Put Evaluators' Feet to the Fire<@VM>State of the Art

The Infotech and The Law column in the July 5 issue ["Past Performance: Protecting the Corporate Reputation"] was interesting, but I don't think it tells the full story. I think the reason some contractors stumble is due, in large part, to inadequacies on the government side of the equation.

Let's face it, the federal contractor community is forced to deal with a variety of problems involving indifference, incompetence and egomania within its customer community when trying to respond to a statement of work. This, of course, varies from agency to agency, contract to contract.

However, in all of the reading I've done on the subject, this aspect has not been addressed. Most of what I read are articles that paint a rosy picture of the benefits of using past performance as a key measurement for future performance.

During my career, I have had to interface with countless civil servants who would not last a week in a job outside the government. Yet these are the same people who are reporting on contractor performance. Further, in the heat of battle trying to get a proposal submitted and evaluated, there is not time to reclaim a bad mark or two from a government person with a bone to pick.

In the real world, the government contracting process is built on a basic premise of mistrust and, for the most part, contractors are guilty until proven innocent.

We hear all the time about the push for developing partnerships on contracts but, believe me, when things start going south, the partnership usually dissolves quickly and the us vs. them syndrome takes over.

What, then, do you think will happen when it's time for a past performance evaluation? Who really caused the screw-up? Have you ever heard a government agency say they blew it and that the contractor was not at fault?

I think it's long past time that we pull our heads out of the sand and hold government evaluators' feet to the fire. Make them provide documented evidence of negative performance on a contract ... in time to be addressed by the bidder. I have evaluated proposals, and when you've got a four-foot stack of paper to review, you naturally look for what we used to call 4.0 busters: reasons to put a proposal in the pile that won't be looked at again.

The key to using past performance evaluations as a measure of success is that they are only one part of an intricate customer-client dance that is heavily dependent on personalities and competence.

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