APMP Consultants Unite: We’re Taking This Fight To Capitol Hill

There are times when an agency in the US Government puts out RFP language that is so perplexing that it begs a reaction.  shutterstock_59994709That happened recently when the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released (RFP) No. VA118-15-R-0558 on November 19, 2014 for information technology (IT) services.

In its own language, the VA states, “Notably, the RFP expressly prohibits offerors from using consultants to assist them in preparing their sample task responses.  Id. at 119.  In this regard, the RFP requires an offeror to certify, using a form provided with the RFP, that its sample task responses were prepared only by the offeror and its subcontractors, provided that any such subcontractor has entered into a contractor team arrangement (CTA) with the offeror and is identified in the offeror’s management proposal.  Id.  The RFP provides that the agency will not consider proposals which do not include the certification or which provide a falsified certification.”

To make a long story short, proposal consultants are not welcome on this RFP and APMP strongly disagrees with this language and its intent.  To compound this problem, the GAO denied a protest filed by Advanced Communication Cabling, Inc. (ACC) in Michigan.  ACC challenged the VA “no contractor” stipulation and cited it as unfair to a small-to-medium-sized company. They said that it inhibited their ability to compete.

APMP PIC is prepared to tackle this issue head-on for the following reasons:

  • This does not promote collaboration between Industry and Government.  It also does not promote a better proposal submission – two hallmarks of APMP PIC’s mission.
  • Even as member companies are hustling to find “work-arounds,” this directly impacts about 11 percent of APMP’s members who make their living as proposal consultants.
  • This action openly discriminates against small-to-medium companies who routinely hire consultants to do proposals. It demonstrates (whether intentionally or not) that Government should only do business with large companies, because large companies can afford full service proposal teams.  A significant number of APMP members are small-to-medium sized companies.
  • This action will impact Veteran owned consulting businesses, and we are sure the VA had no intention of turning their backs on them.

APMP plans to take this issue on aggressively.  We are starting to schedule meetings with Congressional staff on the Hill.  We are going to ask a lot of questions and specifically inquire how this decision could impact their future RFPs. We are going to let them know how much this hurts our members.  We will also suggest positive alternatives that don’t prohibit one side of the industry from doing business. This ruling is important to our industry and to every consultant working a proposal today and in the future.  We know there is a reason for this VA language, but as an industry, we don’t have to like it.

We will keep you posted on this important battle-ground-procurement-issue and urge all consultants to let us know what they think below.  Please share with us your comments and concerns so we can take them straight to Capitol Hill.

6 thoughts on “APMP Consultants Unite: We’re Taking This Fight To Capitol Hill

  1. What a ridiculous ruling. It’s like banning businesses from using consultants to help them set up their websites, or provide IT support. This certainly would appear to (unintentionally I’m sure) discriminate against SMEs that can’t afford in-house proposal teams, as they’re being denied access to the same capabilities that major corporations have.

    The VA seems to think that using a consultant is somehow cheating or gaining an unfair advantage, whereas in fact it would assist both the tenderers and the VA in determining who can provide them with the best service.

    Some people struggle to write coherently about what they can do, even though they have all the knowledge and experience in the world. If the proposal language and structure follow best practice then that helps to put respondents on a level playing field, and the VA can drill down to the technical detail they need to make their decisions, and make like for like comparisons.

    Best of luck to those taking this to Capitol Hill. I’m based on the other side of the pond, but I’m fascinated to see how this turns out.

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    1. Clair, these are clear and constructive talking points and we will be sure to share them with our Government leaders. What you have written must be heard. Thank you for taking the time to put this together. It is helpful to our cause.

      My personal opinion though is that the VA arrived at this language because they wanted to ensure that they got the best possible response from industry to prove that industry truly knows the subject matter. While we understand the intent, we don’t agree with it. Consultants are an important part of the proposal development life cycle for all the reasons you have mentioned. We don’t believe it is fair to put the on the sideline at any stage of the proposal.

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  2. I would challenge the language, I would take it to the VA competition advocate, and if it is not removed consider protesting now at the release level before bids are even in. I can’t see any legal basis for this restriction and has all the drawbacks mentioned the article, for which a basis in the FAR can be shown in my experience.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, William. We intend to challenge it vigorously, but my experience in dealing with these kinds of issues with associations is to go softer on the legal standing (that’s a last resort) and appeal to the sensibility of it. Generally there is a middle ground and we intend to find it.

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  3. So what motivated the VA to introduce this rule? It seems a very heavy handed ruling, something must have happened for them to be so specific about this…

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  4. This is exacty what we intend to find out when APMP goes to Capitol Hill, Alex. We believe the that our Government counterparts generally have good intentions, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree with them. We want to understand the “why” to this language by asking a detailed list of questions and then work with them to show them how this negatively impacts our industry. Thank you for your comment.

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