Discussion

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

Today we welcome back special guest Shelley Hall to discuss contract closeout.

Paul and Shelley provide an overview of what happens between when a contract ends and when it is officially closed out.  Learn why it is important for both sides to diligently keep records during contract performance to ease the closeout process.

__________

Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks.  Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting.  It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession.  Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.

by Shelley Hall

This situation is discussed in a recent GAO bid protest, Genesis Design and Development, Inc., B-414254 (Feb. 28, 2017). The protestor alleged it was unfair for the government to reject their proposal because the required three PPQs were never completed by previous customers.

Past performance documentation of some kind is required in almost every government acquisition.  It is often considered an evaluation factor.  So contractors must provide “recent and relevant” past performance to be considered for some proposals.  The government often uses PPQs as a way to determine the offeror’s ability to perform a future contract.

What might happen if the government point of contact doesn’t bother to return a completed PPQ? As this GAO decision demonstrates, if the solicitation requires offerors to return completed PPQs, the agency is not required to contact government officials who don’t return the PPQs.

FAR 15.304(c)(3)(i) requires the agency to evaluate past performance in all source selections for negotiated competitive acquisitions expected to exceed the simplified acquisition threshold. The government has many tools to get past performance information.  They can use information provided in the proposal or check the Contractor Performance Assessment Reports System (CPARS).

PPQs have become a favorite way of gathering this information.  These PPQs are sent out to Contracting Officers, Contract Officer Representatives, Program Managers, etc., who have worked with the offeror in the past on previous acquisitions.  The person is requested to compete the PPQ and return it (1) to the offeror or (2) directly to the procuring agency.

So what’s the problem?  Well, first of all, there’s no requirement in the FAR that says the folks that are sent PPQs are required to respond.  All the folks in this process are busy people and completing forms is usually the last thing on their list.  If a PPQ is especially burdensome, it may simply be ignored.

Of course, there are also the issues or (1) sending the PPQ to the wrong person, (2) having a bad email address, (3) having the person respond to a bad email address, and (4) all the other possibilities that exist when computers are involved.

The solicitation from this particular protest required offerors to provide three completed PPQs from previous customers to demonstrate that the offerors had successfully completed all tasks related to the solicitation requirements. The solicitation allowed the agency to eliminate proposals lacking sufficient information for a meaningful review. The award would be made to the lowest-priced, technically acceptable offeror.

While the protestor submitted a proposal, none of the PPQs they provided with the proposal had been completed. The PPQs only provided contact information for prior customers.  As a result, the agency found the proposal was technically unacceptable, because they failed to include completed PPQs. The protestor was eliminated from the competition and award was made to another contractor.

The eliminated offeror filed a GAO bid protest challenging its elimination. They understood that the PPQs had not been completed by its past customers, but stated they “reasonably anticipated that the agency would seek the required information directly from its clients.” The protestor claimed that it “is often difficult to obtain such information from its clients because they are often too busy to respond in the absence of an inquiry directly from the acquiring activity.”

GAO responded that “an offeror is responsible for submitting an adequately written proposal and bears the risk that the agency will find its proposal unacceptable where it fails to demonstrate compliance with all of a solicitation’s requirements.” Here, “the RFP specifically required offerors to submit completed PPQs,” but “Genesis did not comply with the solicitation’s express requirements.” Accordingly, “the agency reasonably rejected Genesis’ proposal.” GAO denied Genesis’ protest.

So this decision needs to be understood and taken into consideration when PPQs are part of the evaluation portion of an acquisition.  It is up to the offeror to obtain the completed PPQs.

For instant access to over 200 articles like this one (as well as the two new ones we add every week), join the Skyway Community.
Visit http://skywaymember.com for details.

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

This is an encore presentation of a topic that has made the news as our new President’s administration considers what can be done to streamline the Government’s acquisition processes.  Simplified Acquisition Procedures!

How can the Government buy commercial items efficiently? Good question! One streamlined acquisition process has now become an official part of the FAR. (after years as a “test program”) FAR 13.5 describes Simplified Acquisition Procedures (SAP) which allow Contracting Officers to skip or greatly simplify the process for buying commercial items when certain criteria are met.

