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PD216ohio

[Gripe] Unawarded projects or unresponsive COs

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I'm hoping to get some perspective from the other side of things.  I am a contractor so I don't really get to see the inner workings from the contracting officer's side and thought this group could shed some light.

More often than I would have expected, there are solicitations (typically RFQs and RFPs) to which I respond and never see an award and most times I am unable to get a response from the contracting officer.  From my viewpoint, I often put a lot of work into preparing quotes, proposals, etc.  Attending pre-bids, writing out technicals, working out pricing and all of the other activities of preparing an adequate response can take a lot of time. It's one thing to not be the awardee but it's something else to never see any award made and to have COs completely ignore any phone calls and emails inquiring of the status of these solicitations.

I guess my question is why does this happen?  Understaffed and overworked COs?  Lazy COs? A technical reason that is easier solved by ghosting respondents?

I suspect most of the people here are on the government side of operations so I thought it might be a good place to solve my curiosity. Thanks.

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PD216, For a perspective, what types and magnitudes of solicitations are you responding to? 

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27 minutes ago, joel hoffman said:

PD216, For a perspective, what types and magnitudes of solicitations are you responding to? 

The issue has usually been on projects under 50k.

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1 hour ago, PD216ohio said:

More often than I would have expected, there are solicitations (typically RFQs and RFPs) to which I respond and never see an award

If the solicitation was published in FBO, are you checking to see if there is a notice of award or a notice of cancellation?

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44 minutes ago, Retreadfed said:

If the solicitation was published in FBO, are you checking to see if there is a notice of award or a notice of cancellation?

yes, I track all projects that I bid.  If there is not an award notice, I follow up after a week or two and then additionally if I don't get responses.  I've hand a handful that just never respond in any way.

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Before you wade through a lot of conjecture, etc. let me suggest you read..

FAR 13.106-3(c &d)

FAR 5.3

FAR 15.503

As you do keep in mind RFQ and RFP.  RFQ is if done correctly is a true quote process and FAR 13 is going to apply.  If for what ever reason it was a true RFP then FAR 15 applies.  Agencies themselves confuse the difference for procurements under Simplified Acquisition Threshold.

If FAR part 12 Commercial Item Acquisition most agencies include clause 52.212-1.  See paragraph (l).  If not FAR part 12 action then look for other solicitation provisions such as 52.215-1.  FAR part 13 action then no solicitation provision exists so guidance of 13.106-3(a&b) applies.

 

For procurements in each FAR category COs have discreation at different levels so pay attention as you read the FAR to words like, shall, etc.

Also as you read note timeliness requirements placed on contractors to request info.  If not timely COs might be rightfully ignoring.

Hope this helps.

 

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7 hours ago, PD216ohio said:

More often than I would have expected, there are solicitations (typically RFQs and RFPs) to which I respond and never see an award and most times I am unable to get a response from the contracting officer.  From my viewpoint, I often put a lot of work into preparing quotes, proposals, etc.  Attending pre-bids, writing out technicals, working out pricing and all of the other activities of preparing an adequate response can take a lot of time. It's one thing to not be the awardee but it's something else to never see any award made and to have COs completely ignore any phone calls and emails inquiring of the status of these solicitations.

I guess my question is why does this happen?  Understaffed and overworked COs?  Lazy COs? A technical reason that is easier solved by ghosting respondents?

In all honesty, there is no excuse for ignoring emails and not returning phone calls.   Answering the phone on an inquiry takes a couple minutes.  Responding to an email is quick.  In many cases,  it’s lack of experience and training for the 1102s and just fear of having to respond.  By ignoring they hope the issue goes away.

I'm sympathetic and know how much time and effort companies put into responding.  You deserve feedback on what happened. 

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1 hour ago, formerfed said:

In all honesty, there is no excuse for ignoring emails and not returning phone calls.   Answering the phone on an inquiry takes a couple minutes.  Responding to an email is quick.  In many cases,  it’s lack of experience and training for the 1102s and just fear of having to respond.  By ignoring they hope the issue goes away.

I'm sympathetic and know how much time and effort companies put into responding.  You deserve feedback on what happened. 

Thank you, I appreciate that.  It is just frustrating.  If I am awarded, I have to be ready to move forward and complete a project in a timely manner... but I am at the mercy of when an award is made and if it is made.  Another consideration is when I know I have sharpened my pencil and have good numbers and then I am worried about placing other bids which might result in an overlapping project.  I am a small company and one at a time is our typical capacity.

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One of my best friends is an engineering consultant for the USACE. The young engineers that he is supporting don’t want to answer or speak on the phone, respond to voicemail or return emails. Unless they initiate a conversation, it appears that the only way to contact them is to text them. 

