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Exploring OASIS: OASIS Source Selection Strategy - April 2, 2013

Hello Industry Community!

The OASIS Draft RFPs have been released for feedback and as part of our promised series regarding the development of those documents, we present below the background and rationale behind the OASIS Source Selection Strategy.

There is a lot of contracting theory and discussion in this blog, so please bear with us; we are trying to make this as straightforward and understandable as possible.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provides great flexibility in achieving best value.  According to the FAR, “Best Value” means an expected outcome that provides the greatest overall benefit in response to a requirement where price and technical considerations may vary.  The FAR also provides that an agency can obtain best value in negotiated acquisitions by using any one or a combination of source selection approaches. Generally speaking, source selection techniques are to be tailored to the situation at hand for any given procurement.  Finally, the FAR expresses that the less definitive the requirement, the more technical or past performance considerations may play a dominant role in source selection.

GSA has a lot of experience and lessons learned in establishing Government-wide IDIQ contracts.  Specifically, many members of the OASIS team have direct or indirect experience with GSA’s GWAC contracts like Alliant, Alliant SB, and Millennia Lite. Historically, the evaluation strategy for these types of contracts has included a tradeoff evaluation process. A “tradeoffprocess is when “best value” may mean selection of other than the lowest priced offeror or other than the highest technically rated offeror.

Essentially, this process allows you to pay more to get more. While this approach is wonderfully suited to single award situations where there is a firm requirement and actual dollars being spent, lessons learned have taught us that this approach is particularly challenging for broad scale, multiple award IDIQ contracts because while there is an expressed scope of work for the contract, there is no firm requirement present and no actual dollars are being spent.  For broad-scale IDIQ contracts, tradeoffs can be hard to quantify, hard to justify, and hard to defend when challenged.

Accordingly, the OASIS contracting team has decided upon a different approach for the OASIS contracts. For OASIS and OASIS SB, we will be using a source selection strategy that identifies the highest technically rated offerors with fair and reasonable pricing.  This approach fits our requirement and provides numerous benefits that will serve GSA, our clients, and the Industry community as a whole.  We have maintained from the beginning, and had this reinforced repeatedly from industry and clients alike, that the real world experience, past performance, and resources of a company are far more important than promises of what a company will do in the future.  We have structured the OASIS source selection methodology based upon that premise.  We aren’t concerning ourselves with proposal writing skills and eloquently written promises of future performance.

Our goal is to predict future successful performance on requirements of the type described by the scope of OASIS.  The best way to do that, based on our experience, is to focus on successful past performance on relevant projects, as well as the systems and capabilities an offeror possesses.  Our strategy revolves around conducting our evaluation as objectively as possible, thereby ensuring fair treatment to all offerors and providing ourselves with decisions based on objective criteria as part of an evaluation system that examines what an offeror has actually done, what an offeror actually has, and how well an offeror has actually performed.

We have structured the point system such that Past Performance is the most heavily weighted factor, followed by Relevant Experience, followed finally by Systems, Certifications, and Resources.  We feel this weighting system allows companies of all sizes to be competitive for award and emphasizes the things that are important to us and our clients.  This is especially true given the number of awards we have stated that we are making.

One benefit of the Highest Technically Rated approach is the ability to control the number of awards.  In a trade-off scenario, you can’t predetermine a number of awards because you don’t know in advance where the logical tradeoff points might be.  Using a Highest Technically Rated approach, however, you can predetermine a set number of awards.  As the draft RFPs state, we intend to award to the top 40 offerors within each pool.  Why 40?  Again, we reach back to our lessons learned from GWACs.  We have seen many contracts and functional areas within contracts have 20 or fewer awardees and then seen competition levels fall below 2 proposals received per solicitation, which is not healthy competition.  Ideally, we want the average number of proposals received per solicitation to be 3-5.  This represents healthy competition without overly burdening the acquisition process.  Based on historical data and given that OASIS contains contractual requirements to win task orders in order to stay on the contract, we feel that 40 contractors will be sufficient for healthy competition levels.  We will continuously monitor this, however, as competition is at the core of the design of OASIS.  If the number of proposals per task order begins to dip below the 3-5 range, we can exercise an “on-ramp” to add additional industry partners, as necessary, to ensure competition levels remain healthy.