Kevin and Paul describe when and where SAP can be used and why it is important for both Government and Industry to understand and take advantage of this most useful FAR language.

__________

Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks.  Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting.  It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession.  Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.

by Shelley Hall

DoD has issued a final rule amending the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) by providing that contracting officers are not required to further justify a decision to provide customary contract financing, other than loan guarantees and advance payments identified in FAR part 32, for certain fixed-price contracts.

In the past, CO’s had to provide justification for providing contract financing on any fixed price contract.  Now, contracts meeting the strict parameters of the final rule will not require any special justification.

DoD published a proposed rule in June 30, 2016, to revise the DFARS regarding the use of customary contract financing, other than loan guarantees and advance payments identified in FAR part 32, on fixed-price contracts with a period of performance in excess of one year that meet the dollar thresholds established in FAR 32.104(d). No comments were received on this proposed rule so there was no change to the wording in the final rule.

DoD determined that the use of such customary contract financing provides improved cash flow as an incentive for commercial companies to do business with DoD, is in the Department’s best interest, and requires no further justification of its use.

This final rule only provides DoD policy regarding providing contract financing for certain fixed-priced contracts. The rule does not add any new provisions or clauses or impact any existing provisions or clauses.

DFARS 232.104 was added and reads as follows:

232.104 – Providing contract financing.

For fixed-price contracts with a period of performance in excess of a year that meet the dollar thresholds established in FAR 32.104(d), and for solicitations expected to result in such contracts, in lieu of the requirement at FAR 32.104(d)(1)(ii) for the contractor to demonstrate actual financial need or the unavailability of private financing, DoD has determined that—

(1) The use of customary contract financing (see FAR 32.113), other than loan guarantees and advance payments, is in DoD’s best interest; and

(2) Further justification of its use in individual acquisitions is unnecessary.

Hopefully this new guidance on contract financing will create the incentives expected to lure more companies to do business with DOD.

For instant access to over 200 articles like this one (as well as the two new ones we add every week), join the Skyway Community.
Visit http://skywaymember.com for details.

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

Before the Government can buy supplies and services from the open market they must consider “Required Sources”.

Kevin and Paul discuss FAR Part 8’s required sources of supplies that must be considered by Government Contracting Officers at the beginning of the acquisition process.  Learn how these apparent inefficiencies can actually speed up the buying process and why Industry must understand how the Government buys what you’re selling.  (or you may be fishing in the wrong stream…)

__________

Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks.  Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting.  It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession.  Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.

by Shelley Hall

Are COs being discouraged from using full and open (F&O) competition procedures?  When I was a CO, there were a lot of F&O competitions being done, but now it’s hard to find a single acquisition that is being done that way.

Full and open competition used to be the way most acquisitions were done.  In fact, if you were NOT using F&O, you had to (1) provide a justification as to why not or (2) have a statutory exception to F&O (reference FAR 6.302).  F&O simply gives every company, regardless of their size, an equal opportunity to bid.

However, with the overall government push for more set-asides for socioeconomic categories, F&O competitions are becoming pretty rare.  So let’s look at both sides of the situation to get a better feel for how and why the changes occurred.

There have always been a lot of valid reasons for using F&O, including:

(1) the requirement cannot be performed by a small business (building an F-16, for example)

(2) market research fails to validate that there are at least two capable, responsible (as defined in FAR Part 9) small businesses

(3) the requirement may be so complex or technically challenging that there is little evidence that small businesses can safely perform the work (such as launch support contracts)

The acquisition process has changed significantly in recent years creating a leaner process and more stringent guidelines.  Some of the reasons that F&O competitions have begun to disappear include:

(1) COs are being driven to use set-asides for EVERY acquisition since Agency policies “highly encourage” their use

(2) Thorough market research is not being done

(3) There are more small businesses and they are upping their capabilities (this is a good thing!)

