Take it from the desk of a former Contracting Officer—working with the federal government can be hard. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are reasons for this. When using taxpayer dollars to fund every decision, precautions remain necessary to ensure that these dollars are well utilized. However, the irony is, these processes often result in a less efficient and less cost-effective solution. Is the greatest barrier to competition the competitive process? And could sole-source authority be the solution?
To show what these processes may look like, I first want to introduce you to a concept that I saw fairly frequently as a Contracting Officer, namely “recompetes.”
At the end of a 5-year contract, all companies, including the incumbent with the completed contract, are given the opportunity to bid for the new contract.
For example, imagine that a military base is coming up on the end of its contract with the company that’s been managing the base’s IT services and telecommunications. The incumbent, or service provider for the past 5–10 years, is not guaranteed a renewed contract. They have to bid for the work along with everyone else.
This puts the incumbent at an unfair advantage. The solicitation released will provide a scope of work. However, this scope leaves out a lot of the actual requirements of the contractor. The incumbent has experience in the role. Therefore, it knows the full scope of work required and will likely price its bid with that in mind.
Problematically, this scope of work, and previous experience, is not the criteria on which the solicitation is judged. It is graded solely on the “statement of work.” Because of this, another company that meets the stated criteria will likely come in at a much lower price and win the bid, even if it is not the best contractor for the job. This often results in a contractor winning the contract that knows the scope of work is inadequate. The result? It’s typically multiple pricey modifications at a later date.
This all adds back into the cost “saved” prior to award. Consequentially, the best or most knowledgeable company is unlikely to actually win the job. In this environment, it is the best proposal that wins the work. Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily the companies that have the best technology or that best understand the requirements.
And this is a problem.
It’s a problem for taxpayer dollars.
It’s a problem for efficient processes.
And, particularly as it pertains to the Department of Defense, it’s a problem for national security.
Our solution around these processes is sole-source authority. This is possible to achieve through a variety of avenues, but perhaps the most familiar of these is the SBIR/STTR program.
Sole-source is an opportunity to bypass the traditional process in which a contractor games the proposal process and later pumps up the contract price. Sole-source allows open dialogue so that the government customer can get educated on their problem and the different technology solutions from multiple vendors, which in turn provides a much more thorough and effective process.
At Long Capture, sole-source authority is our first step when helping a client break into federal because it paves the way to endless opportunity.
We believe that not only is this an essential step for commercial companies looking to break into federal but it can also play a role in shifting federal processes, to help ensure that the nation’s best technologies are the solutions getting to the warfighter.