This brings us to the next benefit of the Highest Technically Rated approach:  the ease  of on-ramping new contractors.  On-ramps pose a true challenge when a tradeoff approach is used because in order to re-open the solicitation, the Contracting Officer must ensure that the evaluation, tradeoffs, and source selection remain the same as the initial award.  With a Highest Technically Rated approach based upon objective criteria, this becomes relatively easy to do.  What this means to the Industry community is that even if a company fails to win an initial OASIS or OASIS SB award, they know exactly what they need to obtain in terms of experience, past performance, and systems, certifications, and resources in order to get on the appropriate contract at a future date.  Acquisitions, mergers, and any number of other reasons can affect the number of contractors on a given IDIQ contract at a point in time, so we fully anticipate conducting on-ramps throughout the life of OASIS and OASIS SB.

Please excuse the pun, but many of the innovative aspects of OASIS and OASIS SB are “integrated”.  The source selection strategy is a key part of this and we feel that this strategy will allow us to find highly qualified contractors experienced in handling complex requirements successfully.  Combined with the flexibilities provided at the task order level, the common language of labor categories/Standard Occupational Classification system, pricing philosophy, reporting requirements, pools, on-ramping, dormant status, and off-ramping, we feel the transparent and holistic approach we are taking make OASIS and OASIS SB attractive, win-win contracts for both government and industry alike for many years to come.

In summary, the OASIS team feels that this source selection approach is an innovative approach in response to the typical challenges of awarding broad scale, multiple award IDIQ contracts.  We also feel that this approach eliminates the “mystery” commonly associated with the federal procurement process.  

Typically, offerors provide proposals only armed with general knowledge of how those proposals will be evaluated and handled.  We hear the terminology “black box” used by vendors in describing the process.  With OASIS, the process will be 100% transparent, which we feel will be embraced by Industry and reduce the risk of protest usually associated with subjective evaluation and tradeoff.   

As always, the OASIS team welcomes your questions and feedback regarding this approach and sincerely hopes that we have shed some light on the subject and provided greater understanding.    

Jim

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Comments

kjones
<p>The draft RFP allows Joint Ventures to propose only if they&nbsp;already exist and were not delveloped for the sole purpose of bidding on OASIS.&nbsp;We understand&nbsp;there are also other criteria&nbsp;for being eligible. However, FAR rules restrict a JV from submitting more than three proposals over a 2-year period, starting with the date of the first proposal submission. Our JV, comprised of eight small businesses,&nbsp;is only working one contract,&nbsp;submitted its first proposal approximately three years ago and is currently working over ten task orders for the federal government. Do you see any&nbsp;avenue&nbsp;that would allow our JV to bid OASIS either in its current construct or need to be reconstituted to be eligible for OASIS? Most of the JV members have specifc core competencies that would limit their individual&nbsp;ability to secure an OASIS award due to past performance criteria.&nbsp;Collectively however, the JV&nbsp;can exceed all eligibility requirements.&nbsp;What can you do to help or guide our JV to be eligilbe to compete for an OASIS award?&nbsp;Thanks for your consideration.</p>
OASIS Blogger
<p><b id="internal-source-marker_0.06801734608598053" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium; line-height: normal; font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Arial; background-color: transparent; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Hello and thank you for the question. &nbsp;We are only looking for companies with actual experience and past performance in handling complex requirements as a prime contractor. &nbsp;&nbsp;Jim</span></b></p>
pwestlein
<p>Jim:</p><p>Is registration required for this and is there a limit, e.g., one attedee per company?</p><p>Thank you.</p><p>Pat Westlein</p>
OASIS Blogger
<p dir="ltr" id="internal-source-marker_0.6468311936381945" style="margin-top: 0pt;margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size:13px;font-family:Arial;color:#000000;background-color:transparent;font-weight:normal;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;text-decoration:none;vertical-align:baseline;">Hi Pat and thanks for the question. &nbsp;GSA is not sponsoring a Teaming Seminar. &nbsp;I will be speaking to a variety of forums over the next couple of months and I believe you may be referring to one of these. &nbsp;For these events, you will need to contact the event sponsor for registration details. &nbsp;Jim</span></p>
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