In a recent post, I discussed new legislation that could signal an uptick in Best Value procurements for complex service-based contracts. In the view of many (including me), more Best Value RFPs is a win/win for both contractors and the government.
As a quick refresher, Best Value procurements utilize a Best Value Tradeoff Analysis, which gives the agency the ability to weigh proposal costs and benefits and award the contract to the offeror that will provide the “best value” to government – even if that comes at a higher price than another acceptable offer. By contrast, Lowest-Price Technically-Acceptable (LPTA) awards can be challenging on complex service-based contracts, where skilled performance is often not suited to a lean or even shoestring budget.
Contractors bidding on Best Value procurements need to think strategically and be mindful of both price and technical excellence. Having the lower price or exceeding the RFP requirements – independently or even in tandem – may not be enough. A recent GAO decision highlights how mastering the interplay of these two factor is the key to sustained Best Value success.
The protest concerns the Department of the Interior’s decision to award an FSS task order to a higher-priced offeror on a Best Value basis. GAO denied the protest, finding that the agency reasonably documented the relative strengths of the proposals and weighed them against the quoted prices.
Digging deeper into the protest, the protester argued that the agency did not reasonably take into account the qualifications and experience of its proposed personnel – noting that its proposal exceeded the RFP requirements in a variety of ways. In response, the agency noted that it did, in fact, give the protester credit for its solid experience, including assigning a “high confidence” rating to its past performance proposal.
However, for a Best Value award – meeting or (in this case) even vastly exceeding the RFP requirements in one area is often not enough. The agency performed a detailed review of the offerors’ strengths and compared them in the context of their respective prices. Based on this proper tradeoff analysis (according to GAO), the agency found the higher priced offer provided better value to the government and made the award.
GAO’s decision offers an important lesson to government contractors competing Best Value procurements – don’t get complacent! Unlike LPTA procurements (where the RFP sets the bar), RFP requirements should not be viewed as anything other than the baseline. Contractors should parse those requirements for areas where it can add value and then highlight all of those betterments in its proposal.