We received a lot of audience questions during our recent Top 20 bids for 2017 webinar. Here is part 1 of our Q&A.
Question: Although a number of government procurement leads are stating their acquisition strategy will be based on “best value,” they list both LPTA and technology/price trade-off as viable decision tools. When technical proposal evaluators are not able to “significantly” differentiate offers, contracting officers almost always default to LPTA. So, when do you think real best value awards will be “here to stay”?
Bob Lohfeld’s Answer: In my opinion, best value tradeoff procurements need two things to occur before they will be “here to stay”. First, we have to have a rising federal budget. In times of sequestration and budget reductions, agencies simply don’t have enough money to buy what they need and instead default to buying what is cheap. Second, agencies have to realize that buying on the cheap can produce terrible results. Winning companies cannot perform at the awarded contract price, contract mods have to be issued, and in the long run buying on the cheap actually costs more.
I think there are plenty of examples where buying cheap failed to produce desired results, so we don’t get much pushback on this now. I’m hopeful that budgets will rise and take the pressure off price and with these two conditions, the market will return to more rational behavior and best value tradeoffs will be the preferred evaluation criteria.
Question: Are there any risks of getting a Fail rating if we submit no past performance references to a LPTA evaluated RFP? The RFP reads, “In the case of a contractor without a record of relevant past performance or for whom information on past performance is not available or so sparse that no meaningful past performance rating can be reasonably assigned, the contractor will not be evaluated favorably or unfavorably on past performance. Therefore, the contractor shall be determined to have unknown past performance and in the context of acceptability/unacceptability, unknown shall be considered Pass.”
Bob Lohfeld’s Answer: Make sure that the procurement says past performance will be rated on a pass/fail basis. This needs to be stated clearly in the evaluation criteria that pass/fail applies to past performance. If that is the case, then the government can’t fail you for having no past performance, but I would copy the paragraph from the DOD Source Selection Guide into your proposal to explain why you are submitting no past performance and explain how you expect the government to evaluate this and give you a passing grade. In theory, they cannot fail you for having no relevant past performance. The only way to fail is to have bad past performance. Be mindful that the government may use CPARS, PPERS, or other sources to check your past performance and not just the references you submit.
Follow-on question: If there is no risk in submitting no past performance, why did the government bother to ask for?
Bob Lohfeld’s Answer: The RFP probably says submit information on up to some number of contracts of similar size, scope, and complexity as examples of your past performance. If you have relevant and recent past performance, they expect you to submit it. In these instances, they are looking for unacceptable performance and the bar is pretty low for performance to be unacceptable. I know of one procurement where the contractor received three cure letters on a contract, and their performance was rated acceptable because the government did not terminate their contract. That is a pretty low bar.
Not all parts of the RFP may be rated pass/fail. For example, if the government evaluates past experience on a pass/fail basis, then having no relevant past experience could be pretty damaging.
In practice, I’ve not seen an LPTA bid where a bidder chose not to submit any past performance.
Question: What advice do you have for subcontractors interested as prime contractors—what type of contract opportunities should they pursue?
Brenda Crist’s Answer: I suggest you examine your company’s strengths. What technical areas of expertise do you possess? Is your prime willing to give you a good reference? Is there an agency/market, where you have already done this work? Once you’ve answered those questions, use the Federal Procurement Database (www.fpds.gov), which is free of charge to look for expiring contracts at an agency. Additionally, look for on-ramps to existing contracts. Using these measures you should be able to move from a sub to a prime as soon as the right opportunity becomes available.
Question: We are interested in 8(a) small business perspective on Lohfeld Consulting’s Top 20 bids.
Brenda Crist’s Answer: While we did not get a chance to address specific 8(a) bids, we suggest you consider some of our Top 20 bids that had 8(a) set asides, including ProTech and Software Development and Integration Next Generation. Additionally, consider the Air Force Mission Support Professional Services Contract for the 711TH Human Performance Wing. I also suggest you speak with the Small Business Advocate at the agencies you support to get a forecast of 8(a) bids for 2017.
Question: Do you foresee the Defense Health Agency (DHA) delivering its fiscal year forecasts on schedule and with more detailed information than in the past 2 years?
Brenda Crist’s Answer: Although I can’t predict if DHA will provide future information, I urge you to conduct due diligence about their potential opportunities. One good and free source is the Federal Procurement Database (www.fpds.gov). Look for DHA contracts that are expiring in the next 2 years. Use those leads to drill down on the data needed to win using open and ethical sources including agency documents, conference reports, and commercial databases. After collecting the data, visit your potential customers.
Question: Which agencies will be using OASIS.
Lisa Pafe’s Answer: The Air Force, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Army have all committed to use OASIS for professional services. Most recently the Department of the Navy’s Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) securing the Navy’s use of the OASIS and OASIS SB contracts as a primary solution for complex professional services requirements. For example, NAVAIR’s long-range acquisition forecast shows that the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office will use OASIS for $240 million in contract work with a solicitation planned for FY17 fourth quarter.
Look for Part 2 of our Top 20 Opportunities for 2017 Q&A coming soon.
Our procurement experts:
Lisa Pafe, Vice President, CPP APMP Fellow and PMI PMP, has 25+ years of capture and proposal experience. She is President of APMP-NCA, and was VP and Speaker Series Chair for 2 years each. Lisa writes extensively about federal procurement trends for Washington Technology and on LinkedIn. Prior experience includes: VP of Corporate Development, Ace Info Solutions, Inc.; President of Vision Consulting, Inc.; VP of Business Development, GovConnect; and Director of Marketing, MAXIMUS. She holds a BA from Yale University, MPP from Harvard University, and MIS from GWU.
Brenda Crist, Vice President, CPP APMP Fellow, has 25+ years’ experience providing capture, proposal, and program management support for IT companies serving the federal market. Prior to becoming a full-time proposal professional at Lohfeld Consulting Group, Brenda held management roles at OAO Corp. and Harris Corp. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, is a former President of the APMP-NCA, an APMP certification trainer, and current APMP Chesapeake Chapter Board Member.
Bob Lohfeld, CEO and Founder of Lohfeld Consulting Group, CF APMP Fellow, has 30+ years’ experience winning contracts in the government market and is recognized consistently for leadership in business development, capture management, and winning proposals development. Bob writes the Capture Management column in Washington Technology. Prior to forming Lohfeld Consulting Group, Bob served as Division President at Lockheed Martin, Vice President of Lockheed Martin Information Technology, Senior Vice President at OAO Corp., Systems Engineering Manager at CSC, and Program Manager at Fairchild Industries. Bob has served on the APMP Board of Directors. He is a three-time winner of Federal Computer Week’s Federal 100.