Its not isolated to that agency. I won’t elaborate other than to say that we have recently worked with another DoD agency on performance oriented functional design criteria for a huge new headquarters project which the agency wanted to design for the future workforce.  The agency provided in depth employee surveys for input. A large percentage of their employees are intelligence analysts, who don’t extensively interact with others. They are most comfortable when glued to their computers...

 

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23 minutes ago, PD216ohio said:

Thank you, I appreciate that.  It is just frustrating.  If I am awarded, I have to be ready to move forward and complete a project in a timely manner... but I am at the mercy of when an award is made and if it is made.  Another consideration is when I know I have sharpened my pencil and have good numbers and then I am worried about placing other bids which might result in an overlapping project.  I am a small company and one at a time is our typical capacity.

I can understand that. Small construction companies have limited bonding capacity and key employees. Their bonding capacity gets tied up during bidding projects or especially during source selections. Their key personnel often cant work on multiple projects - how many different competitions can they be proposed on? 

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2 hours ago, joel hoffman said:

One of my best friends is an engineering consultant for the USACE. The young engineers that he is supporting don’t want to answer or speak on the phone, respond to voicemail or return emails. Unless they initiate a conversation, it appears that the only way to contact them is to text them. 

Its not isolated to that agency. I won’t elaborate other than to say that we have recently worked with another DoD agency on performance oriented functional design criteria for a huge new headquarters project which the agency wanted to design for the future workforce.  The agency provided in depth employee surveys for input. A large percentage of their employees are intelligence analysts, who don’t extensively interact with others. They are most comfortable when glued to their computers...

 

Email or even texts are fine.  I handle all of the service work for a couple national chains in my region.  Almost all communication is by text.  After about 15 years of being their main guy things are very simplified with regard to communication.  I don't even write contracts anymore.  I send them a quote, they email me back to go ahead, I do the work and send them an invoice and I get paid.  It's a nice simple system.

 

2 hours ago, joel hoffman said:

I can understand that. Small construction companies have limited bonding capacity and key employees. Their bonding capacity gets tied up during bidding projects or especially during source selections. Their key personnel often cant work on multiple projects - how many different competitions can they be proposed on? 

In my case, I personally perform on all of my projects.  It's one of the things that has kept me working through all of these years because my clients know they are getting my personal quality of work, not just an employee or sub of mine.  I guess it makes it an odd transition into government work where companies as small as mine might not be as common.  I've done two government projects so far and both ended with extraordinary comments about the quality I've provided.  To me, that is the best part.  I really take pride in a job well done.

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9 hours ago, PD216ohio said:

Email or even texts are fine.  I handle all of the service work for a couple national chains in my region.  Almost all communication is by text.  After about 15 years of being their main guy things are very simplified with regard to communication.  I don't even write contracts anymore.  I send them a quote, they email me back to go ahead, I do the work and send them an invoice and I get paid.  It's a nice simple system.

Texting is a method of communication. But not, for example, when the design consultant needs to have detailed conversations with the government’s project engineer that require the designer to explain something to him, other detailed interactions or government feedback , etc.,  during design and resulting contract execution by foundry and fabrication, installation, etc.  

The project engineer needs to learn how to be accessible, how to return a phone call, respond to emails, etc.

Oral communications by telephone or face to face seem to be fading these days.  I see it more and more. 

Not everyone communicates exclusively by text.

The government has also tasked my friend to mentor the young engineer, because the agency has lost most of its technical expertise and depth of knowledge of the complex systems being renovated or repaired. My friend retired from their engineering division and had a vast engineering knowledge of those systems. Can’t mentor someone who is inaccessible. If all the young engineer knows how to do is communicate via text, then he should be paid as a typist.  

 

9 hours ago, PD216ohio said:

In my case, I personally perform on all of my projects.  It's one of the things that has kept me working through all of these years because my clients know they are getting my personal quality of work, not just an employee or sub of mine.  I guess it makes it an odd transition into government work where companies as small as mine might not be as common.  I've done two government projects so far and both ended with extraordinary comments about the quality I've provided.  To me, that is the best part.  I really take pride in a job well done.

My comment was meant as empathy for small contractors, who don’t have the luxury of being able to compete for multiple jobs simultaneously, while waiting for someone to notify them of the award status on those they have submitted quotes, proposals or bids on. 

 

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18 hours ago, PD216ohio said:

I follow up after a week or two and then additionally if I don't get responses. 

I agree with @formerfed with regard to "no excuse" however a "week or two" puts you in the category of untimely whether literally with regard to regulations or otherwise.  The very reason I provided you with some regulatory citations that may be of use.  Be timely, quote them with regard to your requests as appropriate  and see where your requests go.

