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Guest Vern Edwards

How can we speed up the source selection process?

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Guest Vern Edwards

One of the new Defense under-secretaries has said she wants to speed up the source selection process under FAR Part 15 so that it takes less than one year. If we define the source selection process as beginning with the start of RFP preparation (not with release of the RFP) and ending with contract award, how can DOD (and other agencies) speed it up without changes in current statutes and regulations? Under FAR Part 15, not 8.4, 13, or 16.5.

Let's not quarrel about when source selection starts and ends or whether the goal is worthwhile. I have set the problem. This is an exercise in thinking about means and methods. Let's brainstorm, so no critiques.

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Idea: Use as few evaluation factors as possible.

Hypothesis: More evaluation factors likely results in more lengthy and/or complex proposals and the subsequent evaluation of those proposals.

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Break the habit of requiring offerors to show specifically how they will solve a problem.  Instead, rely more heavily on experience and past performance.

 

 Train PMs on how to write SOWs, SOOs, and evaluation factors.

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My responses broadly echo ideas from the first two comments:

(1) Tailor your source selection plan to do what makes sense for your circumstances. Do not simply assume that the template you have in hand is required or even a best practice. (This can only happen with greater knowledge and confidence among 1102s.)

(2) Rebut the pervasive belief that more complexity equals better results. This is rarely the case for a variety of reasons. (DPAP can begin to do this.)

(3) Rebut the pervasive belief that longer evaluations necessarily equal better evaluations. Do what you said you were going to do, support your conclusions, and move on. (DPAP can begin to do this.)

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Remove arbitrary and ambiguous distinctions between "clarifications" and "discussions" that inhibit contracting officers from appropriately and fairly communicating with offerors after receipt of proposals.

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1. Rescind DoD Mandatory Source Selection procedures.

2. When evaluating offeror capability, limit information to what can be verified (i.e., factual information). No essay-writing contests that require an offeror to explain how they intend to accomplish each task in the SOW. No technical/management proposals. No creative writing. No opportunities for salesmanship.

3. Increase use of the advisory multi-step process. Make it mandatory if you expect more than five proposals.

4. Take bid protest authority away from the GAO. Offerors can protest to the agency or the COFC. Decisions from either can be appealed to the CAFC.

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1.  Be more prudent in using draft RFPs. 

2.  Have evaluation factors for what you actually need to select a contractor. 

3.  Develop competent evaluation teams. 

4.  Have the contracting officer as the source selection official (SSO).  For example, there are agencies when the CO can only serve as the SSO for LPTA and Sealed Bid procurements.

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I'd have to respectfully disagree with the stop preparing and issuing draft RFPs comment.  If we are just talking about speeding up the process without changes in the regulations, I'd concentrate on how to get better proposals.  I'd push that draft documents (or portions thereof) be more routinely posted well in advance of the RFP issuance.  For instance, if you have a re-compete, we should more routinely be issuing historical information etc several months in advance so prospective offerors have the opportunity to absorb the information and make a better educated guess on whether nor not to pursue the opportunity.  I find it easier to engage industry in a market research mode which may also lead to straightening out the Government requirements before the RFP is issued.  I also find too many RFPs get issued with one vendor already having complete access to the Government's requirements and historical information and everyone else getting 30 days to prepare a proposal.  I believe the more you put out for industry to see up front the more likely it is that you'll get quality proposals back.  It's substantially quicker to review a quality proposal than a poor one.  That's my opinion anyway.

The other thing I'd consider is for more Program Offices to dedicate people to develop requirements and write SOWs.  A well-crafted requirement tends to glide through the process while a poorly written one sputters along.

Thanks

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23 minutes ago, Redskin Fan said:

I'd have to respectfully disagree with...

Read the rules (which I now just broke...sort of):

4 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

Let's brainstorm, so no critiques.

 

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Redskin Fan,

No critiques yet. This is brainstorming.

31 minutes ago, C Culham said:

Adopt FAR subpart 12.6 as the standard.

Hear, hear!

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Charge companies for frivolous protests

Limit a companies ability to protest to only one venue. Either GAO or COFC, but they should not be allowed to do both.

If you pick the right Source Selection team members (doers) keep the team small (easy to keep track of and focused), trained them (smart better than experience) keep your factors to a couple, there isn't any reason why you can't do a source selection in well under a year, no matter how big a dollar value your action.   

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A dedicated team without 99 other things to do.  

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Just thought of another one:

For any program whose average PALT exceeds one year, a 1% incompetence tax is assessed to the program the following year (by withholding 1% of the program's budget). These funds are redsitributed to programs whose average PALT is less than one year in the preceding year. Funds are allocated based on the programs' average PALT (the lower the average PALT, the more $).   

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Go paperless. Get rid of paper contract files.

Require digital signatures for all internal documents, and external documents when verifiable. 

Reduce the number of reviews and re-reviews for solicitations, acq-plans, contracts, etc.  

Hire less 1102’s and more low grade procurement techs and purchase agents to handle clerical tasks and simple buys.

Hire or contract with procurement analysts to handle data calls. Or reduce the number of data calls.

