Vendor feedback sought for model draft guidelines

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is developing examples of provisions that agencies might include in statements of work for new performance-based service contracts and is seeking comments from vendors on two draft proposals concerning software development and information systems maintenance.

The drafts are not intended to result in formal rules that agencies must follow but rather are models or suggestions for ways to specify the performance expected from vendors. The examples are part of a long-term effort to get agencies to concern themselves less with precisely how a job is done than with what their contractors deliver.

OFPP administrator Steven Kelman said that while agencies have long used performance-oriented work statements to buy low- or no-tech services such as security guards or laundry work "there's a big challenge trying to move performance-based contracting up the technological food chain."

Stan Soloway a spokesman for the Contract Services Association said that while he had not seen the draft guides he agreed agencies need help letting these new-style contracts.

"They're used to telling you exactly what they want and how they want it done " he said.

"Anytime you can give people ideas on how to make [new practices] happen it's helpful for them."The draft guides have apparently generated broad interest among vendors already. OFPP reported 50 phone calls about the documents within a day after a notice about them was published in the Commerce Business Daily Aug. 22.

The procurement policy office convened teams of agency program officers and contracting officials from across the government to compile their suggestions for what to include in performance-based work statements said Linda Mesaros OFPP's deputy associate administrator.

Over the next month OFPP plans to collect comments from vendors about these ideas and incorporate them into some type of final document that would be available to any agencies that need it. The level of detail in the guides will vary.

"The degree to which a model statement of work will get you 40 percent of the way or 60 percent of the way or 80 percent of the way depends on the service" agencies are buying Kelman said and the more specialized the service the more general the sample work statements are likely to be.

For example in the software development area instead of a model work statement the interagency team drafted a planning guide that describes the type of information agencies might incorporate into their solicitations rather than suggesting specific language.

But the systems maintenance team offered a sample work statement including suggested technical definitions and performance requirements.

The drafts do have some features in common nonetheless. Both advise agencies to include standards by which they plan to judge contractors' performance in the solicitations as well as incentives to encourage vendors to meet these standards.

In addition the drafts suggest agencies include "quality assurance" plans in their work statements that describe how they plan to monitor vendors' performance.

Amendments to the Federal Acquisition Regulation proposed last month would require agencies to use performance-based contracting methods for service contracts "to the maximum extent practicable."

So far three agencies - NASA the Transportation Department and the National Institutes of Health - have said they plan to use these techniques on existing contracts.

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