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12 minutes ago, C Culham said:

I agree with @formerfed with regard to "no excuse" however a "week or two" puts you in the category of untimely whether literally with regard to regulations or otherwise.  The very reason I provided you with some regulatory citations that may be of use.  Be timely, quote them with regard to your requests as appropriate  and see where your requests go.

I'm not sure what you mean by timely in this regard.  I am only seeking award status (which hasn't been noticed anywhere else either).  If you mean timely as in 10 days to file a protest, that time should begin after an award declaration is or should have been known.  Some awards take a week to decide... others take over a month.... some take longer.  I have one project that is past 30 days but the CO is responsive to my follow ups.  I have contacted him once at the two-week mark and then again right after the four week mark.  He has responded both times and advised that his office has just been incredibly busy and he is working on it.  The project is something that they do need done to prepare for the next project.

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22 minutes ago, PD216ohio said:

I am only seeking award status

My miss read and thank you for clarifying.   I do not mean protest rather my intent was with regard to when and what an agency is to do upon award - notice and if appropriate debriefing where either carries award info in the notice/debriefing process.  

Stepping myself back with regard to  "award status" consider again the 52.212-1 provision but now at paragraph (c) and what period the government requested as the paragraph can be tailored, or paragraph (d) of the 52.215-1 provision and say block 12 of the SF-33 that might be the cover form.   And then even possibly if in a quote scenario where the government has not stipulated a period of acceptance but you, yourself stipulate a period and consider how your "week or two" fits in.  While I understand timing may be important to your business strategy I also understand why an agency may not be responding if your requests for award status is made one or two weeks into a period where the government has 30, 60 or whatever they requested days they stipulated for acceptance.   As you yourself note you are getting good responses from an agency where it is past 30 days and if by chance your quote/offer was via a solicitation that carried an untailored 52.212-1 provision then that agency is doing a good thing as you note not only for your needs but in general complying with their commitment made in the solicitation as I would suggest they are keeping folks engaged so they can make a request something like "Is your quote/offer still good?" at say 45 days past the time quotes/offers were received.

So to your specific question yes, sometimes overworked under staffed, yes sometimes lazy, and sometimes because your week or two request may be seen as a request that has not considered the sideboard of the solicitation that said the government has 30 or 60 days to award so you will know status when it occurs.  I would add that there is no real excuse for an agency not posting award or solicitation cancellation info in FBO as required as well as providing direct status to a requester who provided a quote or offer and the solicitation was cancelled. 

 

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expecting anything other than the bare minimum from a federal employee will leave you frustrated, in most cases

hopefully, this discussion will be a cathartic experience for you

On 7/17/2019 at 12:33 PM, PD216ohio said:

I guess my question is why does this happen?  Understaffed and overworked COs?  Lazy COs? A technical reason that is easier solved by ghosting respondents?

yes 

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42 minutes ago, PepeTheFrog said:

expecting anything other than the bare minimum from a federal employee will leave you frustrated, in most cases

Yeah right it's only prevalent in the government.

This week....

Large well known tire and brake company gets my dual wheel one ton pickup for a rear brake job.  I have to travel 20 miles one way for such service.  Next day I am hauling a trailer load of horses over our mountains.  Crazy noise from brakes and the telling smell and heat from brakes of overheating when I pull over.  Next day back to shop, investigation and "Oh oops we are sorry we installed the brakes wrong!"  Hmmm "Should I have paid full price for a shoddy job?"   "Oh we are sorry but no rebate on work but of course come back anytime and we will fix at no charge if you encounter more problems"  

The bare minimum is a new standard that swings both ways it is sad to say.

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Off topic a little but one of the most beneficial contracts initiatives was done by CBP’s IT office.  They used milestone schedules from acquisition plans and publicly posted on their website.  So interested companies could see status at any point in time.  It even included time for internal solicitation reviews, issue dates, proposal receipt dates, technical evaluation, selection decision, etc., and lots more.  That way industry could see the latest status and adjust their efforts. Unfortunately they stopped doing that.  

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2 hours ago, PepeTheFrog said:

expecting anything other than the bare minimum from a federal employee will leave you frustrated, in most cases

hopefully, this discussion will be a cathartic experience for you

yes 

I learned early on to not expect anything more than the bare minimum from many contractors, particularly with the low bid, IFB acquisition methods. Of course, bidders respond to the method imposed upon them. You get what you pay for.

Best value,  trade off rid us of most of the dirt bags. There may still be a few hopping around from place to place...

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PepeTheFrog thinks two lifers doth protest too much.

It's like the detective who solves a murder by maligning the murderer in a room full of suspects...somebody got red ears!

This thread is about the government's behavior. 

PepeTheFrog agrees with both of you, in that PepeTheFrog's original advice can apply in many different situations, not just this one. 