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1, Define the requirement clearly and concisely. Vague and voluminous statements of work don't help

2. only evaluate the minimum necessary to get what you need.  More evaluation factors muddy the water. 

3. Eliminate amendments and extensions.  Without these available as a fallback the agency will have to focus on #1 and #2 above..

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Guest Vern Edwards

Instead of requesting "narrative" written proposals, develop a questionnaire that asks specific questions about performance and instructs offerors to respond with specific and concise answers.

Instead of requesting "narrative" written proposals, require and evaluate 2-hour oral presentations.

Eliminate all requirements for the preparation, submission, and evaluation of various "plans" with proposals--safety plan, personnel management plan, quality assurance plan, security plan, etc. Instead, work out the desired plan(s) with the contractor after award.

Edited by Vern Edwards
To add comment about "plans."

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We get a lot of large procurements in my office. Doing the required cost analyses for subcontractors over the current threshold for the requirement of certified cost or pricing data becomes very laborious, with ultimately little value added. The TINA threshold will change to $2 million soon, but that does not alleviate the issue much.

One thought would be to add an alternate threshold for the requirement of certified cost or pricing data for subcontractors at FAR 15.403-4(a)(1)(ii) to something like:

“The award of a subcontract at any tier, if the contractor and each higher-tier subcontractor were required to furnish cost or pricing data. The CCPD threshold for subcontractor(s) is increased to $5,000,000 when:

(1)  The total contract value of the prime contract is in excess of $500,000,000, and

(2)  The suppliers that are valued individually below $5,000,000 are added together, the total must equal less than 10% of the total proposed price.”

This would significantly reduce evaluation workload while ensuring that we still evaluate the bulk of the proposal.  Per the FAR, price analyses would still be required for the subcontractors less than $5M.

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Look at source selection as a business process to be re-engineered (or made 'lean' or whatever term is used by the fashionable management trend of the day).  Seen as a process, we look for 1) steps that can be entirely eliminated, 2) process-wide improvements, c) changes to the process itself.  This is how my brain works.  From this view, here are some ideas:

1) Eliminate wasteful steps in the process. Fewer evaluation factors.  No value add to the source selection after, say, 3 factors, so eliminate them.

2) Use technology to speed up document reviews, correspondence, etc.  Document review/approval workflows with a due date are good.

3) Incentives.  People respond to incentives.  The Carrot: "You have 10 days (80 hours) to evaluate X.    Finish early and the remaining hours are time-off."  Or The Stick: "this is your full-time on-site job until you are done.  Cancel your meetings, set your out-of-office, and wish your boss/customers/direct reports farewell."

4) Consensus.  For me, this is the #1 time-suck.  Focus on speeding this specific step up.  

5) Cultural changes.  Encourage innovation and experimentation, and expanding when successful, don't punish when it fails.  

6) Very long pdf's are not the default format for proposals, but rather the format of last resort.  

 

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Guest Vern Edwards
1 hour ago, snydra said:

One thought would be to add an alternate threshold for the requirement of certified cost or pricing data for subcontractors at FAR 15.403-4(a)(1)(ii) to something like....

See the opening post:

On 2/22/2018 at 6:42 AM, Vern Edwards said:

If we define the source selection process as beginning with the start of RFP preparation (not with release of the RFP) and ending with contract award, how can DOD (and other agencies) speed it up without changes in current statutes and regulations?

 

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Improve requirements definition (describing agency needs)

Tie agency needs to evaluation factors

Clearly assign roles and responsibilities and hold folks accountable

Give PMs/Engineers warrants

*Buy more like private individual/entities - fluidly and subjectively, without a lot of fanfare about about anything other than getting the best value … limit the award decision and documentation to a much lower reasonable person type standard. If limiting competition or changing the requirement on the fly makes sense do it, document/justify it, and move toward award.

This last piece can be done with the current construct, but many artificially place the bar too high and demand more than the FAR System requires.

Risk aversion and overprocessing (ineffective documentation) doesn't appear to help, but extends timelines.

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Look, If we’re not seeing authority and responsibility delegated to the lowest level consistent with law” (one of the guiding principles of the Federal Acquisition Regulation System, see especially paragraph b at FAR 1.102-4 -- Role of the Acquisition Team)...this being in many cases simply a  bridge too far  (or is it “FAR”,  if you don’t mind the pun) at this point in time...how about, instead, assigning every procurement chain a “waiver Czar”, an experienced senior official not directly in any leadership chain, whoosh only formal, accountable role is to be delegated and use authority?  The Czar could hold every Authority that can be delegated to sign any type of waiver, finding, determination, or similar document that stands in the way of efficiently and effectively doing the government's acquisition business.  This official would be a sort of one stop shop....their job can be to find and actively seek out people and problems and find new ways of doing old things. The Waiver Czar (I’m not in love with the term) can teach, publicize, mentor, shop for new government “clients”, grandstand, cajole, sign, and “waive” using any delegated Authority that does not violate law, regulation and policy, is in the government’s interest, and makes good business sense. 

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