Contracting by Negotiation: Communicating with Government Contracting Officials

Synopsis
With the cost of doing business with the Government rising amid today’s uncertain political climate, communicating with contracting officials is a good way to stay apprised of current opportunities while determining areas of improvement (particularly concerning contract proposals subject to negotiation). Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 15, Contracting by Negotiation encourages this communication.

Issue
Many contractors are not aware of the different ways they can communicate with contracting officials or how these communications can benefit them. Contracting officials can help potential offerors understand how to satisfy the Government’s requirements, how to provide feedback to the Government, and how to determine different aspects of a proposal that contributed to their ability or failure to win a contract.

Before Submission of Proposals
FAR 15.201, Exchanges with Industry before Receipt of Proposals explains exchanges of information among all interested parties. These exchanges can start when a requirement is first identified and continue through to the time proposals are received. Of the exchanges covered by FAR Part 15, those that are initiated prior to receipt of proposals provide the most benefit to the Government. They also allow contracting officials to obtain pertinent information from industry that could affect the solicitation. For the potential offerors, they provide a way to understand the requirements and may ultimately impact the decision to submit a proposal.

Examples of the exchanges discussed above include:

  • Conferences (e.g. small business conferences; an industry day for a particular agency or
    military branch, pre-proposal conferences, etc.)
  • Public hearings
  • Market research
  • One-on-one meetings with potential offerors (if any information necessary to prepare
    proposals is disclosed to one or more potential offerors, it must be made publicly
    available)
  • Draft Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and Requests for Information (RFIs).

After Submission of Proposals
FAR 15.306, Exchanges with Offerors after Receipt of Proposals, details the exchanges that can take place after the submission of, and during of the evaluation process for, proposals. These exchanges include:

  • Clarifications (increasing the Government’s understanding of the proposals)
  • Establishing the competitive range (based on evaluation criteria, allows the Government to narrow its list to the highest rated proposals)
  • For offerors not eliminated from competitive range, an opportunity to respond to deficiencies or adverse past performance
  • Negotiations

If offerors are excluded or eliminated from the competitive range, they may request a preaward debriefing (FAR 15.505, Pre-award Debriefing of Offerors). The request must be made within three days following notification of exclusion. In this request, however, the offeror may also ask that this debriefing be delayed until after award, essentially making it a post-award debriefing. Offerors that remain in the competition may request a post-award debriefing within three days after notification of contract award (FAR 15.506, Post-award Debriefing of Offerors).

At pre-award/post-award debriefings, offerors can obtain information about:

  • The weaknesses/deficiencies in their proposal
  • Cost or price and technical rating (if used) of the winner and how they fared in comparison
  • Overall ranking of offerors (if used)
  • The rationale for award
  • Source selection procedures (in Q&A format)

CohnReznick always requests a post-award debriefing even if we are awarded the contract because the information we learn is vital to our continuous improvement and to our ability to satisfy the customer in the future.

How You Can Use This Information
Having access to pre-proposal information and being able to provide/receive feedback to/from the Government are two of the valuable aspects of the proposal process. Offerors should participate in these exchanges to help them maximize their procurement potential and leverage competitive advantages.

What Does CohnReznick Think?
CohnReznick professionals can provide Government contractors with insight that can support their proposal initiatives and identify solutions to various challenges they may face. Toward that end, we have several resources available:

  • CohnReznick GovCon360: Keeps you up-to-date on the everchanging regulatory environment that is government contracting. From reference materials to educational presentations and thought leadership pieces on industry matters, GovCon360 is a valuable resource for the Government contracting professional.
  • CohnReznick Insights: Provides CohnReznick’s latest insights on business trends, regulatory developments, and economic issues. You can subscribe to receive Insights e-newsletters by email.
  • CohnReznick Website: In addition to Insights, our website provides extensive information about all aspects of Accounting and Assurance, Tax, and Advisory services.

Contact
For more information, please contact Adam Breen, Senior Associate (adam.breen@cohnreznick.com or 703.744.8588) or Kristen Soles, Partner (kristen.soles@cohnreznick.com or 703.847.4411).

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