Many commentators have noticed an abuse of lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) source selection. In fact, there is growing concern that a solicitation is called best value, the evaluaton criteria actually say there will be a cost/technical tradeoff analysis, but in practice, the source selection becomes LPTA. We'd like to set the record straight on the proper use of LPTA and call upon contracting officers to pay close attention to FAR Part 15 in writing evaluation criteria and in source selection practices.
Look carefully at FAR 15.101. There is a best value "continuum". The relative importance of cost or price may vary. May vary. Today's environment of budget austerity does not change the rule. If requirements are clearly definable and the risk of unsuccessful performance is minimal, cost or price may properly become the predominant source selection discriminator (LPTA okay). Conversely, the less definitive the requirement, the more development work is required or the greater the performance risk, the more technical excellence or past performance should come into play (LPTA not an option).
Then look very carefully at the language in FAR 15.101-2(a) dealing with LPTA. LPTA should only be used when best value is expected to result from choosing the lowest priced technically acceptable proposal. So harken back to the best value continuum. Is the risk of successful performance minimal? Will you get "best value" by ignoring the tradeoff process? If not, LPTA is proscribed. We'll wager that careful and close attention to this language in FAR 15.101 will result is fewer LPTA procurements. Again, budget contraints have not amended FAR. We believe that rules are necessary in public acquistion actions. The rules are there for a purpose and they should not be ignored.
Finally, and equally importantly, read FAR 15.304 and 305 carefully. The evaluation criteria must be clearly stated. Clearly. Too often we have seen evaluation criteria which are patently unclear. Even more importantly, they are to be rigorously adhered to in the source selection process. No deviations. That means, source selection officials are not permitted - not permitted - to change best value tradeoff criteria to LPTA (without a redo). In a recent example, LPTA was used, in our opinion, to include risky companies in what turned into a bidding war.
Contractors aggrieved by the government's failure to follow the regulation are not without remedy. The rules are meant to be enforced. Austerity does not waive procurement regulations. Cutting corners to achieve cost savings is not permitted. Unless or until Congress changes the system of rules and regulations, everyone - no exceptions - must follow them.