This shows the value of understanding government contracting requirements and preferences.
From our friend Steven Koprince at www.smallgovcon.com:
A contractor was awarded an “Excellent” past performance score despite submitting only three past performance references, not the five past performance references required by the solicitation.
Although one might think that a contractor would be penalized for failing to satisfy such a requirement, the GAO held that the procuring agency properly gave the contractor in question a high past performance score, based on the three submitted references and past performance information obtained from other sources.
The GAO’s bid protest decision in Burke Consortium, Inc., B-407273.3, B-407273.5 (Feb. 7, 2013), involved a Department of Homeland Security solicitation for information technology services. The solicitation stated that award would be made on a “best value” basis, considering corporate experience, past performance, program management, and staffing.
With respect to past performance, the solicitation instructed offerors to provide past performance information for five recent, relevant contracts, task orders or subcontracts. Each such reference was to include a completed questionnaire. The solicitation informed offerors that they were responsible for ensuring that their references completed the questionnaires. In addition to requiring questionnaires, the solicitation stated that DHS could contact references and obtain past performance information from other sources.
In evaluating proposals, DHS noted that Gnostech, Inc. had only submitted three past performance references, not the required five. However, all three references provided strong endorsements of Gnostech’s past performance. DHS also reviewed 18 entries for Gnostech under the Past Performance Information Retrieval System, or PPIRS. These references ranged from satisfactory to exceptional. After reviewing this information, Gnostech was assigned an “Excellent” past performance score.
DHS made award to eight contractors, including Gnostech. Burke Consortium, Inc. was not awarded a contract. Like Gnostech, Burke received an “Excellent” past performance score, and identical adjectival ratings under the corporate experience, program management, and staffing approach factors. However, Burke’s total evaluated price was considerably higher than Gnostech’s.
Burke filed a GAO bid protest, alleging in part that DHS had erred by assigning a high past performance score to Gnostech, despite Gnostech’s failure to supply five past performance references. Burke also complained that the agency had apparently assigned similarly high ratings to other awardees without receiving five past performance references from them, either.
The GAO noted that the evaluation of past performance “is a matter of agency discretion, which we will not find improper unless it is inconsistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria.” The GAO pointed out that the solicitation called for offerors to submit five past performance references, but also allowed the agency to examine other sources to obtain past performance information.
In this case, the GAO found, “the agency’s evaluation of past performance, including Gnostech’s, was based . . . not only on questionnaires received, but on PPIRS evaluations and offerors’ descriptions of their relevant contract, task order, or subcontract experience.” By insisting that the agency downgrade Gnostech and others for failing to provide five references, “Burke essentially seeks a mathematical or mechanical consideration of the number of weaknesses assigned against the offerors. However, our Office has repeatedly rejected such arguments.” The GAO denied Burke’s bid protest.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about the GAO’s decision in Burke Consortium. On the one hand, I see the GAO’s point that when an agency has compiled past performance information from a variety of sources, it should not be forced to downgrade an offeror for failing to provide sufficient information from a particular source. On the other hand, I am sympathetic to Burke’s position that an offeror should not receive a high past performance score when it has failed to comply with a solicitation requirement.
No matter which side you come down on, I should be clear on one point: nothing in Burke Consortium required DHS to minimize the impact of Gnostech’s missing references. Had the DHS downgraded Gnostech for failing to provide the required references, the GAO may well have found the agency’s actions to be acceptable and within its discretion. In other words, contractors should not assume that Burke Consortium gives them free license to ignore solicitation requirements for a particular number of past performance references.
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This was posted by our friends at Washington Technology:
“Love is not an evaluation criterion in federal procurement.”
By Bob Lohfeld Jan 30, 2013
I regularly get calls to review capture strategies for companies competing on “must win” procurements. I have done an equal number of these reviews for companies during the time when they were in their capture phase (before the final request for proposals is released), during their proposal development phase when everyone was working hard to write the winning proposal, and, regrettably, after the company had submitted its proposal and been told that they had lost their “must win” deal.
