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     We recently lost on an LPTA proposal, and requested a debriefing.  The procurement was the first of series of very similar procurements, each for a different geographical area.

     We got beat on price, and I have no doubt that our proposal was technically acceptable, but clearly somebody else had a lower priced technically acceptable offer.

     We asked that the KO go beyond the minimum for debriefings as prescribed in the FAR and conduct a meaningful debriefing by telephone.  We specifically asked to discuss what constituted technically acceptable, especially the minimum necessary to be technically acceptable.  We intended to apply the lessons learned in the remaining procurements.

    The response was not meaningful.  It was a form letter that lined up with the FAR's minimum requirements.  It did not touch providing the information that we wanted about what constituted technical acceptability and the minimum necessary to be technically acceptable.

    Is there any way I can compel the government to provide a meaningful debriefing, either on this proposal or the next one that we lose?

   

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Guest Vern Edwards
23 hours ago, rsenn said:

Is there any way I can compel the government to provide a meaningful debriefing, either on this proposal or the next one that we lose?

Compel? I know of no way that you can do that. The GAO will not consider protests about the adequacy of a debriefing. See Thermolten Tech., B-278408, 98-1 CPD ¶ 35. I do not think the Court of Federal Claims has authority to order an agency to provide a "meaningful" debriefing.

You could try going to a U.S. district court, but I don't know if they would have jurisdiction. See a lawyer.

You could complain to the contracting officer's bosses, and you could complain to your congressional representatives, but that would not constitute compulsion.

Frankly, it's not worth your time.

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Maybe the contracting officer did give you a meaningful debriefing.  Another offeror had a lower price and an acceptable proposal -- that's the rationale for the award decision, the summon bonum, so to speak.  You weren't selected because your price was too high.  That's meaningful -- a debriefing that explains the rationale for the selection decision is a meaningful debriefing.

It is possible your proposal was never evaluated for technical acceptability, because the agency may have started with the lowest-price offer and worked upwards until it found a technically-acceptable offer.  I don't know because I don't have the solicitation, but I know some agencies use that approach.

Rather than asking for a meaningful debriefing, maybe you should ask particular questions related to your proposal, such as--

  • Did the Government evaluate my proposal for technical acceptability?
  • If NO, why not?
  • If YES, was the proposal found to be acceptable?
  • If NO, why not?
  • Were there any aspects of our proposal that could be altered or explained to materially enhance its potential for award?
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22 hours ago, rsenn said:

We specifically asked to discuss what constituted technically acceptable, especially the minimum necessary to be technically acceptable. 

Shouldn’t that have been asked during the solicitation phase?

 

Also, the only reason a probably-busy-KO may need to entertain your request in greater depth is if you had offered the lowest price but the offer was rejected for not having met the technical requirements.

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Yes, and I have done so on the follow up solicitations.  And the Q&A response is a cryptic sentence saying proposals will be evaluated according to the criteria in the solicitation.  The KO, or whoever is writing for him, avoids discussing where the boundaries of technically acceptable are.

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1 hour ago, jwomack said:

 

Shouldn’t that have been asked during the solicitation phase?

 

Also, the only reason a probably-busy-KO may need to entertain your request in greater depth is if you had offered the lowest price but the offer was rejected for not having met the technical requirements.

Interesting thought that you set forth.  Blow one, submit complete garbage, for a price of one dollar.  It is the low priced proposal, but is rejected as technically unacceptable.  Then ask for a debriefing to explore the boundaries of technically acceptable.

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Are you saying that the lowest priced technically acceptable solicitation doesn't describe what constitutes technical acceptability?  

What is the government buying and what information did they ask for in addition to price? 

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On 3/26/2017 at 0:10 PM, rsenn said:

     We recently lost on an LPTA proposal, and requested a debriefing.  The procurement was the first of series of very similar procurements, each for a different geographical area.

     We got beat on price, and I have no doubt that our proposal was technically acceptable, but clearly somebody else had a lower priced technically acceptable offer.

     We asked that the KO go beyond the minimum for debriefings as prescribed in the FAR and conduct a meaningful debriefing by telephone.  We specifically asked to discuss what constituted technically acceptable, especially the minimum necessary to be technically acceptable.  We intended to apply the lessons learned in the remaining procurements.

    The response was not meaningful.  It was a form letter that lined up with the FAR's minimum requirements.  It did not touch providing the information that we wanted about what constituted technical acceptability and the minimum necessary to be technically acceptable.

    Is there any way I can compel the government to provide a meaningful debriefing, either on this proposal or the next one that we lose?

   

Ultimately, it sounds like you were trying to engage in an exchange of hypotheticals with the CO regarding the bright line for what is technically acceptable/unacceptable.  If I were in that CO's shoes, I wouldn't do it either, primarily because with an LPTA acquisition the minimum technical requirements should be clear in the solicitation.  

I might also add that you should be careful what you wish for - if you did receive the debriefing answers you sought, to my knowledge, those answers are not binding for subsequent procurements.  Therefore, adhering to information obtained during the debriefing instead of Sections L & M could impede your ability to secure future contracts.

8 hours ago, rsenn said:

Yes, and I have done so on the follow up solicitations.  And the Q&A response is a cryptic sentence saying proposals will be evaluated according to the criteria in the solicitation.  The KO, or whoever is writing for him, avoids discussing where the boundaries of technically acceptable are.

As for your current Q&As, I hesitate to comment because you've provided no information regarding the content/quality of the solicitation or the content/quality of your question; however, I will say this: don't expect the Government to tell you how to propose.   Review the Evaluation Criteria in Section M  and, if they aren't clear, ask specific, clarifying questions in response to the solicitation.  If you're asking "what's the minimum technically acceptable..." I'm not surprised you're being referred back to the criteria in the solicitation which, in an LPTA procurement, should specify just that.