The FAR and its supplements, agency policy memos, Better Buying Power (whatever version we are on now), and local preferences (yes, these do exist) are all driving COs to do small business set-asides.  These include HUBZone, SDVOSB, and EDWOSB competitions.  GAO is taking a much firmer stance when a protest comes in challenging a F&O competition being done versus a set-aside.  Instead of having to PROVE that there are two are more capable, responsible small businesses (like in the past), it is assumed that there are, and a CO needs to detail and document making a decision to go F&O.  And, quite honestly, at some point, the CO just stops fighting and does a set-aside regardless of whether or not market research validates it.

Let’s talk a little about market research.  I find it shocking how little market research is actually done on most contracts.  While I agree that the level of market research should be consistent with the complexity and dollar value of the procurement, doing a quick Google search or Small Business Dynamic Search (SBDS) is NOT sufficient for most acquisitions.  Doing an SBDS may get you some results, but just because there are 500 companies listed under the assigned NAICS code, that does not mean than all of them are (1) capable, (2) responsible, or (3) interested.  You really need to do a Request for Information or Sources Sought Synopsis posted to both FBO and GSA E-buy and request capabilities packages to make an educated determination.

Now, having said that, let me give a shout out to small businesses.  In just the last 10 years, I’ve seen the emergence of a huge number of small businesses that are entering markets where they never even tried to before.  This is awesome!  And, I’ve said more than once that today, it is much harder to find anything that a small business can’t do and to find something they can.

If you are a contractor, feel free to challenge F&O competitions if you are confident that there are at least two small businesses that can and want to do the work.  Talk to your small business advocates and COs so they know that small businesses have the capabilities and should be considered.

If you are a CO, do thorough market research.  Make sure you can defend your decision to do either a F&O or a set-aside.  Do not feel compelled to go one way or the other by “policy”.  Be bold and make educated decisions.

I can make an argument for either side.  Sometimes it’s the right decision to do a fully and open acquisition and each CO needs to make the correct decision based on all the factors.  But if there is valid evidence that two or more small business (in any of the socioeconomic categories), then it is unlikely the CO will be able to justify F&O.

For instant access to over 200 articles like this one (as well as the two new ones we add every week), join the Skyway Community.
Visit http://skywaymember.com for details.

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

In a bit of a departure from the normal CO Podcast topics, we get a little “philosophical”.  Well…not really.  After a spirited “discussion” about how the ebb and flow of the economy in general impacts Government contractors we boiled it down to a basic principle:  Lucky vs. Good.

Kevin and Paul discuss the differences between lucky and good in the Government acquisition world and why both Government and Industry should recognize the impact of external forces on the competitive landscape.

_________

Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks.  Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting.  It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession.  Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.

by Shannin Solie

Well-constructed written proposals are a substantial investment in time and resources. This means committing to a thorough process, communicating closely with your subject-matter experts (SMEs) and subcontractors to collect data, and employing strict attention to detail in how you respond to the Government’s requirements.

Every part of an RFP deserves consideration as you map out your content. For example, the Background and Introduction portions of a Request for Proposal (RFP) are typically infused with buzzwords the Agency should recognize immediately when scanning your technical response. Additionally, these sections contain valuable clues about how you can integrate strategy into your approach. Opportunities to outsmart your competitor are abundant if you commit to this mindset.
Before you begin drafting volumes, it’s critical to conduct research on the contract’s history, the incumbent contractor (if applicable), and the Agency’s strategic plan. If you cannot demonstrate understanding of and alignment with the Government’s objectives in your writing—and make it clear you have tailored an approach that minimizes risk, reduces costs, and drives efficiencies—your competitor who invests in doing so may produce a response that is much more compelling to source selection.
Though every opportunity is unique and every proposal should be tailored accordingly, there are some guidelines that can help take guesswork out of the proposal-writing process:

• Create a detailed compliance matrix and content map. Your content map provides placeholders for requirements and key strategic points, and it follows the numbering conventions of the RFP. Each section of the Statement of Work (SOW) should be clearly identified and explained. Do not leave the Agency puzzled by how your headings align with the RFP.