Often these procurements are for contract recompetes, where the company is the incumbent contractor performing the work. There is a common thread among all of these reviews—incumbent contractors all too often focus on the wrong strategies. I thought I would share some of these losing strategies with you in the hope that you don’t take your next “must win” recompete down the same losing path.
1. They love us
Every incumbent contractor, with the possible exception of those who have received multiple cure notices, believes the customer loves them. To reinforce their belief, they argue that they have been performing the work satisfactorily day in and day out for years and there have been no loud complaints from the customer about their performance. Silence in this case is mistaken for love.
The more they convince themselves that the customer loves them, the more complacent they become in how they perform the work, and the more resistant they become to changes in how they propose to do the work. All companies who fall victim to this belief will eventually discover that love is not an evaluation criterion in federal procurements. The sooner they set aside the belief that what they are doing today is good enough, the sooner they will get serious about creating better ways to do the work.
2. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD)
Another incumbent shortcoming is to believe they are the only contractor who can perform the work, and should the government change contractors, the successor contractor would be unable to recruit the incumbent staff needed to perform the contract. Incumbents echo this strategy throughout their proposals by repeatedly using the phrase, “As the incumbent contractor, we are the low risk provider of these services.” The incumbent tries to raise the specter of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) in the minds of the evaluators, hoping this will serve as justification for the government to keep them in place for the next five years.
You cannot imagine how annoying this statement can become to government evaluators. The government knows well that you are the incumbent, and they know transition can bring some risk. However, contracts are transitioned every day from one contractor to another, and the world goes on without missing a beat. Evaluators are told that being the incumbent contractor is not a justification for award and will ignore such statements. These statements just take up valuable proposal space that could be used to say something worthwhile. Annoying your evaluator is not a win strategy, and incumbents should delete or minimize these statements from their proposals.
3. Looking in the rear view mirror
I was once told that you should never let your project team write the proposal for its recompete. While I don’t completely agree with that statement, there is some truth in it. For example, I watched one project team respond to every question in the RFP by describing in detail what they had done for their customer over the past five years. It was a wonderful history lesson, but a history lesson is not a proposal. A proposal is about what you are going to do going forward, not what you did in the past. You don’t drive a car forward by looking in the rearview mirror, and you should not write your proposal by filling it with what you did in the past. Look forward, embrace the future, and stop clinging to the past.
4. Ignoring your competition
Every non-incumbent challenger uses the same two-pronged strategy to take work away from an incumbent.
First, they argue that the incumbent uses outdated processes, procedures, and tools to do the work and that their solution is antiquated and not current with today’s technology. The challenger offers to bring better processes, procedures, solutions, etc. when selected to perform the contract. Their proposal will be rich in features showing newer, better approaches than those the incumbent has been using, and they will argue that these bring additional value to the government.
Second, they will argue that the incumbent has let costs get out of control by allowing salaries to creep beyond current market rates and indirect costs to escalate. They will offer to perform the work for less cost and will justify these statements by proposing tighter indirect rates and bringing new, less-expensive people into the workforce to lower overall costs.
As the incumbent, you must counter these threats and create a strategy to prevent the challengers from taking the contract away. The best counter is for you also to bring innovative ideas to the workforce and to reduce your proposed costs. To do otherwise would be to give your competition the upper hand.
Understand the value of incumbency
Incumbency is a wonderful thing. It gives you the high ground from which you can see more clearly what your customer wants over the next term of your contract and, with that insight, you should be able to craft a winning offer that will deliver just what your customer wants.
Incumbency doesn’t make you the next winner—it’s what you do with that incumbency that makes the difference.
If you’ve seen other strategies that should be avoided in recompetes, please share them with us and we will publish them below.
Good stuff, eh?
Connect with us to learn more.
