Interior nixes contract, asks for industry input

Federal officials may be reaching out to industry more often to get the best from companies even as agency budgets tighten.

Interior Department officials canceled a proposed contract Dec. 1 for systems operations and administration for the department’s National Business Center.

The project is still a high priority for a new solicitation in fiscal 2012, although agency officials haven’t decided on a specific date for the release of the new solicitation, according to a Federal Business Opportunities notice.

The contract was planned to be set aside for 8(a) small businesses as a performance-based indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract and an initial task order.

Officials found that their strategy wasn’t clear, based on feedback from companies. They intend to make it more understandable while improving efficiency and exploring cost-cutting initiatives, the notice states.

To do that, the department issued a request for information (RFI) to gather input from industry concerning preferred incentives for a contract for administrative services. Officials are asking industry to suggest incentives and disincentives that can drive successful performance from contractors, as well as increase efficiency and improved costs. They want to know if monetary or nonmonetary incentives would do the trick or if certain award terms could be a motivator.

Officials want to know of any complications and conditions that may come if Interior offered the incentive. They also want to know what type of contract would work best with the incentive, considering the nature and risk associated with the requirement for the SOA.

While Interior releases its RFI, the General Services Administration started a conversation to tap industry insights.

The Office of Management and Budget has ordered agencies to cut their management support services spending by 15 percent in fiscal 2012, and GSA officials wonder what incentives will keep a company’s standards high and providing good services despite possibly less money.

“Given that GSA is anticipating moving into the cost-reimbursable realm with this potential acquisition, is the opportunity enough to keep your firm motivated to meet very high standards of quality? If not, what nonmonetary incentives might GSA consider when structuring the solicitation?” Lisa Maguire, a GSA Integrations blogger, wrote Nov. 28 on GSA’s Interact web site.

Cost-reimbursement contracts place the most risk on the government and provide incentives to companies for good performance. However, the Obama administration prefers contracts with a price agreed to at the beginning.

Procurement officials have encouraged these conversations with industry to tap their knowledge. Regulations also give contracting officers cover for reaching out despite facing issues, such as bid protests by losing bidders.

At a panel discussion Dec. 1 with the Congressional Smart Contracting Caucus, Lesley Field, the soon to be acting administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said agencies should not “chill the dialogue” with industry, which has a lot of useful information to help agencies.