Posted on 11/17/2011 2:19 PM

In February of this year, Dan Gordon, Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy issued a memorandum entitled “Myth-Busting: Addressing Misconceptions to Improve Communication with Industry during the Acquisition Process”.   Dan’s memorandum passed the word to chief acquisition officers, senior procurement executives and chief information officers that early, frequent and constructive engagement with industry is important and authorized under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) (citing as one example FAR 10.002(b)(2) which authorizes a wide range of market research techniques). 

Our sources say the chiefs and senior executives got the message and passed the word down. They also tell us few contracting officers, if any, paid heed. It’s business as usual. Don’t talk to the contractors.
Dan is the best Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy we’ve ever had and I have seen them all from the creation of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP). Dan is leaving OFPP at the end of the year. However, he has left his mark and the next Administrator will not back down from Dan’s myth-busting crusade. (If you’ve heard one of his many speeches you know “crusade” is a pretty accurate description.)
Let’s all help. Spread the word.   Here are some of the “misconceptions and facts about vendor communications”:
1.       Misconception – “We can’t meet one-on-one with a potential offeror.” Fact – Government officials can generally meet on-on-one with potential offerors as long as no vendor receives preferential treatment.
2.       Misconception – “A protest is something to be avoided at all costs – even if it means the government limits conversations with industry.” Fact – Restricting communication won’t prevent a protest and limiting communication might actually increase the chance of a protest – in addition to depriving the government of potentially useful information.
3.       Misconception – “Getting broad participation by many different vendors is too difficult; we’re better off dealing with the established companies we know.” Fact – The government loses when we limit ourselves to the companies we already work with. Instead, we need to look for opportunities to increase competition and ensure that all vendors, including small businesses, get fair consideration.
These are only 3 of 10 myths busted. What can we do? Remind contracting officers of what I will call “Dan’s Rules” and also of the implied obligation in every contract awarded to communicate with the contractor (see our blogs on the implied contractual obligations of the government).


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#1 - Posted on Thursday, November 17, 2011 9:26:40 PM by Laura Meeks

Wholeheartedly agree. People and sales are complicated. Many times the government thinks they know what they need and go to market to purchase it. Sadly if they engaged in meeting the vendors they might have found they could solve their challenges in an unforseen way at lower cost. My perception is government workers are rewarded for "safe choices" and "do no wrong". In the process they miss numerous chances to save money and get better services or products. I have personnally been shopping for things I thought would solve a problem only to find the salesman offering a better solution. For all the bad rap sales people get, the good ones can really help. But you have to sit down and talk!

#2 - Posted on Friday, November 18, 2011 7:21:01 PM by Dave Grover

Good points Bill. From my pespective, one of the biggest deterrents to contracting office change is the spector of "you are responsible" if something goes wrong. Putting this on a breed that is by nature very risk averse creates an environment that is going to be very slow to change. Is there a way to establish an environment where it is okay to experiment?

#3 - Posted on Friday, November 18, 2011 9:40:07 PM by Bill Spriggs

Dave, Dan Gordon was headed the direction you suggest. I hope his successor takes this the next step. The real problem is getting the change, experiment message to the field. The top people sign on but the message never makes it to the working level (or it is ignored). You've asked the right question but I can't offer an easy answer.

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