From our good friend Steven Koprince at SmallGovCon.com:
Posted on by Steven Koprince
In a troubling case, the VA recently refused to issue a small business set-aside because responses to a Request for Information indicated that prospective small business offerors lacked similar experience with the VA, and did not currently have available the personnel, equipment and facilities necessary to perform the contract.
The GAO, ignoring the recommendation of the SBA, affirmed the VA’s decision to forego a small business set-aside.
The GAO’s decision in American Medical Equipment Co., B-407113, B-407113.2 (Nov. 8, 2012) involved a VA procurement for home oxygen services in Veterans Integrated Service Network 16. Prior to issuing the solicitation, the Contracting Officer conducted market research to determine whether the solicitation should be set-aside for small businesses. The market research included, among other things, contacting four other VISNs (1, 11, 19 and 23) where similar services had been solicited on an unrestricted basis.
The VA also issued a Request for Information, seeking, in part, capabilities statements from prospective offerors. The VA received 14 responses to the RFI, seven of which were from small businesses. Two of the seven small businesses indicated that they were interested in serving only part of the VISN.
Despite interest from at least five small businesses willing to serve the entire VISN, the VA elected not to issue the solicitation as a small business set-aside. The VA based its decision on its conclusion that the small businesses in question did not demonstrate the capability to successfully provide the home oxygen services.
In reaching this conclusion, the VA determined that: (1) none of the small businesses had any contracts with the VA in the previous five years that were comparable in dollar value to the estimated value of the home oxygen services contract; (2) none of the small businesses that responded to the RFI indicated that they currently had the necessary personnel, supplies, equipment or facilities to service all of VISN 16, although some indicated that they would acquire them after award; and (3) three of the small businesses had Dun & Bradstreet scores indicating that they were potential credit risks.
After the VA issued the solicitation on an unrestricted basis, American Medical Equipment Company filed a GAO bid protest. AMEC argued that the VA’s decision not to set aside the contract was improper.
The GAO subsequently asked the SBA for its comments. The SBA agreed with AMEC, and informed the GAO that in the SBA’s view, the refusal to issue a set-aside was contrary to law.
Nevertheless, the GAO sided with the VA. The GAO wrote that “[i]n determining the availability of responsible small business concerns for set-aside purposes the contracting agency’s investigation goes not only to the existence of the businesses, but also to their capability to perform the contract. The fact that multiple small business responses are received in the course of market research is not necessarily determinative.”
Although five small businesses had expressed interest in serving all of VISN 16, the GAO concluded that the VA had not acted unreasonably by evaluating the prospective small business offerors as it did and concluding that they lacked the capabilities to successfully complete the contract. The GAO denied AMEC’s bid protest.
While I agree as a big-picture matter that an agency should not be forced to issue a small business set-aside when it is evident that no small businesses are capable of performing the contract, I am troubled by several aspects of how the VA got to its “not capable” decision in this case.
First, the VA based its conclusion in part on the fact that none of the small businesses had recently performed similar contracts with the VA. Using an absence of VA-specific experience as evidence of a lack of capability seems inconsistent with a recent GAO decision holding that a contractor wasimproperly downgraded for not possessing agency-specific experience.
Even if the small businesses lacked similar experience government-wide, refusing to issue a set-aside on this basis seems inconsistent with the policy established in FAR 15.305, which provides that a lack of past performance may not be used to evaluate an offeror unfavorably. And, the VA’s “lack of experience” determination ignores the fact that small businesses often team with more experienced teammates–but have not yet identified those teammates at the time they respond to a RFI.
Equally troubling is the VA’s finding that the small businesses currently lacked the personnel to perform the contract. No viable small business has an entire home oxygen team sitting around the home office, waiting for a new contract to arrive while enjoying eight hours of Facebook each day on their employer’s dime. Indeed, if the contract is a follow-on to an existing services contract, Executive Order 13,495 requires the new contractor to make offers to incumbent service employees, not staff the contract with existing personnel.
