long as we are clear about the information we want and why we want it? Would we be violating any regulation that has the force and effect of law?

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2 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

Not necessarily. An RFQ might produce information showing that the value of a requirement will exceed the SAT or that the requirement cannot be fulfilled by a commercial item, in which case an RFP might follow. An RFI might produce information showing that the value of the requirement will be less than the SAT or that the requirement can be fulfilled by a commercial item that can be acquired using SAP, in which case a purchase order might follow.

Agreed, I could have been more clear and specific rather than using the term "may" to hedge - I'll revise the statements as follows (exempting discussion of FAR 8.4 for the moment since those acquisitions are solicited via a separate business system than FedBizOpps):

  • for RFQs, the Government is presently utilizing/contemplating FAR Part 13 procedures and an offer/order from the Government will most likely follow.
  • for RFIs, the Government is presently utilizing/contemplating FAR Part 15 procedures and a solicitation for offers will most likely follow.
2 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

Convention is to use the term RFQ in association with Subpart 8.4 and Part 13 and to use the term RFI in association with Part 15. But are we bound by mere convention? Both are requests for information, and RFQs are specifically requests for information (quotes) about pricing.

If I am contemplating an acquisition pursuant to Part 15 and want some information about specs, pricing, and terms prior to issuing an RFP, why can't I send out an RFQ? Do you think industry cares which term we use as long as we are clear about the information we want and why we want it? Would we be violating any regulation that has the force and effect of law?

I never said one couldn't, I just said he/she wouldn't be consistent with the usage of the terms in the FAR.  It may be easy to dismiss the usage of one or the other as trivial, but an argument could be made that imprecise usage does matter in this case (I think it matters generally, but I won't go into an aside on habits here...).  Consider searching for "RFQ" vs "RFI" in FedBizOpps...those two search terms should turn up different results:

  • RFQs for acquisitions in the solicitation/acquiring phase
  • RFIs for those in the pre-solicitation phase

If one used the two interchangeably, those differences would not be evident and it would be more difficult to monitor and search for appropriate contracting opportunities; however, if an individual wants to simply buck convention because they prefer the term "RFQ" to "RFI," I do not know of a regulation that has the force and effect of law that would prohibit him or her from doing so.  Personally, though, I think there is enough confusion in the acquisition system without trying to inject more by using a "Q" for "Quote" for FAR Part 15 acquisitions when the "I" for "Information" also allows one to request the exact same information about pricing.

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19 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

 

If I am contemplating an acquisition pursuant to Part 15 and want some information about specs, pricing, and terms prior to issuing an RFP, why can't I send out an RFQ? 

What about FAR 13.003 (c) and (g)?

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27 minutes ago, C Culham said:

What about FAR 13.003 (c) and (g)?

My reading of those paragraphs indicate that the limitation is applicable when one is acquiring supplies and services or making purchases.  In Vern's hypo, one is merely trying to obtain pricing information (a quote) so I do not think those paragraphs establish a restriction.

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Matthew - Then your suggestion for use of the RFQ in this thread, by clarification, is as a market research tool rather than an in fact purchase tool, correct?

 I agree that for instance FAR part 10 (10.002) does not specifically exclude an RFQ from being a market research tool yet it seems counter to a full view of the guiding principles of the  FAR which suggests strongly that an RFQ is a vehicle that starts a specific procurement process.   Such things as applicable provisions and clauses, unique numbering system, filing requirements, complete processes of FAR part 12 and 13 that suggest RFQ's are evaluated for award and specified forms are these strong suggestions. 

Additionally while I personally could not find a GAO decision on point my read of decisions I could locate suggest strongly that RFQ's are not merely a market research process but an in fact procurement process.

As is the case with discussions in WIFCON and as already brought up in this thread is what is the industry practice or view .   A case has been made that in the commercial marketplace (where FAR is not applicable) that the RFQ could have a different meaning.   That seems counter to what is actually true where an internet search of "Request for Quotation" in various formats inclusive of combining with the Uniform Commercial Code provides hits that suggest strongly that RFQ's are used in the commercial sector for matter of fact procurements based soley on pricing and not simply market research.   Additionally seeking a definition of "Request for Quotation" through an internet search produces multiple hits with the following from the Business Dictionary being representative -

"Document used in soliciting price and delivery quotations that meet minimum quality specifications for a specific quantity of specific goods and/or services. RFQ are usually not advertised publicly, and are used commonly for (1) standard, off-the-shelf items, (2) items built to known specifications, (3) items required in small quantities, or (4) items whose purchase price falls below sealed-bidding threshold. Suppliers respond to a RFQ with firm quotations, and generally the lowest-priced quotation is awarded the contract. See also invitation to bid (ITB), request for tenders, and request for proposals."

Conclusion is that while the idea of use of an RFQ in the context of the Federal Acquisition Regulations as both a market research tool and an in fact procurement process is a possibility I say doing so is confusing at best considering both the guiding principles of the FAR and what is true in the commercial market place.  

Overall the idea on whole raises a further question for me that I will not spend time on and that question is  - What came first the chicken or the egg from the standpoint has commercial practice been shaped by the FAR or does the FAR in some of the wisdom it has been promulgated from actually reflect what a RFQ has been used for in the commercial market place for tens of years, a documented process for an in fact procurement?

I will leave it to others as to whether they will  use a document titled "Request for Quotation"  (RFQ) to gather only market research data but for me I do not suggest it.      

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@Matthew Fleharty

Matthew:

We must not confuse convention with command. FAR Part 15 does not "contemplate" the use of RFQs in acquisitions that will be conducted pursuant to Part 15, but neither does it forbid such use. Confusing convention with command can make innovation difficult. Who knows? Someone, someday, may have a good reason to use "RFQ" instead of "RFI."

