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6 minutes ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

Well you're not convinced by Vern's framer example, so let's try this:  There is an entire business segment dedicated to writing proposals for companies seeking Government contracts (Google "Government Contract Proposal Writing Services").  The information you're "evaluating" in the technical narratives may not even be from that company and yet you're relying on it to assess whether the contractor knows what they're doing...

This is true. So, what if you included in the solicitation that all terms offered in the quote/proposal shall be binding and incorporated into the PWS. Any terms such as "We will do X, Y, and Z" should then be binding, no? So while they may have a flashy proposal-writing team, the flashy terms they propose should then be binding. 

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12 minutes ago, jayandstacey said:

From the government's perspective, they ARE ultimately the same, in that neither provides a guarantee.   Now, if the first one promised they WILL fill the position within 15 days, and that becomes a part of the contract...that's a different offer.   Right? 

It takes careful reading. I have seen quotes/offers that state "We will recruit with the goal of refilling the position within 30 days." That's not a promise at all, and I don't give them extra consideration. I have given consideration to companies that have stated "We will refill the position within 15 days." 

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30 minutes ago, ContractingCowboi said:

This is true. So, what if you included in the solicitation that all terms offered in the quote/proposal shall be binding and incorporated into the PWS. Any terms such as "We will do X, Y, and Z" should then be binding, no? So while they may have a flashy proposal-writing team, the flashy terms they propose should then be binding. 

Vern made a comment on a different thread last week that I thought all contracting professionals should read and think about:

"You don't get "guarantees" with contracts.  You only get promises and there is no guarantee that you can enforce them, not even in court."

One of the biggest problems with an acquisition system that takes to long is that it robs the Government of the ultimate incentive for good performance: future work.  If we had an acquisition system that was fast, it would be easier for the Government to cut loose a poor performing contractor and move on to someone else - that would create a persistent incentive to perform well.  Simplified acquisitions could have that, but everyone over-complicates them by executing FAR Part 15 Source Selections instead of using FAR 13.5 or (pertinent to this discussion) assuming that we need to evaluate technical proposals in order to make sure we get a competent contractor (which lengthens the acquisition planning and evaluation processes).  It's unnecessary and it's created a vicious cycle that we can't break out of (because most of our training is OJT most people just do what was done last time and find reasons to explain why after the fact).

Here's a challenge for you - try what Vern and I and others are advocating for just once and see what happens - I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

And check your PMs.

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51 minutes ago, ContractingCowboi said:

This is true. So, what if you included in the solicitation that all terms offered in the quote/proposal shall be binding and incorporated into the PWS. Any terms such as "We will do X, Y, and Z" should then be binding, no? So while they may have a flashy proposal-writing team, the flashy terms they propose should then be binding. 

We're trained to be flashy.   And non-binding.  

:)

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46 minutes ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

Vern made a comment on a different thread last week that I thought all contracting professionals should read and think about:

"You don't get "guarantees" with contracts.  You only get promises and there is no guarantee that you can enforce them, not even in court."

One of the biggest problems with an acquisition system that takes to long is that it robs the Government of the ultimate incentive for good performance: future work.  If we had an acquisition system that was fast, it would be easier for the Government to cut loose a poor performing contractor and move on to someone else - that would create a persistent incentive to perform well.  Simplified acquisitions could have that, but everyone over-complicates them by executing FAR Part 15 Source Selections instead of using FAR 13.5 or (pertinent to this discussion) assuming that we need to evaluate technical proposals in order to make sure we get a competent contractor (which lengthens the acquisition planning and evaluation processes).  It's unnecessary and it's created a vicious cycle that we can't break out of (because most of our training is OJT most people just do what was done last time and find reasons to explain why after the fact).

Here's a challenge for you - try what Vern and I and others are advocating for just once and see what happens - I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

And check your PMs.

I responded. Thanks!

One of the things I pride myself on is conducting acquisitions quickly. The hard part is being able to conduct an acquisition quickly, but still make good business decisions. I sent you a link to our combo that we've created to streamline our acquisitions, and we've gotten to where we're able to do SAP procurements up to $7M within a month or two, the outliers being legal and clearances. So a maximum of 3-4 months.

But I think where I struggle, and still disagree, is the lack of a technical proposal/quote. I do feel it's needed, but I also understand when/why one wouldn't be needed. I'd like to share some of my solicitation documents that I've posted, but don't want to dox myself. So if anyone wants to see, PM me, and I'll take critiques. 