• Work backwards from the Evaluation Criteria. If you were to choose one section of the RFP to continuously reference in the writing process, choose the Evaluation Criteria. Focusing too much on the submission instructions alone may cause you to overlook key elements of what the Agency is actually looking for as they evaluate your offer. Pointed responses to the Evaluation Criteria should be clear throughout your technical volumes—an effort that will possibly benefit you if you find yourself involved in a bid protest.

• Show, don’t tell. Particularly if your contract is performance-based, it’s highly recommended that you write predominantly in the future tense. Tell the Government how you will perform the contract and how you continuously improve your processes. Example: if you’re describing your successful past performance, focus on how “reach-back” will produce outcomes in the future tense. In other words, detail why your past successes are relevant and of specific value to the contract.

• Outline risks and mitigation strategies. The Government will search for holes in your approach. How will you adjust to surges or unexpected scope increases? What’s the plan if you experience a cybersecurity threat, or a natural disaster? Do you have an alternate program manager? Do you periodically retrain staff? Can you recover from the loss of a key subcontractor? Will you protect budgets and deliverables? Can you describe a plan for meeting/exceeding quality expectations, and alignment with the Government’s Quality Assurance Surveillance Plan (QASP)?

• Accuracy is king. Anticipate a very literal evaluation of your writing. Semantic errors, inconsistencies, or vague or ambiguous phrasing could result in the Agency questioning your knowledge and understanding of the SOW. Sections where this occurs may be dubbed as “erroneous,” resulting in weaknesses or deficiencies that could remove you from the competitive range.

• Schedule adequate time for internal quality control. Pack in at least one day to conduct a cross-check of your response against your compliance matrix and the RFP. Make sure you did not skip or alter requirements. Make sure your graphics and charts don’t improperly substitute written narrative. Put yourself in the Government’s shoes, and evaluate your narrative with a critical eye. Identify weak areas, then hold a strategy session with your team to explore solutions.

The onus of cost credibility lies with the offeror in the written proposal. The strength of your approach is critical. You may be technically capable, but you also must produce a specific solution that is clearly communicated in writing. Focus on demonstrating your differentiators in the future tense, and, as you draft, always keep your attention on what will be most relevant to and of best value for the future of the Agency.

For instant access to over 200 articles like this one (as well as the two new ones we add every week), join the Skyway Community.
Visit http://skywaymember.com for details.

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

Episode 2 introduced our take on the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 Rule (of thumb) plays on Pareto’s Law by comparing the relative importance of relationships and processes in the Government market to their importance in commercial industry. We described how in many instances, winning Government business has more to do with process and following the rules than relationships between buyers and sellers.

Kevin and Paul revisit the 80/20 rule to add context about how the importance of relationships is directly related to the size and complexity of the acquisition at hand. For the largest Government acquisitions, relationships are every bit as important as they are in the commercial world.

__________

Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks.  Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting.  It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession.  Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

Do the words cost and price mean the same thing to you?  In most of your life the answer is probably yes.  In the business world (and Government acquisition world) they are quite different.  Confusing the two can cause real problems.

Paul discusses the important distinction between cost and price with regular guest Wendy Frieman.  Learn the general elements of “cost”, the complexity of cost estimation, and why  pricing is more than just building up the costs.

————

If you need help with the Government market, become a Skyway Connection Community licensee and get access to one-on-one insights, time-saving tools, and contract-centric training resources that will make sure you’re ready to take advantage of opportunities each time they knock.

The Skyway Connection© Community was created specifically to help companies expand their knowledge and capabilities, and to increase their competitive position in federal government acquisitions. – Learn more at: https://skywayacq.com/connect

Membership benefits include:

Access to Skyway Insight© Webinars

Unlimited access to The RFP Score™

Access to Ask a Contracting Officer Forum™

Priority Access to Skyway Team for Skyway Insight, capture, proposal support

__________

Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks.  Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting.  It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession.  Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

Past performance is the bridge to the next contract, whether it is winning new work or just keeping the work you have.