The same rationale applies to equipment and facilities. A small business is unlikely to spend its precious resources leasing warehouses and home oxygen equipment in a particular VISN in the mere hope that it will one day be able to use those facilities and equipment on a contract. Rather, it is common for such equipment to be obtained after award (or obtained from later-identified teammates).
Third, the small businesses apparently had no opportunity to contest the “high risk” Dun & Bradstreet ratings. And even if those high ratings justified the VA’s action, they applied to only three of the five small businesses, leaving two remaining under the “rule of two.”
Finally, although it is not clear what impact the VA’s contacts with the four other VISNs played in the GAO’s decision, in my opinion, those contacts were utterly irrelevant. Just because four other VISNs issued similar solicitations as unrestricted did not prove that two or more small businesses were incapable of fulfilling VISN 16′s requirements. Different businesses may bid on similar work, depending on the location of that work. Further, those four VISNs could also have relied on flawed market research themselves in foregoing set-asides. Two (or four) wrongs don’t make a right. And, wouldn’t a proper inter-VA market survey look at similar contracts in all VISNs, not just four that happened to issue them on an unrestricted basis?
In short, the American Medical Equipment Co. case suggests that an agency may forego a set-aside whenever it does not receive at least two responses to an RFI from small businesses that: (1) have recently performed similar contracts for the same agency; (2) currently possess the necessary personnel, equipment and facilities to perform the contract; and (3) have received positive D&B financial scores. Of course, in many–perhaps most–cases, agencies will not receive two such responses, opening the door to unrestricted procurements.
Let’s hope that American Medical Equipment Co. is an outlier, and not a sign of things to come.
For everyone looking for a resource on veteran jobs in South Carolina, we recommend this site:
From a Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB), thank you for your service!
Our friends over at Exact Target have compiled a really cool site… of Infographics. Worth 22-26 minutes of your time.
Want your company to join this list? FCD INC has the experience and methods to help.
Click here for more coverage of the Top 100, including a look at major trends and profiles of the top 20.
How we got our numbers, click here.
|1||Lockheed Martin Corp.||$17,438,128,000||1|
|2||Northrop Grumman Corp.||$9,143,329,000||2|
|6||General Dynamics Corp.||$5,461,177,000||5|
|8||Booz Allen Hamilton||$3,848,819,000||9|
|9||Computer Sciences Corp.||$3,569,443,000||11|
|12||L-3 Communications Corp.||$2,877,112,000||8|
|14||CACI International Inc.||$2,463,717,000||14|
|17||ManTech International Inc.||$1,923,039,000||22|
|18||Verizon Communications Inc.||$1,910,276,000||18|
|20||BAE Systems plc||$1,699,773,000||17|
|22||Jacobs Engineering Group||$1,471,091,000||20|
|23||United Technologies Corp.||$1,439,838,000||23|
|24||AECOM Technology Corp.||$1,314,594,000||29|
|26||Batelle Memorial Institute||$1,170,713,000||24|
|29||SRA International Inc.||$1,008,533,000||30|
|33||Serco Group plc||$840,064,000||28|
|34||Iron Bow Technologies||$743,403,000||34|
|35||Honeywell International Inc.||$725,326,000||26|
|37||Mission Essential Personnel LLC||$690,937,000||42|
|38||QinetiQ Group plc||$675,038,000||43|
|39||Rockwell Collins Inc.||$673,906,000||31|
|40||General Atomics International||$652,129,000||45|
|41||Alion Science and Technology Corp.||$647,343,000||51|
|42||DRS Technologies Inc.||$645,102,000||39|
|45||Chemonics International Inc.||$554,487,000||53|
|46||Alliant Techsystems Inc.||$500,024,000||47|
|48||U.S. Investigation Services Inc.||$476,778,000||62|
|50||World Wide Technology Inc.||$441,488,000||46|
|51||Arctic Slope Regional Corp.||$402,316,000||57|
|57||NANA Regional Corp.||$330,239,000||59|
|59||ICF International Inc.||$323,985,000||64|
|64||Development Alternatives Inc.||$296,887,000||52|
|65||Carahsoft Technology Corp.||$296,201,000||74|
|66||Scientific Research Corp.||$284,017,000||76|
|67||Abt Associates Inc.||$269,613,000||81|
|68||CH2M Hill Inc.||$254,798,000||89|
|69||NavMar Applied Sciences Corp.||$253,479,000||77|
