OPM backpedals on $5B training contract

The Office of Personnel Management canceled its five-year, $5 billion human resource contract because of changes in governmentwide and OPM policies since the initial solicitation was released in 2012, according to a statement from the agency.

OPM officials believe it was necessary redefine the solicitation’s requirements to align with the evolution of policies, like strategic sourcing and the current budget climate across the government. It also needs requirements to better support the mission of OPM’s customer agencies.

“The award of the solicitation would not satisfy the current and potential future requirements of the government. Additionally, the magnitude and scope of these changes are such that they could not be met through a modification of the solicitation,” the agency said in a statement to Washington Technology.

Nevertheless, agency officials anticipate the release of a new solicitation “in the new future.” It will be a more flexible and efficient contract that incorporates strategic sourcing principles and tenets of the Federal Human Capital Framework. It also will include a robust small business-friendly component, the agency said.

OPM’s abrupt cancellation of the HR services contract left bidders, which had invested a lot resources in hopes of winning the contract, wondering why.

OPM gave notice Feb. 7 of the cancellation to the Customized Human Resources Solutions Services indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity contract, the follow-on to OPM’s Training and Management Assistance (TMA) contract. TMA is the largest training contract in the federal government.

However, in the notice on Federal Business Opportunities website, officials gave no explanation, except that the solicitation was canceled. Because of so many companies’ investment of time and resources in developing their bids, they pushed OPM to provide clear reasons for its decision.

The Professional Services Council wrote a letter Feb. 18 to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, asking for an explanation.

“These companies expended substantial and precious resources in order to propose the best possible solutions for the government, and have been waiting more than a year since proposals were submitted for a final award decision from OPM,” Stan Soloway, PSC’s president and CEO, said Feb. 19 in a statement. “OPM has provided little explanation to companies about why their combined investment of tens of millions of dollars is now being thrown away.”

Soloway acknowledged that the government’s needs change and those changes may affect a procurement before the government makes its final award. But companies need more explanation than OPM offered for such a major contract.

“That does not obviate the reasonable expectation of the bidders and the agency users that, in the face of such an impactful decision, more transparency and insight would be provided,” he wrote in the letter sent Feb. 18.

OPM has used contractors for these solutions for more than 25 years. Such contracts provide departments and agencies with training, learning and human resources solutions. They also leverage the knowledge and expertise of the government’s premier training, learning and human resources organization. The solicitation for a follow-on contract was opened in 2012.

These situations will occur for solicitations that last for a year or more, as government incorporates new laws and regulations, as well as administration’s initiatives, said Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners.

“I think this type of thing had to be expected,” he said about the cancellation.

Still, plenty of companies had already invested time and money into pursuing this opportunity, but so goes business in the federal marketplace.

“In most circumstances, there really is no remedy for a contractor,” he said, adding “It is money and an opportunity gone away.”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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