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Guest Vern Edwards
49 minutes ago, ContractingCowboi said:

But I think where I struggle, and still disagree, is the lack of a technical proposal/quote. I

Then get one. There's nothing more to say.

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2 hours ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

There is an entire business segment dedicated to writing proposals for companies seeking Government contracts (Google "Government Contract Proposal Writing Services")

If I hire a good enough writer, I'm fairly confident I could win a contract for courier services.

"At DonCo, we have a database of individuals fully qualified couriers in the event of staff loss. Once an employee leaves, we will either utilize that database, or relocate another already employed individual to the performance location, and can fill the position within 15 days."

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41 minutes ago, Don Mansfield said:

If I hire a good enough writer, I'm fairly confident I could win a contract for courier services.

"At DonCo, we have a database of individuals fully qualified couriers in the event of staff loss. Once an employee leaves, we will either utilize that database, or relocate another already employed individual to the performance location, and can fill the position within 15 days."

And if you fail to do so, negative CPARS rating it is. At least it's a plan as opposed to the other offeror.

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1 hour ago, ContractingCowboi said:

And if you fail to do so, negative CPARS rating it is. At least it's a plan as opposed to the other offeror.

Really? What if I don't follow my "staffing plan", but I perform the contract successfully (everything delivered on time, nothing lost, etc.)? How would you justify a negative CPARS?

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Let's try not to outsmart our common sense. If you perform successfully, why would I care whether or not you followed your staffing plan? Performance-based acquisitions are mandated by the FAR. I only want to look at outcomes, not the process. In a tech eval/solicitation eval, I'm only evaluating "how well" your process could produce the expected outcome.

You're speaking in technicalities.

If you're successful, I don't care what you do. But if you're failing, rely on what you said you'd do, or get a negative past performance rating. I share in that blame a little bit, because I thought it would work-- but I still pay you for a service, and I want that service. I'd justify a negative CPARS rating because you said you'd refill the position within X amount of days, and you didn't. I pay you for a service, if you don't deliver, I'll find a company who will.

The technical approach doesn't tell me whether or not you "will" do something. It lets me know the likelihood of whether or not you know how to respond to a certain situation and/or whether or not you will/will not react appropriately. 

You can't predict the future, ever. But you can gauge, based off of what offerors tell you, whether or not their plan could resolve future issues.

I want a successful contract. I'm paying for a service with taxpayer funds. I want the outcome that's expressed in the PWS/schedule. 

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How would you justify a negative CPARS rating if you didn't evaluate technical in the first place?

"There was no plan so, uh, even though they failed to perform, we can't hold them to anything?"

Take services out of the equation. Let's say we're looking for a brand name "or equal" product. Are we just going to rely on the contractor to provide an equal product? or should we look at technical data to ensure it does? "I need a fire suppressant system that is compatible with "x brand" suppressant system." 

I'm not a technically savvy person, but I'd love for the contractor to tell me how and why their system is compatible with the one I have in place.

Sell me your product. Tell me why it's the best solution for my problem. 

You make judgement calls in the commercial world. You may not be a technically savvy person on cell phones. I sure as heck can't tell you everything one brand vs another could do for me. I've definitely never built a cell phone, if we're holding ourselves to Vern's standards. But an iPhone works best for you vs a Galaxy for maybe a variety of reasons. So while you may not be a person who has never built a cell phone, ever, you can look at the technical data, or the phone plans, or the contracts that work best for your situation. So give me a brochure that tells me everything your product can do, and I'll decide whether or not it meets my needs.

There's a reason why there is competition in the commercial world. Not everyone goes with iPhone. Not everyone goes with Android. But somehow, they were sold on a particular product.

Going services-- not everyone goes T-Mobile. Not everyone goes AT&T. Not everyone goes Verizon. They pick the one that works best for them based off the technical data presented to them. It may not be a narrative, but it's technical data where they make a subjective decision on what works best for them.

If you decided to pick your cell phone provider without knowing what you're getting in return besides price, I'd say you're an idiot for signing a contract with them.

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3 hours ago, Don Mansfield said:

ContractingCowboi, 

So, what you're saying is that it really doesn't matter if I follow my staffing plan, what matters is that I comply with the contract terms, correct?