15 minutes ago, joel hoffman said:

You get what you pay for.

See also the lockstep General Schedule (GS scale). 

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Joel and Carl, incompetence can take place anyplace.  However, having been on both sides of the fence, I have noticed a general decline in the capability of government procurement personnel.  This not only applies to PCOs, but also to DCMA ACOs and DCAA auditors.  I have no empirical studies on why this is happening and it may be a general trend in the government's ability to attract and retain capable personnel.  On an anecdotal note, having to deal with a contracting officer who has been put on a performance improvement period of performance before the agency initiates a performance based personnel action is no cake walk.  Similarly, dealing with a DCAA auditor who is a whistleblower is almost impossible because no one will try to rein him/her in for fear of having a reprisal complaint lodged against them. 

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4 hours ago, PepeTheFrog said:

PepeTheFrog thinks two lifers doth protest too much

I like "lifer" especially as my g experience gets ever closer to my p experience...yep I have been on both sides.

"Protest" thanks Frog, like warts some things do wear off on to others.

 

4 hours ago, joel hoffman said:

You get what you pay for.

For the record my personal experience was not low bid.  In some cases you do not get what you pay for.  Not prevalent but all the same well informed expectations do not always equal expected results for whatever reason like, Oh I forgot to mention the employee in training!

4 hours ago, PepeTheFrog said:

This thread is about the government's behavior. 

No it is about if it was behavior or no.  As posted it was whether it was behavior or a technical reason as well?  And, there very well could be and advice was provided as to either or.

 

3 hours ago, Retreadfed said:

general decline in the capability of government procurement personnel.  

I'll bite from the view of is it capability or capacity, and not of the individual but of the system to support the individual?  I will leave it at that as the whole of the WIFCON Forum is filled with discussions either specifically or get there sooner or later.

I appreciate all the comments.

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10 hours ago, PepeTheFrog said:

PepeTheFrog thinks two lifers doth protest too much.

Pepe, what is your definition of “lifer”? 

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10 hours ago, joel hoffman said:

Pepe, what is your definition of “lifer”? 

I didn’t intend to express my original response to Pepe’s general degradation of all Civil service employees in detail.

My assertion about getting what you pay for was aimed at IFB and LPTA for construction, where there is no economic incentive to do more than the bare minimum required.

The minimum includes performance of the awarded contract as well as meeting award criteria.

Such award criteria includes  such as acceptable past performance record  or whatever the minimum criteria for past performance record is (e.g., “no record - unknown confidence level”).

Such performance of the contract would include meeting minimum performance or prescriptive requirements to get paid, not be terminated and receive at least the minimum performance evaluation rating necessary to avoid being determined unacceptable for future awards of IFB or LPTA. Very low bar. 

The pre-award assessment would be part of the technical evaluation and/or responsibility determination.

Unlike Pepe, I’m not characterizing all of industry firms. Firms which wish to compete for contracts awarded using comparative evaluation criteria will generally desire to exceed the bare minimum performance level, where possible, especially concerning customer satisfaction. Working with them was generally enjoyable.

Many other firms that don’t compete for best value awards will also strive to provide customer satisfaction .

But dirt bags can obtain awards that use LPTA and  low bid award criteria. 

Been around long enough to experience having to deal with some dirt bag construction and installation level service  contractors before best value, trade off RFP’s were available. 

There were also some very hard to get along with contractors, who weren’t dirt bags but whose attitude made life miserable. 

I used to dread post award/pre-construction conferences with the percentage of miserable and/or dirt bag contractors.

Oh, I spent 9 years working for others prior to my time as a “snivel service” employee - plus eight summers prior to college graduation working for others. I don’t ever remember doing the bare minimum to get by.  After govt retirement, I’m still working same way - but for free. 

I resent somebody making a general negative performance characterization of all civil service employees. While a “GS”, I knew who I was working for/serving - the American citizens - and who was paying the cost of my employment - the American taxpayers.

 

 

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22 hours ago, joel hoffman said:

I learned early on to not expect anything more than the bare minimum from many contractors, particularly with the low bid, IFB acquisition methods. Of course, bidders respond to the method imposed upon them. You get what you pay for.

Best value,  trade off rid us of most of the dirt bags. There may still be a few hopping around from place to place...

As a contractor, I can confirm that there are a LOT of "dirtbags" in the construction business.  A lot of inexperienced, wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am types.  The tough part is being good and charging appropriately when competing with these types.  I service a couple national chains locally and the president of one told me once that I had two reputations with them.  I was expensive and I was good.  

My approach to government work has really been that I bid the price I am comfortable with.  If I get the job, great... it is worth my time.  I'll travel anywhere for the right price.

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