|70||Dynamics Research Corp.||$248,455,000||93|
|75||Motorola Solutions Inc.||$215,648,000|
|77||D&S Consultants Inc.||$214,575,000||–|
|78||Jorge Scientific Corp.||$208,722,000||96|
|81||Concurrent Technologies Corp.||$207,858,000||83|
|82||Tetra Tech Inc.||$206,660,000||86|
|84||John Snow Inc.||$203,685,000||“–”|
|88||DLT Solutions Inc.||$199,044,000||91|
|92||Chickasaw Nation Industries Inc.||$195,391,000||98|
|94||Intelligent Software Solutions||$191,170,000||“–”|
|95||Louis Berger Group||$187,800,000||95|
|96||TeleCommunication Systems Inc.||$183,324,000||“–”|
|97||Macaulay Brown Inc.||$182,892,000||“–”|
|100||Sierra Nevada Corp.||$176,194,000||99|
From our friend Nick Wakeman:
Not already in health IT? It might be too late.
Michele Kang’s message was very clear during her presentation at the annual Raymond James Government Services & Technology Summit this week: If you aren’t in the health care market, it’s probably too late.
Kang, CEO of Cognosante LLC, founded her company in 2008, after serving as the vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman’s health solutions business. Cognosante has grown to $100 million in revenue and 310 employees. It was probably the smallest company to make a presentation at the summit.
Its focus is health care, and Kang said that she is expecting a flood of new opportunities.
Health care reform has survived the legal challenges, and “is here to stay,” she told the audience. Companies that waited to see if the reform law would survive the challenges are too late to the game.
Upcoming deadlines, particularly in the state and local market, will force a large number of solicitations to come out over the next six months, she said. The states have $2 billion to spend on health exchanges.
The public sector, particularly Medicaid, is leading the way, and there is a critical need for the transformation of processes ranging from how claims are adjudicated, to maintaining electronic health records, to building health exchanges.
A point that Kang returned to several times was that the time to position your company for these opportunities has past. You need to be there now.
“If you haven’t been investing and building the last two years, it’s too late,” Kang said.
Whether she is right about health IT or not (I believe she is), her message should resonate across multiple segments of the market, particularly in today’s environment.
The current budget situation makes it paramount for companies to be positioning themselves, now, for where the market will be in two years; in fact, smart CEOs strive to lead their companies this way, no matter what the budget environment.
In many ways, it sounds like Kang has done this. She founded Cognosante in 2008, just as health care reform was beginning to take shape. Since then, they’ve been winning business among state and federal agencies. She’s also been hiring executives who have experience at much larger companies such as Vangent, Argon ST, Affiliated Computer Systems, and Stanley Associates.
They’ve also completed an acquisition.
“We have the structure to grow into a several hundred million dollar a year company,” she said.
Lest you think Kang’s presentation was just an opportunity for her to brag about her company, she also listed several others she sees as well position to catch the flood of health IT opportunities in the next two years: Deloitte, CGI Group, Accenture, ACS, and Maximus.
“These are our competitors and our potential partners,” she said.
While several deadlines need be met by states, health organizations and providers over the next two years, Kang said that the market will remain robust beyond 2014. “There will not be a cliff,” she said.
Health care reform will likely add 60 million more recipients to Medicaid. The country’s demographics are also changing, and will put more demands on the health care systems. And, not insignificantly, budgets will remain a concern.
“Health care is under a lot of pressure to reduce costs, so that will keep a lot of momentum going,” she said.
For her company, a major opportunity will be in data analytics, reducing costs and stopping fraud, waste and abuse. Systems will be built that can ping the data in health exchanges and electronic health record systems to verify information before payments are made, instead of looking back at payments after they have been made, she said.