Learn when past performance matters to both Government and Industry (hint: the entire time) and why it is important for both sides to understand the definitions of “recent” and “relevant” as they relate to your acquisition or proposal.

__________

Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks.  Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting.  It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession.  Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

It’s time to wrap up the Execution Zones with the final episode in the series: The Wrap Up Zone. (sorry…couldn’t resist that one)

Kevin and Paul introduced the Execution Zones in Episode 84.  The Execution Zones are a helpful way to envision where and how certain topics fit into the Government contracting world.  The Execution Zones are the post-award companions to the Acquisition Time Zones and are referenced in many episodes. In chronological order, they are:

1) The Honeymoon Zone

2) The Performance Zone

3) The Recompete Zone

4) The Wrap-up Zone

The work is done.  The product is delivered.  The services have ended.  Your contract is over.  The Wrap Up Zone is the culmination of the Execution Zones.  It covers the time period from the end of the contract period of performance until the final closeout modification is signed.  With service contracts, there is often a transition period between the incumbent and the new contractor when both are working simultaneously to ensure a clean hand off of the responsibilities.

Learn how the Wrap Up Zone can impact the Government’s perception of a contractor and why a contract (and potential financial liability) is not over until the final closeout modification is signed.

__________

Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks.  Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting.  It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession.  Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.

by Christi Gilbert

Do you know the difference between “Contract Value”, “Authorized Value”, and “Funded Value”? It can mean different things to different people depending on their function. Program Managers for example may assume that the “Authorized Value” is the amount of money they can spend on their tasks. To the Finance/Accounting people, the amount available to be spent is the “Funded Value”. To Business Development, the “Contract Value” is the amount they want their bonus based on for the win.

Not all contracts, not all companies, not all functional areas use the same language so it’s very important to make sure when communicating that you are very clear on what you mean by these terms. You might, for example, have an IDIQ with a Maximum Contract Value (sometimes called “Ceiling”) of $1,000,000 and a Minimum Contract Value of $3,000. Does that mean you will be paid $1,000,000? No, it doesn’t even mean you will be paid if you spend $3,000! Until you have a task order with funding, you aren’t going to be paid anything. At contract inception, you may receive a task order for $3,000 but if it isn’t funded, it isn’t authorization to spend. If at the end of the IDIQ, you have not been awarded any task orders, the government will fund the $3,000 and at that point you are entitled to be paid the Minimum Contract Value.

If you are awarded a contract or task order with a Statement of Work (SOW) or Performance Work Statement (PWS), it may have an “Authorized Value” and if Cost Reimbursable, it may have a separate amount for Cost and Fee. But again, without Funding, it is not a promise of payment. Contracts and task orders can be incrementally funded and it’s the funded value which is the amount you can spend on the work that is authorized with an expectation of payment upon acceptance of a valid invoice. If you spend more than that, you are working at risk with the possibility of never being reimbursed beyond the funded value.

Clarifying this terminology should be part of your kick-off meeting when you gather your program functions together to establish your processes and procedures for managing the contract. It’s important when dealing with subcontractors to be sure you are clear about the meaning of these contract terms as well. Their internal use of these terms may be different than yours.

For instant access to over 200 articles like this one (as well as the two new ones we add every week), join the Skyway Community.
Visit http://skywaymember.com for details.

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

One of the best shortcuts to learn and grow is to get perspective from people with different experiences than your own.  With this in mind, we’re adding a bit of the program manager’s perspective to the podcast.

Listen in on Paul’s conversation with special guest Dave Bartlow, a former Navy officer who now works as a project manager on the Industry side.  Dave shares his experience managing subcontractors and project schedules.  It’s no surprise that the discussion returns to one of our common themes: communication. (between Government and Industry as well as within a program)

We hope you enjoy the Program Manager’s perspective, joining the proposal manager’s and contract administrator’s perspectives on the podcast in the quest to help make Government contracts better, one contract at a time.

