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LPTA or (and?) Bust

DISA released its final solicitation for its $17.5 billion, 10-year information technology services contract, ENCORE III exactly 1 week ago today. As a quick refresher, DISA had issued two iterations of a draft RFP in 2015 with a pre-solicitation conference held between the two draft releases.

Industry provided a ton of feedback at those times, mostly ranging from disappointed to outraged:

  • GovExec concluded, “Sadly, we can thus predict now a less than optimal outcome over the life of the contract. And for that, there is and will be no excuse.”

  • The Coalition for Government Procurement bluntly stated, “A contract requiring complex professional services does not lend itself to the current lowest price technically acceptable source selection”

  • The Professional Services Council (PSC) lamented, “We still do not understand how the requirements of this MAC can be deemed “well-defined” nor how the risk of unsuccessful performance can be deemed “minimal.” This contract is going to be used to acquire a diverse, evolving, mission-critical, technically sophisticated, and yet unknown set of capabilities over the next 10 years.”

Let’s see if DISA listened to the unanimous industry feedback and take a look at what the final solicitation contains:

In the evaluation criteria, the Basis for Contract Award is, “…lowest price technically acceptable.

But here’s what’s really interesting – the very first words in the Cost/Price proposal Instructions state:

The cost/price proposal should represent the most competitive labor rates the offeror can provide, as only a limited number of the lowest priced complete proposals… will be reviewed for compliance with the instructions in this solicitation.

So not only is this an LPTA bid selection criteria, but DISA is not even going to attempt to determine the technical acceptability of your proposal unless you are in the lowest-price range.

This is essentially a multiple-award version of the old Invitation For Bid (IFB) competitions where the government would open all of the proposals in public, sort through and find the lowest price, and read only that proposal to see if it was compliant.

Don’t believe it? Check out the remainder of the Basis for Award:

After receipt of proposals, the Government will first evaluate the lowest price proposal for acceptability. The Government will then evaluate the next lowest price proposal for acceptability in accordance with this solicitation and so on until it has a pool of acceptable offerors. Once the Government has identified an adequate number of lowest price proposals that are determined to be technically acceptable and otherwise eligible for award, no further evaluations will be conducted, and awards will be made.

And if you do make it into the pool of lowest cost bidders, as long as you have a compelling story to tell and meet the minimum qualifications to support DISA and this contract, you are on your way to success, right? Maybe.

DISA’s next test is a list of technicalities. Not technical information – technicalities. They will assess compliance in following instructions such as “proposal validity date, page limitations, font type and size…and other instructions listed.”

Only then will the technical and past performance teams be allowed to determine who is “technically acceptable”, and even at that point, the “winners” will include companies who in a true best value procurement would have no hope of winning. “Acceptable” here is right in the middle range of what most procurements would call “yellow” or “green” ratings.

Unfortunately, the final solicitation for this $17.5 billion procurement essential to the accomplishment of DISA’s mission as an agency has turned out to be exactly what industry was concerned about: a race to the bottom that will result in barely qualified companies winning contracts because they were pennies cheaper than those with excellent capabilities and stellar track records of performance.

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