“We have to do things differently,” Kang said.
Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 09, 2013 at 9:06 AM
From our friends at Washington Technology:
New research from Deltek Inc. pegs federal government spending on big data at $7.2 billion by 2017.
Currently, big data spending stands at $5 billion. The market research firm defines big data spending as hardware, software and services that are used for advanced analytics programs, data visualization and data management.
“Driving this spending surge is a critical need to turn big data into knowledge so it can be applied for better decision making about countless public safety matters, including thwarting terrorism and developing cures for communicable diseases,” the company said in a statement about its new research report: Federal Big Data Outlook, FY 2012-2017.
Other drivers include:
- Expanding data sets that cannot be analyzed using traditional computing and analytical tools.
- Desire to use data to increase efficiency, reduce costs and meet agency missions.
- Increased affordability of analytics solutions.
- The shift toward cloud computing, which enables greater computing and analytical capabilities.
Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman
Today is Veterans Day when we affirm our obligation to honor and serve our nation’s veterans.
“Obligation” is a strong word, implying an unbreakable, even sacred covenant. It’s the right word to use when talking about what we owe to those who have served in our military. Upon entering the armed forces, these men and women swore their own obligation to support and defend this great country, no matter the personal cost.
So today on Veterans Day, we pause as a nation to recognize those sacrifices, and pledge to attend fully to those who have borne them.
This is a responsibility that our President has taken extremely seriously. Through a time of acute fiscal pressure, the President fought for and increased the budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by a full 40 percent over the last four years.
The results of this commitment are already visible and significant. Our veteran-care system faces large and continuing increases in demand due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. To meet the demands arising from the 800,000 new veterans who have enrolled in VA health care since 2009, we added new facilities nationwide, from community outpatient clinics to the first new VA hospital in 17 years – with three more hospitals under construction.
To contend with the crisis of suicide and post-traumatic stress among veterans, VA hired 3,500 new mental-health professionals since 2009. To ensure there is always a voice to help those in need, earlier this year, President Obama signed an executive order directing VA to increase its 24 hour crisis phone-line (1-800-273-8255) capacity by 50 percent before the year is out.
Another focus of this administration has been targeting veterans’ homelessness. Between January 2010 and January 2011, veteran homeless dropped 12 percent across the country. But despite these promising developments, we will not rest. Secretary Shinseki’s aim is not to reduce, but to eliminate veteran homelessness altogether by 2015.
We are proud of the progress we are making on these fronts, but we must do more, particularly when it comes to the processing of benefits. We processed 4 million claims – but received 4.7 million – during the last four years. We are committed to addressing this problem. We are fielding a new automated system to handle benefits more swiftly and accurately. We will deploy this technology fully by the end of 2013, with an aim toward ending the backlog in 2015.
It’s possible to compare such expenditures to the payment of a debt – namely, a moral obligation we all owe to those who have worn the nation’s uniform. But there’s another financial metaphor that can help explain our commitment to veterans’ programs, and that’s the metaphor of return on investment.
The same investment logic has informed many of this administration’s programs and policies. VA programs invest in veterans – reducing poverty, increasing productivity, improving health, and vastly expand future possibilities – helping our veterans become stronger.
The post-World War II GI Bill is estimated to have returned seven dollars for every dollar paid. Since its inception in August 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill has invested in 773,000 veterans, providing educational benefits to them and their families.
In addition, the array of new programs focusing on providing job opportunities for veterans – including the Joining Forces campaign, led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, help harness the talent, experience, and character of our veteran population. That community is an extraordinary national resource and, like the post-World War II generation of veterans, is a formidable engine of future economic growth.
Such investments in our veterans have tended to produce excellent returns. Today on Veterans Day, let’s not rest. Let us renew this sound strategy for our national well-being – a partial payment on our obligation to care for those who have given so much.
-The Department of Veteran Affairs