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Streamlining Acquisitions with the Multiphase Downselect Technique

Sr Acquisition Consultant


Now that you have learned about oral presentations, the second article in our three-part series will examine the multiphase downselect technique.  As you learn more about the different techniques for streamlining your acquisition, remember no matter what technique you use, you should always follow your agency policies on procurement.

So…what, exactly, is the multiphase downselect technique?

The multiphase downselect technique consists of evaluating responses in phases, to progressively reduce the number of submissions being considered for an award. The purpose is to reduce the time and cost of selecting an awardee, both for the government and interested contractors.

FAR 16.505 suggests using a multiphase downselect approach when the effort required to respond to a potential order is resource intensive, for example, when requirements are complex or will develop over time.

Using the multiphase downselect technique is simple and involves two different types of downselects.

  • Advisory, where the government advises the contract holder if they are, or are not a viable competitor, but leaves the decision to proceed up to the contractor; and
  • Government Initiated, where contractors are told whether they can, or cannot, proceed.

Each method has risks and benefits. For example, a benefit of Advisory down-selects, where contract holders can choose whether to proceed, is that contractors often choose not to proceed. This is helpful in reducing the number of protests.

On the other hand, in Government initiated downselects, a potential risk, depending on the dollar value, is that you might be required to conduct debriefings and your decision is subject to protest.

Multiphase is most effective if you are anticipating many responses, or when you have a complex requirement and want to reduce the cost to encourage more competition. However, this technique also can prove useful when all contractors are initially considered on price. Using the downselect technique, you can ask for rough estimates, conceptual approaches or past performance.

The contractors most likely to submit the highest value solutions can be selected for one-on-one sessions with the government to increase their understanding of the requirements, provide suggestions for refining the requirements, and discuss risk mitigation

As you begin the solicitation proposals, please keep the following in mind:

  • Be clear and transparent.
  • Clarify the phases and submission requirements.
  • Make sure to establish evaluation criteria for each phase.
  • Publish a notice that describes the acquisition and the criteria that will be used in each phase to allow potential responders to make informed decision about whether to participate.
  • Identify and detail all the phases in the fair opportunity notice.

NITAAC encourages streamlining the award of task or delivery orders while providing fair opportunity as part of the process defined by FAR 16.505. Our GWACs give contracting officers broad discretion in developing appropriate order placement procedures, including the multiphase downselect.

Please visit the NITAAC video page or tools and templates page for more resources on acquisition techniques. Check with your agency to see if they have further guidance regarding this and other streamlined approaches. Visit our home page at nitaac.nih.gov or call us at 1-888-773-6542.


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