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15 hours ago, rsenn said:

Blow one, submit complete garbage, for a price of one dollar.  It is the low priced proposal, but is rejected as technically unacceptable.  Then ask for a debriefing to explore the boundaries of technically acceptable.

Be careful.  No one wants to do business with someone who comes across as difficult or manipulative.  That's a good way to make the naughty list.

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On ‎3‎/‎27‎/‎2017 at 3:00 PM, rsenn said:

Interesting thought that you set forth.  Blow one, submit complete garbage, for a price of one dollar.  It is the low priced proposal, but is rejected as technically unacceptable.  Then ask for a debriefing to explore the boundaries of technically acceptable.

I don't think you want your company associated with garbage! 

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Were the technical requirements (and the documentation required to be submitted in order to meet them) not clearly spelled out in the solicitation?  We do LPTA quite frequently and ensure that we are detailed in what we want the contractors to submit in order to demonstrate technical acceptability.  If it is unclear in the solicitation phase you can ask the CO questions.  Oh wait, you did that..  When you asked, was your question specific or something general like, "How do we meet technical acceptability?"  If it was general then yes, you will always get the canned general response of "read the solicitation".   If you can word your question to be more specific to what you are needing, you have a higher probability of getting a response that will be worthwhile.  

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8 hours ago, Desparado said:

Were the technical requirements (and the documentation required to be submitted in order to meet them) not clearly spelled out in the solicitation?  We do LPTA quite frequently and ensure that we are detailed in what we want the contractors to submit in order to demonstrate technical acceptability.  If it is unclear in the solicitation phase you can ask the CO questions.  Oh wait, you did that..  When you asked, was your question specific or something general like, "How do we meet technical acceptability?"  If it was general then yes, you will always get the canned general response of "read the solicitation".   If you can word your question to be more specific to what you are needing, you have a higher probability of getting a response that will be worthwhile.  

Were the technical requirements clearly spelled out?  Not really.

Certain services were to be provided and a service level met.  My team promised to provide the services and meet the service level.  No doubt so did the eventual awardee. 

My guys proposed a team of 20 people.  The other guys clearly proposed something less.  My estimate is 16 people.  (Q&A on subsequent RFP's in this series ruled out the Government looking favorably on an innovative approach using off of Government site resources.  They want cleared people on Government site.)

There was nothing that said 16 people was sufficient.  Or 14.  Or 12.   Or just a single part-time person.  Or why 16 is sufficient but 15 is not.  That's what I'm trying to get to.  If I can understand why the evaluators think 16 is sufficient and 15 is not, then my team can apply that logic to the next round.  The numbers might be different, but the underlying logic to determine team size will probably be the same.

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If the solicitation only called for services to be performed at a minimum service level, then there is no set number of people that must be provided.  It is up to you to determine the number of people needed to perform the services at (at least) the minimum level.  If you can clearly and realistically demonstrate how the services can be provided at the minimum service level with fifteen people (or 10 or 6 or 1), your proposal should be found technically acceptable.

If there was a minimum number of people required, that should have been stated in the solicitation.  If an offer that otherwise met the criteria for providing the services at the minimum service level was found unacceptable based on an unstated criteria of x number of people, that would be a protestable issue.

However, offering more people than you need because you think there is an unstated minimum and then losing because you are not the lowest price is not protestable.

Follow up with the contracting officer.  If you have not been given an opportunity to ask questions, point out that FAR 15.506(d) states, "At a minimum, the debriefing information shall include- ... (6) Reasonable responses to relevant questions about whether source selection procedures contained in the solicitation, applicable regulations,and other applicable authorities were followed."  Directly ask if there was a minimum number of required people to be considered acceptable.  However, in the end, the adequacy of a debriefing is not a protestable issue (at least at GAO).

On the next similar procurement, ask the contracting officer prior to submitting your offer whether there is a minimum number to be considered acceptable.  If you get a cryptic response in return, you will have to decide how much of a thorn you want to be.  If you are getting shut out of awards and communication is not forthcoming, you may decide you have nothing to lose.  If so, follow-up and explain that he/she has not answered the question. I'm sure people will disagree, but I find that when an offeror includes a statement along the lines of "I do not want to have to file a protest to get an answer," it does wonders in getting a more forthcoming response. 

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On 3/30/2017 at 3:21 AM, Lionel Hutz said:

 If you can clearly and realistically demonstrate how the services can be provided at the minimum service level with fifteen people (or 10 or 6 or 1), your proposal should be found technically acceptable.

If there was a minimum number of people required, that should have been stated in the solicitation. 

But what demonstrates to some, does not demonstrate to others.  People have different opinions.  What is the evaluation logic?

My guys, for example, say that if they were evaluating a proposal with 16 people, they'd say it was insufficient to ensure the work could be done except under the most favorable scenario where everything works perfectly all the time, hence not technically acceptable.  They believe evaluating that as technically acceptable is unreasonable.

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Seems like you have a disagreement with the agency over what is acceptable.  Your mere disagreement is not enough to show that the agency was wrong.  

From what you have written, it seems that acceptability is in the eyes of the beholder and that there is no bright line test for determining that.  If the next evaluation panel has different people, they may have a different view of acceptability.  Even the same panel may have a different view if later events have changed their perspective.  As long as subjective evaluations are conducted, there frequently will be situations where there will be disagreement with that evaluation.  Just look at the scoring in boxing, gymnastics and figure skating for example.  

However, as Lionel Hutz indicated, if the agency had an unstated requirement that offerors would perform with a specified number of people, that is a different story.

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