————

If you need help with the Government market, become a Skyway Connection Community licensee and get access to one-on-one insights, time-saving tools, and contract-centric training resources that will make sure you’re ready to take advantage of opportunities each time they knock.

The Skyway Connection© Community was created specifically to help companies expand their knowledge and capabilities, and to increase their competitive position in federal government acquisitions. – Learn more at: https://skywaymember.com

Membership benefits include:

Access to Skyway Insight© Webinars

Unlimited access to The RFP Score™

Access to Ask a Contracting Officer Forum™

Priority Access to Skyway Team for Skyway Insight, capture, proposal support

__________

Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks.  Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting.  It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession.  Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.

by Kevin Jans

What if you’re perceived as average even when you’re not? What if your prospective customer does not see what makes you different? What if you look like everyone else? In a competitive market like government contracts, average is a bad place to be. That’s because the deciding point between offerors who are average is, you guessed it, lowest price.

If your customer is ill-informed, they are going to perceive most companies word for average and you’ll end up in a knife fight over price.

So, what to do?

If you read my blogs, watch my webinars, listen to my podcasts, or attend my training sessions, you know that I pound the table on the topic of targeting. The two most important factors in your success as a government contractor are your ability to TARGET, and your ability to apply CONTEXT.

I’ll tackle targeting first. Stay tuned for how to address this with context in a future article.

Targeting:

I got to touch a lot of source selections as a CO. For the purposes of this article, I’ll put these source selections into two groups:

Group 1. Goods and services I easily understood how they worked. Examples are grounds maintenance, personal security, project management, dry suits, ATVs, and so on. I could tell “good work from bad”, right?

Group 2. Goods and services where I needed help to grasp the intricacies of how they worked. Examples are software development, radar telemetry, aircraft maintenance, training simulators, counter intelligence, cyber security, and so on. I needed help to tell “good work from bad”, right?

Group 1 seems like the ‘easier’ one because I could understand when someone had met the requirement in their proposal (or not). Group 2 would be more difficult for me to discern good from bad since these source selections tended to be more complex, take longer and have more engineers, scientists, and government experts involved in helping me make a source selection decision.

However, I found that it was equally difficult to tell good work (or great work) from bad in both groups. Even for the less complex requirement (a commercial ATV for example), it was difficult to tell the key differences between the ATVs. They all met the requirement. So the default comes down to price. Ouch.

As the CO, I had to translate how the ATV met the users’ requirement through what was in the proposal. Without glaring differentiators, it was difficult to choose the ‘best’ over the good enough.

So what to do?

Target those agencies and opportunities where you have an advantage; where your strengths shine like diamonds. Focus on the opportunities where the customer will inherently know what makes your solution great, as opposed to just good enough.

As a CO, the times when I saw this done well (like how we help our members’ write their proposals now) is when the company behind the proposal is targeted to that specific requirement. Because those businesses were focused on doing these few things in my RFP and doing them very well, their great work showed because:

their language was more crisp (no fluff!)

their evidence was more compelling (with actual numbers, examples, and photos!)

their past performance was more relevant (and aligned with our specific need)

And as a bonus, their story was compelling and shorter! As an example of how this applied to a Skyway customer, we helped a client win a $62M contract with a 27-page proposal – and the page limit was 30 pages. How does someone create a winning proposal in 10% less space? By being hyper focused. They could show what great work looked like in less than 30 pages. As a result, they stood out and won. When you’re targeting, your ability to do great work is much easier to explain.

Of its many values, targeting ensures you focus your limited resources and energy on finding the best ways to show how your solution is great, not average. It’s how you show your prospective customer good work from bad. By contrast, if you throw a wide net throughout your many NAICS codes and chasing lots of opportunities that are ‘good enough’ you risk looking like everyone else and being ‘good enough’ (read: average).

To show that I’m not just preaching, this applies to Skyway too: Of all the people we could help, we target only those people who are already working with government contracts. That is a fraction of the people who are looking get a government contract.

Why?