If you're going to respond, please don't ramble. 

I'm saying your staffing plan gives me a decent understanding on whether you're capable of complying with the terms of the contract.

If you're going to respond, please don't twist my words.

 

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Guest Vern Edwards
5 hours ago, ContractingCowboi said:

I'm saying your staffing plan gives me a decent understanding on whether you're capable of complying with the terms of the contract.

There are two problems with that assertion.

The first problem is that you presume that you know enough about the planned undertaking to recognize a good plan when you see one. But do you? How much do you know about staffing and the challenges that will be faced by the people who will have to do it? Have you ever done it yourself? How many times have you done it? Under what range of circumstances? What do you know about the labor market in the industry? What do you know about labor law in the state in which the contract will be  executed? What do you know about human resource practice? Would you know if the planner had proposed a course of actions that would be against the law in the state in which the plan was to be executed?

The second problem is that the ability to plan an undertaking is not the same as the ability to carry it out. Planning is one thing. Execution is something else. Here's a link to a Wharton School management essay entitled, "Three Reasons Why Good Strategies Fail: Execution, Execution..."

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/three-reasons-why-good-strategies-fail-execution-execution/

Some History 

The technical proposal approach to government contractor selection was developed in the late 1940s and in the 1950s and early 1960s for space and weapon system development acquisitions. The technical proposals described engineering and design concepts. The people who evaluated the proposals were scientists and experienced engineers (later, the government would have to resort to inexperienced engineers).

The technical proposal approach was adopted by agencies for more routine acquisitions after 1984, when passage of the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) authorized agencies to conduct all kinds of acquisitions by means of competitive negotiation instead of sealed bidding. Soon we saw agencies asking prospective janitorial services contractors to write "technical" (or "management") proposals describing their "approach" to providing the service and then evaluating their "understanding of the work" and the "soundness" of their approach and awarding on the basis of a tradeoff analyses instead of the low responsive bid from a responsible bidder. By the way, one of the main reasons this method was adopted for such acquisitions is that the GAO had ruled in 1983 that use of a tradeoff process to choose the contractor allows an agency get around the SBA's certificate of competency program. See Anderson Engineering and Testing Company, B-208632, 83-1 CPD ¶ 99. Suddenly, "best value" was all the rage for even simple buys.

But how to do it? The new "best value" advocates knew only sealed bidding. They didn't know how to use the new method. Well, they turned to the experts---the space and weapon system people---and they came to believe that "technical" and "management" proposals were now essential for buying stuff that had long been bought successfully through sealed bidding. (Before CICA, the lowest-price technically-acceptable method of negotiated procurement had been used primarily to buy hardware, and technical acceptability meant conformity to specifications. Technical proposals were hardware specifications. LPTA competitive negotiations were simply streamlined approaches to what we now call "two-step sealed bidding, formerly called two-step formal advertising---one step instead of two.)

I defy anyone to produce empirical proof that adoption of the tradeoff approach for simple, nontechnical acquisitions has produced better contracting outcomes overall than sealed bidding. (And I don't give a damn for anyone's anecdotes.)

Conclusion

So now people like you, Cowboy, have learned to ask for "technical" or "management" proposals in simple procurements as the basis for determining offeror capability, when there is only one real way to know whether a company can do something or not---find out whether they've done it before and done it successfully.

The result of this kind of thing? Contractor selection takes more time and more human resources than necessary and competing for contracts costs more than it has to. And yet people ask how they can speed up the source selection process!!! Want to see idiots at work? Read this protest decision: Finlen Complex, B-288280, 2001 CPS ¶ 167, which was for meals, lodging, and transportation. Read it, and know that I claim that I could have done that source selection in a week with the help just a single NCO and no technical or management proposal whatsoever.

Want to see an outcome from some people who knew what they were doing? Read CORVAC, Inc., B-244766, 91-2 CPD ¶ 454. Note what they were buying, and note that the only "technical" evaluation factor was past performance.

Learn something: compare and contrast Finlen and CORVAC.

Yeah, go ahead and ask for your one or two page staffing plan. One or two pages won't cost much or take too much time. But ideas about source selection like the ones in your head are costing us all a fortune.

Question: What are you people going to do when cranky old guys like me, who lived through and know all this history, are gone---gone, or just no longer want to waste time trying to teach you what we learned the hard way?

