Mythbusting: OFPP tackles industry's contracting misconceptions

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy released its second myth-busting memo May 7, this time giving industry advice on improving their proposals for government.

The memo tackles eight misconceptions and then debunks them. OFPP emphasizes to contractors that attending industry days is key, as agency officials struggle with scarce resources.

“Whereas we focused last year on the misconceptions on the part of federal agencies, we want to continue the discussion by addressing in this memorandum the misconceptions that may be held by some in the vendor community,” Lesley Field, acting administrator of OFPP, wrote in the new memo.

An underlying theme in the memo is “early, frequent, and constructive engagement with industry leads to better acquisition outcomes,” as Field wrote.

The memo recommends that contractors:

  • Not add contracting officers to mass email lists, because they get so many messages already.
  • Bring technical experts to one-on-one briefings with officials, not just marketing people.
  • Give input early on and be specific about what in a proposed acquisition works and won't work and how officials can improve it.
  • Don’t “cut and paste” language from previous bids, because officials actually read proposals.
  • Ask for debrief meetings with officials after losing a competition to learn how to prepare for next time.

Furthermore, OFPP tells companies in the memo that federal officials are obligated to protect proprietary information and not share it with other competing companies. Contracting officers also are generally not limited on how much information they can share regarding existing contracts between agencies.

“In fact, agencies are encouraged to share pricing information to ensure that we are getting the best value for our taxpayers,” according to the memo.

The first Myth-Busters memo, released in February 2011, tackled misconceptions that federal officials have regarding procurement and what they are allowed to do. As a result, agencies have made progress in improving outreach, Field wrote.

For instance, officials have written up vendor communication plans, and the Chief Acquisition Officers Council worked with the Integrated Acquisition Environment team at the General Services Administration to develop a new vendor collaboration feature on Federal Business Opportunities website. It lists scheduled collaboration events, such as industry days.

Field pointed out the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s quarterly business seminars and individual meetings with vendors about technology and future requirements as successes from the first memo. The Education Department had 55 vendors participate in a webinar on a new program, another success.

“To facilitate their early communication with vendors, agencies have multiple tools at their disposal, ranging from wikis and blogs to webinars and meetings,” Field wrote in the memo.

About the Author

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

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