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I am a DoD KO serving a major system customer. They've been living in large sole source world since before the dawn of time. After several years of prodding, they have finally started wading into the land of competitive source selections. Well, long story short, we issued an RFI for a somewhat embryonic requirement, it is about to close, and it looks like we will be getting anywhere from 6-12 responses. Then tacked onto the end of a multi-topic customer e-mail, was something to effect of: once the RFI closes we will then "evaluate the responses", and then "perform a down-select to the best 3," and then "invite those 3 winners in to do demo's." At this point I just sat there staring at the screen...

Has anyone ever heard of such a thing?

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On 4/13/2017 at 7:01 PM, Fear & Loathing in Contracting said:

Well, long story short, we issued an RFI for a somewhat embryonic requirement, it is about to close, and it looks like we will be getting anywhere from 6-12 responses. Then tacked onto the end of a multi-topic customer e-mail, was something to effect of: once the RFI closes we will then "evaluate the responses", and then "perform a down-select to the best 3,"

Is it an RFI or a request for an unpriced technical proposal?  

If it's the former, I have no idea; if it's the latter, FAR 14.501?

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RFI. It basically asks about whether your SW can do X, Y, Z, etc... and then asks to elaborate on certain aspects of the SW. Responders submit a white paper & fill out a supplied grid chart. RFI has since closed and there were more than a dozen respondents. Customer now wants to "evaluate" the responses and "down-select" to no more than 3. These 3 will be invited into a lab setting to demo their SW. Based on lab results, observations, SW performance capabilities/limits, etc... the customer will then use this info to help flush out/adjust the requirement. 

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Guest Vern Edwards
On 4/13/2017 at 4:01 PM, Fear & Loathing in Contracting said:

I am a DoD KO serving a major system customer. They've been living in large sole source world since before the dawn of time. After several years of prodding, they have finally started wading into the land of competitive source selections. Well, long story short, we issued an RFI for a somewhat embryonic requirement....

A broad agency announcement (BAA) might work, depending on what "embryonic requirement" means. Their use is limited. See FAR 35.016(a):

Quote

(a) General. This paragraph prescribes procedures for the use of the broad agency announcement (BAA) with Peer or Scientific Review (see 6.102(d)(2)) for the acquisition of basic and applied research and that part of development not related to the development of a specific system or hardware procurement. BAA’s may be used by agencies to fulfill their requirements for scientific study and experimentation directed toward advancing the state-of-the-art or increasing knowledge or understanding rather than focusing on a specific system or hardware solution. The BAA technique shall only be used when meaningful proposals with varying technical/scientific approaches can be reasonably anticipated.

Emphasis added.

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On 4/13/2017 at 4:01 PM, Fear & Loathing in Contracting said:

I am a DoD KO serving a major system customer. They've been living in large sole source world since before the dawn of time. After several years of prodding, they have finally started wading into the land of competitive source selections. Well, long story short, we issued an RFI for a somewhat embryonic requirement, it is about to close, and it looks like we will be getting anywhere from 6-12 responses. Then tacked onto the end of a multi-topic customer e-mail, was something to effect of: once the RFI closes we will then "evaluate the responses", and then "perform a down-select to the best 3," and then "invite those 3 winners in to do demo's." At this point I just sat there staring at the screen...

Has anyone ever heard of such a thing?

I don't think you could eliminate anyone from the competition based on the RFI responses, without justifying other than full and open competition. However, you could advise the potential offerors where they stand, as described in FAR 15.202(b). If someone were notified that they wouldn't be a viable competitor and still submitted an offer, and you received offers from the three offerors that you invited to compete, then you could eliminate the one you didn't invite for purposes of efficiency IAW FAR 15.306(c)(2).

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Fear,

Maybe there isn't a problem -- maybe this is just rigorous market research -- you wrote, "the customer will then use this info to help flush out/adjust the requirement".

If this is rigorous market research, I'm okay with product demonstrations.  Of course, I haven't read the RFI.  For the purpose of this approach, I will assume that there is a plan for a competitive acquisition in the future.

Of course, I could be all wet -- it could be that the organization intends to do all this as a basis for justifying a sole-source acquisition in the future.

Who is driving the process?  Who issued the RFI?  The contracting officer or the program office?

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Guest Vern Edwards
20 hours ago, Don Mansfield said:

However, you could advise the potential offerors where they stand, as described in FAR 15.202(b). If someone were notified that they wouldn't be a viable competitor and still submitted an offer, and you received offers from the three offerors that you invited to compete, then you could eliminate the one you didn't invite for purposes of efficiency IAW FAR 15.306(c)(2).

Don:

Just to confirm: I assume you mean that F&L could eliminate that firm after evaluating its offer and determining that it's not among the most highly rated. Am I correct? You do not mean that he could eliminate the firm simply because it was not invited to submit an offer. Right?

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On 4/21/2017 at 10:12 AM, Vern Edwards said:

A broad agency announcement (BAA) might work, depending on what "embryonic requirement" means. Their use is limited. See FAR 35.016(a):

Emphasis added.

The term "embryonic requirement" was probably not the best choice of words. I meant to convey that it is very early in the source selection process. The requirement is actually "moderately mature." It is for a configurable software solution that serves to integrate/coordinate/co-configure capabilities across a family of systems. Most of the family member systems are either in the last steps of development or sustainment. Even "moderately mature" is a bit of a loaded term. The PM group (who is driving this RFI) has been designated as the "Trail Boss" leading all the systems groups that need to be pulled under this system-of-systems requirement. So one can imagine with all these competing pressures- they are having their challenges.

Thanks for all the great input everyone. It is very helpful and appreciated.

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On 4/21/2017 at 0:18 PM, Don Mansfield said:

you could eliminate the one you didn't invite for purposes of efficiency IAW FAR 15.306(c)(2).

But this would be discretion you had anyway, unrelated to the initial RFI/whatever.

On 4/13/2017 at 7:01 PM, Fear & Loathing in Contracting said:

once the RFI closes we will then "evaluate the responses", and then "perform a down-select to the best 3," and then "invite those 3 winners in to do demo's."

FWIW, I've seen many cases where the "2-step advisory" procedure is wholly misinterpreted.  It's almost as if people are reading into it what they want it to say...

But are you sure you didn't (rightfully) interpret the above quote as relating to an award, when in fact  they are just looking for demos before they put out the RFQ (i.e., Market Research)?  Maybe it's just a misuse of terms of art - note that they never said "eliminate them from competition".

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