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I am honestly concerned about this thread and even confused about it.  I have tried writing a post a bunch of times and have finally settled on this.  Hopefully better late than never!

For the OP – You have not identified the value of nor type of courier services needed which would make a difference for a detailed response.  

The  quick thoughts on your approach are that you have confused process for SAP (FAR Part 13) and Negotiated Procurement (FAR Part 15) and have not considered guiding principles of FAR Part 12.  If you truly want to use FAR Part 15 (LPTA) then redo your 52.212-2 to better align with FAR Part 15, FAR 15.204-5, 15.304 especially. Also if you do so make sure you clarify what you really want to do with past performance as its use as an evaluation factor is not clear.  Also you need to consider how you might tailor FAR 52.212-1 if you head the FAR Part 15 way.  You did not provide an example of what your instructions (52.212.-1) are going to be but they must be aligned with how you plan to evaluate or in other words tell offerors what you need to evaluate the offerors.   As you consider how you might tailor 52.212-1 please read  FAR 12.205(a) and 12.302 and really think about what you want from the offerors based on customary market practices used to select a courier.  

If you want to use FAR Part 13 SAP then read and re-read the linked discussion that Matthew provided.    And again if you decide to really make it simple then do not forget FAR 12.205(a) and 12.302 and think about what you will need from the offerors to keep it simple and again tailor 52.212-1 to fit what you need to evaluate offerors simply based on market practice.

 For Contracting Cowboi – You really are all over the place.  If you would have stopped at your first response you would be close on concerns about the OPs post but as noted to the OP please consider 12.205(a) and the scenario offered by the OP only.  The rest of the stuff you have brought in to the discussion is good for conversation but might have been better presented in a different thread.

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32 minutes ago, Vern Edwards said:

So now people like you, Cowboy, have learned to ask for "technical" or "management" proposals in simple procurements as the basis for determining offeror capability, when there is only one real way to know whether a company can do something or not---find out whether they've done it before and done it successfully.

I wholeheartedly agree with this. That's the best way.

24 minutes ago, C Culham said:

For Contracting Cowboi – You really are all over the place. 

Yeah, you're right. 

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On ‎4‎/‎20‎/‎2018 at 9:33 AM, Vern Edwards said:

But it's a commercial service. (Right?) If they are in the business and have been in the business for a while it is likely that they understand what they are doing. Establish a well-documented special responsibility standard (FAR 9.104-2) (GAO uses the term "definitive responsibility criterion") requiring specific experience, assets, and capacity.

What you want to do is conduct an essay contest. What would that prove? You wouldn't even know who wrote it.

Maybe you should tell us more about what you mean by "courier services."

Emphasis Added:

These courier services involve the transportation of lab specimens (any test you can have done in a lab), from 6 locations, to a central location for testing. The requirements calls for pick-up, twice daily from each location, within a 30 minutes window.

Concerning the acquisition of commercial supplies/services, it is not overly complex. The reason I have set it up this way is to keep a protest down. This is protested almost each time it is solicited. I will go through the forum and try to answer/reply to post related.

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On ‎4‎/‎19‎/‎2018 at 2:21 PM, Don Mansfield said:

I seriously doubt your submission requirements are consistent with customary commercial practice. Have you done any market research to determine how courier services are customarily bought and sold? Do other buyers in this market require the submission of "QCP/Contract manager's resume/complete package submitted/technical approach to performance" from potential sellers?

Don,

The governmental side of the house does this consistently (past procurements I have examined). Most commercial entities have their own employees and vehicles for the service or they have the ability to complete the test on-site at each location.

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On ‎4‎/‎19‎/‎2018 at 2:27 PM, joel hoffman said:

“Technical and past performance, when combined, are approximately equal to cost or price”?? 

This doesn’t make sense to me. 

Price is most important here and the technical must at least meet some minimum level.

 

Joel,

The provision found at "52.212-2 Evaluation - Commercial Items" send the CO to FAR 15.304(e)(1) through (3) to fill this line in the provision.

Only three statements are allowed and are as follows:

"(e) The solicitation shall also state, at a minimum, whether all evaluation factors other than cost or price, when combined, are --

           (1) Significantly more important than cost or price;            (Trade-Off Process)

           (2) Approximately equal to cost or price; or                        (LPTA)

           (3) Significantly less important than cost or price (10 U.S.C. 2305(a)(3)(A)(iii) and 41 U.S.C. 3306(c)(1)(C))."       (Low Price)

 

I have always consider the use of these three best for the underlined area. Am I incorrect to assume this usage?