Because those who are already in the midst of managing a contract (or subcontract) fully appreciate how helpful (or frustrating) the CO’s perspective can be. Those many, many people who are just Googling “government contracting” without looking for more context are not a fit for us. As a Skyway member, you know we bring a different level of solution. However, the majority of people who just ‘want a government contract’ do not. They can’t tell good work from bad. By intentionally not targeting those companies, we are able to unleash our value on those who really understand it – those who work with Contacting Officers and want to do it better.

NOTE: Please don’t think I’m a savant here. It took me the first three years of Skyway to figure this out. We’re only been targeting like this for the last two years. Coincidentally, I’ll bet you became a member in the last two years…right?

Targeting works, and helps your customers know good work from bad.

For instant access to over 200 articles like this one (as well as the two new ones we add every week), join the Skyway Community.
Visit http://skywaymember.com for details.

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)
Kevin and Paul dive into contract terminations. (FAR Part 49)
Learn the difference between termination for convenience (T4C) and termination for default (T4D) and why the FAR considers terminations to be a last resort.
__________
Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks. Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting. It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession. Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.

by Shelley Hall

On December 6, 2016, DoD, GSA, and NASA issued a proposed rule to revise the FAR to implement regulatory changes made by the Small Business Jobs Act (Jobs Act) on the use of small business partial set-asides, reserves, and orders placed under multiple-award contracts.

The Jobs Act was a landmark event aimed at reenergizing small business entrepreneurship. The focus of this Act provided authority for three acquisition techniques to facilitate contracting with small businesses on multiple-award contracts:

(1) Setting aside part or parts of the requirement for small businesses.

(2) Reserving one or more contract awards for small business concerns under full and open multiple-award procurements.

(3) Setting aside orders placed against multiple-award contracts.

Multiple-award contracts are considered to be very flexible, competitive in nature, and administratively efficient.  They are regularly used to contract for large quantities of supplies and services where the quantity and delivery requirements cannot be definitively determined at contract award. Prior to the Jobs Act the FAR was mostly silent on the use of acquisition strategies to promote small business participation in conjunction with multiple-award contracts.

This new proposed rule provides additional guidance on the use of partial set-asides, reserves, and set-asides of orders under multiple-award contracts. It also clarifies agencies’ and small business contractors’ responsibilities with respect to performance of work requirements (limitations on subcontracting and the nonmanufacturer rule). Compliance with the limitations on subcontracting and the nonmanufacturer rule is essential to assure that the small business contractor performs the appropriate percentage of requirements in contracts or orders that have been set aside, in total or in part, and is not acting as a pass-through.

Anything that further assists small businesses is a good idea, as long as the agencies are implementing the changes.

For instant access to over 200 articles like this one (as well as the two new ones we add every week), join the Skyway Community.
Visit http://skywaymember.com for details.

by Shelley Hall

Berry Amendment:

The Berry Amendment is implemented in DFARS 225.7002. The contract clauses that apply DFARS 252.225-7012 and DFARS 252.225-7015.  There is additional guidance in the DFARS PGI 225-70.  NOTE:  Does not apply to agencies outside DOD.

The Berry Amendment restricts any funding appropriated or available to DoD from being used to buy the following end items, components, or materials unless they are wholly of US origin: An article or item of food; clothing; tents, tarpaulins, or covers; cotton and other natural fiber products; woven silk or woven silk blends; spun silk yarn for cartridge cloth; synthetic fabric or coated synthetic fabric; canvas products, or wool; or any item of individual equipment manufactured from or containing such fibers, yarns, fabrics, or materials; and hand or measuring tools.

Also review the Berry Amendment FAQs at http://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/cpic/ic/berry_amendment_faq.html

Buy American Act (BAA):

The Buy American statute restricts the purchase of supplies that are not domestic end products. For manufactured end products, the Buy American statute uses a two-part test to define a domestic end product – (1) The article must be manufactured in the United States; and (2) The cost of domestic components must exceed 50 percent of the cost of all the components.  This component test of the Buy American statute has been waived for acquisitions of COTS items.

The Buy American statute applies to small business set-asides.

Exceptions include public interest, non-availability, unreasonable cost, resale, information technology that is a commercial item.