The term "RFQ" has long been used in connection with procurement by negotiation. If in 1984 you had looked into the Defense Acquisition Regulation, Title 32 of the CFR, you would have found this at 32 CFR § 1-309:

Quote

1–309 Solicitations for Informational or Planning Purposes.

It is the general policy of the Department of Defense to solicit bids, proposals or quotations only where there is a definite intention to award a contract or purchase order. However, in some cases solicitation for informational or planning purposes may be justified. Invitations for bids and requests for proposals will not be used for this purpose. Requests for quotations may be issued for informational or planning purposes only with prior approval of an individual at a level higher than the contracting officer. In such cases, the request for quotation shall clearly state its purpose and, in addition, the following statement in capital letters shall be placed on the face of the request: “THE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT INTEND TO AWARD A CONTRACT ON THE BASIS OF THIS REQUEST FOR QUOTATION, OR OTHERWISE PAY FOR THE INFORMATION SOLICITED.” The foregoing does not prohibit the allowance, in accordance with 15–205.3, of the cost of preparing such quotations.

Emphasis added.

As recently as the 1997 Reissue of FAR, section 15.406 was entitled: "15.406 Preparing requests for proposals (RFP’s) and requests for quotations (RFQ’s)." 

It was only with the final FAR Part 15 Rewrite, FAC 97-02, October 1997, that the term RFQ was dropped from FAR Part 15, without any explanation. But in May of the same year the Rewrite team had proposed to use the following language in 15.204-2(a)(2):

Quote

If the Standard Form (SF) 18, Request for Quotations (53.301-18) is used for an RFI, the form may be modified to incorporate Section A of the uniform contract format.

We must distinguish between convention and command in regulations. Sometimes convention serves a purpose, as in the case of making a distinction between "statement of work" and "scope of work." But sometimes convention is just that, and insistence on strict adherence to convention may discourage and impede innovation.

Someone, someday, may have a good reason for issuing an "RFQ" in an acquisition expected to proceed under Part 15, and they should not be prevented from doing so merely on the ground of convention

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Formation of Government Contracts, Third Edition, describes one such reason in chapter 6, section IX (Sole Source Procurements) on p. 918:

Quote

[...], when the sole source procurement was a follow-on to an existing contract, the use of an RFQ might speed the acquisition process. In that case, the parties will already have a relatively complete understanding of the specifications and the terms and conditions and the company will have thorough knowledge of how to price the follow-on work. In such cases, all that is needed to permit the beginning of negotiations is a price proposal and suggestions as to any desirable changes to the specifications or terms and conditions. This information can be obtained through issuance of a very simple RFQ or by less formal communication.

 

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I honestly am confused by the evolution of the discussion of this thread as it seems to be more about invention than innovation as the suggested use of an RFQ as a market research process does not seem to add value to the processes of the FAR in a fine look.  Rather it would add confusion.

I agree that an RFQ could be used for market research for an anticipated acquisition. However doing so is a departure from the usual (convention) processes of the FAR and even gets to whether using an RFQ meets the stated conventions of the FAR for words and terms (FAR 1.108).  Using RFQ as a term just as if you would use RFI as a term to identify an issuance of a document that may or may not lead to an in fact acquisition process of issuance of an RFP is semantics and lacks good clarity which requires the user to make stuff up.   Why do that?

By example the process of an RFI has some very specific commands in the FAR when used as a marketing tool (FAR 15.207 7 FAR 52.215-3).   There are none for doing the same with an RFQ.  

Makes me wonder – 1)If one were to use an RFQ are they to handle the RFQ in the same manner as they would a RFI?   2) Would one need a deviation to adjust the 52.215-3 provision or is it a provision that allows adjustment in wording?  

Innovation is not do as you please, innovation is to take a process and improve upon it and the questions above suggest RFQ as a marketing tool is not an improvement it is simply a replacement that could in fact make more work rather than less.

It also has been suggested via a reference to a noted publication with regard to contract formation that a RFQ could be used in a follow on sole source procurement.  The same suggestion carries this statement “or by less formal communication.”   The approach of less formal communication is what is usually done and makes one wonder what if there is any value adding the nomenclature of “ RFQ”  to a document to get easily obtained information for a sole source procurement adds to the process?  If so what value?

So yes innovate but when you do think about whether the innovation adds value and even simplicity to the current process of Federal acquisition or is it  simply a new spin (or even word) on doing the same old thing!

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Why are you confused? Didn't someone say "Someone, someday, may have a good reason for issuing an "RFQ" in an acquisition expected to proceed under Part 15, and they should not be prevented from doing so merely on the ground of convention"? Why can't we leave it at that? I didn't understand that to mean just to put a new spin on the same old thing.

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Seeker - We can also leave it that your read is different than mine.  But please reread that my confusion was the evolution of the thread that moved from using a RFQ for an in fact acquisition to a maybe acquisition.  Even comment confuses because an RFQ is not an acquisition it is a method of market research.  The RFI process is explicit via 52.215-3 regarding this.

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I work in industry now and if you want pricing information from us RFQ makes sense and is consistent with industry practice. RFI is confusing. Maybe RFI makes sense if all you want is product specifications. So maybe if the Government wants pricing or cost information it should issue RFQs. If all it wants is product or service information it should issue RFIs. I don't see any reason for bureaucratic insistence on bureaucratic language. But you're entitled to your point of view. I don't want to go on about it anymore than you already have. I think the "evolution" of the discussion is pretty consistent with the kind of thing that happens in Wifcon discussions and I found it interesting to see how set in their ways some Government people can be even when their regulations don't demand it of them. It explains a lot.

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