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You’re getting too hung up on the VA’s electronic contract management system, the instructions it gives at each provision/clause fill in, limitations associated with that system, and what the FAR tells you do.

 

When I worked at the VA we contracted for courier services as you described and we went low price, made a responsibility determination and called it good.

 

In my experience at the VA, I agree with your statement that these almost always get protested. Search GAO’s website for crosstown courier service and you’ll see they protest often and rarely successful, and they’re not the only ones protesting these. So, your effort to keep a protest down would be best by simplifying how you’ll evaluate quotes.

 13.106(a)(2) - That's it. Do what Vern says in his first post and be done, make your life easier. 

Quote

(2) When soliciting quotations or offers, the contracting officer shall notify potential quoters or offerors of the basis on which award will be made (price alone or price and other factors, e.g., past performance and quality). Contracting officers are encouraged to use best value. Solicitations are not required to state the relative importance assigned to each evaluation factor and subfactor, nor are they required to include subfactors.

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I once awarded a courier services contract for DOD. It was a sole source award under the 8(a) Program, made to the protégé of the incumbent 8(a) firm under the Mentor-Protégé Program. We evaluated only on price.

The first year or two of performance were rough. The customer was not happy. One of the problems was that the Government insufficiently described the requirement. The other problem was that the contractor did not allocate sufficient resources to meet the requirement, and was reluctant to allocate more.

If I were to solicit this requirement on a competitive basis, my evaluation factors would be Price, Corporate Experience, and Past Performance. I would at least want to know that the contractor has successfully performed similar work of similar size and complexity before.

1 hour ago, Constricting Officer said:

I have always consider the use of these three best for the underlined area. Am I incorrect to assume this usage?

Yes. Those are bad assumptions. When you're evaluating based on LPTA or price alone, that does not in itself infer anything regarding the value you place on price or technical factors. For instance, if I am using LPTA, I can set the bar for acceptability very high (indicating those factors are very important) or very low (indicating they are not).

Provision 52.212-2 can be modified to suit your needs (read the prescription); do not abide by it rigidly, forcing yourself to fit a square peg into a round hole. If you're using LPTA or just evaluating on price, state that. Write it in a way that makes sense. Delete the "relative importance" language.

On ‎4‎/‎20‎/‎2018 at 8:27 PM, ContractingCowboi said:

How would you justify a negative CPARS rating if you didn't evaluate technical in the first place?

It seems to me that you're overlooking a major component of performance-based contracting: performance standards. Per FAR 37.601(b)(2) you need: "Measurable performance standards . . . and the method of assessing contractor performance against performance standards."

In contracting for courier services, I don't need to know the details of how the work will be done. But I will absolutely have objective, enforceable metrics in the PWS pertaining to areas such as timeliness and accuracy (you really only need a handful of metrics for this type of work). Now, whether the COR enforces them is another matter.

 

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How will you measure technical excellence. 

I believe you need a standard (between 12 and 14 inches) and a measure (inches), and a way to implement that measure (with a ruler).

For courier services you might can create a standard (likely time based).  Be careful that it is appropriate though, and think of how it can be gamed.

And think of how you will measure results against the standard.

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6 hours ago, Constricting Officer said:

Don,

The governmental side of the house does this consistently (past procurements I have examined). Most commercial entities have their own employees and vehicles for the service or they have the ability to complete the test on-site at each location.

The fact that the Government consistently requires submission of plans, etc., does not mean that doing so is consistent with customary commercial practice. What you want to find out during market research are the customary practices under which commercial sales of services are made. Do sellers customarily have to provide "QCP/Contract manager's resume/complete package submitted/technical approach to performance" to potential buyers in order to make a sale? Or is this just something that Government buyers ask for?

As a Government buyer, you have baggage. When you are buying a commercial item, you need to minimize your baggage as much as possible.

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On ‎4‎/‎21‎/‎2018 at 1:22 AM, ContractingCowboi said:

I'm saying your staffing plan gives me a decent understanding on whether you're capable of complying with the terms of the contract.

You're not being responsive to my question. Let's try this:

True or False: For purposes of evaluating my performance under the contract, it really doesn't matter if I follow my staffing plan--what matters is that I comply with the contract terms.

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