Trade Agreements (reference FAR 25.4):

The Trade Agreements statute provides the authority for the President to waive the Buy American statue for eligible products from countries that have signed an international trade agreement with the United States, or that meet certain other criteria, such as being a least developed country.

Exceptions to the Trade Agreements law include:

Acquisitions set aside for small businesses;

Acquisitions of arms, ammunition, or war materials, or purchases indispensable for national security or for national defense purposes;

Acquisitions of end products for resale;

Acquisitions from Federal Prison Industries, Inc. and from Nonprofit Agencies Employing People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled; and

Other acquisitions not using full and open competition, if authorized by Subpart 6.2 or 6.3

In the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement (WTO GPA) and each FTA, there is a U.S. schedule that lists services that are excluded from that agreement in acquisitions by the United States.

How does the Berry Amendment differ from the Buy-American Act?

They differ with regard to their scope, threshold, exceptions, and waiver authority.

The Berry Amendment is applicable to purchases over the simplified acquisition threshold using funds appropriated or otherwise made available to DoD, and applies even if another agency, such as the GSA, is purchasing the item for DoD. Unless an exception under the Berry Amendment is found to apply, it requires that all covered items must be grown, reprocessed, reused, or produced in the United States, regardless of whether they are purchased as end items, components, or materials.

The BAA applies to all supply purchases of supplies or construction materials over the micro-purchase threshold for use in the U.S. It also requires the use of domestic construction material. The BAA is applicable to the entire Federal Government. The Act requires an evaluation factor be placed on proposals offering foreign end items. For civilian agencies, this evaluation factor for supply contracts is 6% if the lowest domestic offeror is from a large business, or 12% if the lowest domestic offeror is from a small business. For the Department of Defense (DoD), the evaluation factor is 50%. The evaluation factor for construction material contracts is 6% for all agencies.

COTS Items

COTS items are a subset of commercial items. The following laws are not applicable to contracts for the acquisition of COTS items:

The portion of 41 U.S.C. 8302(a)(1) that reads “substantially all from articles, materials, or supplies mined, produced, or manufactured in the United States,” Buy American–Supplies, component test.

The portion of 41 U.S.C. 8303(a)(2) that reads “substantially all from articles, materials, or supplies mined, produced, or manufactured in the Unites States,” Buy American—Construction Materials, component test (see 52.225-9 and 52.225-11).

“Commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) item” means any item or supply (including construction material) that is any item, other than real property, that is of a type customarily used by the general public or by non-governmental entities for purposes other than governmental purposes, sold in substantial quantities in the commercial marketplace; and offered to the Government, without modification, in the same form in which it is sold in the commercial marketplace.

For instant access to over 200 articles like this one (as well as the two new ones we add every week), join the Skyway Community.
 
Visit http://skywaymember.com for details.

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

It is likely that your contract will require some kind of modification over its period of performance. (unless it is for a simple commodity purchase)  Modifications may have a large impact (to the specification, schedule, statement of work, etc.) or may make minor administrative changes with no impact to the work.

Kevin and Paul discuss FAR Part 43 and provide an overview of the process and rules for modifying Government contracts.  Learn the different types of modifications, who can authorize changes to the contract, and why Government and Industry negotiation “power” changes after contract award.

__________

Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks.  Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting.  It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession.  Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.

If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

Kevin discusses the challenges that small businesses face as they strive to win their first prime contract with Jim Duffey and Ted Atsinger from Greytek.  Grektek is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) that specializes in organizational risk, security education & training, and intelligence services.

Learn some of the differences between commercial and Government customers from a small business perspective.  The conversation with Greytek also reveals pitfalls that first time primes may deal with in targeting new work that fits their skills and weight class and in preparing proposals for Government competitions.

__________

Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help Government and Industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks.  Admittedly, the podcast’s name sounds very limiting.  It is not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession.  Anyone with an interest in the Federal acquisition world can benefit from the insight and down-to-earth explanations of complicated topics provided by the hosts.