Here They Go Again – Another Federal Agency Turns Its Back on Consultants in Draft RFP

May 18, 2015 – Directly on the heels of the Veterans Affairs RFP No. VA118-15-R-0558 that prohibited consultants from participating in the task order phase of the RFP comes another RFP, this time from the U.S. Census Bureau that also restricts technical consultants from participating.shutterstock_175538990

Alerted by an APMP member company, APMP has submitted formal comments to the U.S. Census Bureau imploring them to remove language from its Draft RFP YA 1323-15-MS-0003 for Multi-Tiered Acquisition Framework for Systems Engineering and Integration that restricts/prohibits technical consultants from participating on the RFP unless they are part of the offeror’s team.

Specifically, at issue is the U.S. Census Bureau language that states, “NOTE: In order to ensure proposals reflect the technical abilities of offerors and their subcontractors, not those of outside technical experts who will not be involved with performance post award, the use of technical consultants to help prepare the proposal is strictly prohibited unless the technical consultant will be part of the offeror’s team as a subcontractor after award of the ESF. As part of their written (and oral if applicable) proposal, the offeror shall certify, in the proposal introduction, that their proposal was prepared only by the offeror and its subcontractors.”

The difference between this and the VA RFP is that we caught this one early and have a chance to comment before it goes final.  Again, we believe this language is short-sighted, not in the best interest of the U.S. Census Bureau, and almost guarantees a proposal that is less than what it could be when consultants are involved.  We think this exclusionary language is wrong and should be eliminated from the final RFP for the following reasons:

  • It does not promote collaboration between Industry and Government or encourage the best proposal submission – both hallmarks of the FAR. Instead of stimulating collaboration, this language discourages it by ordering consultants, a vital part of every RFP, to stand down.
  • APMP believes every company should be able to employ whomever they wish to produce the best proposal for Government whether they are full or part-time. This exclusionary language actually creates a counter-effect that limits companies from bringing in the best people to help communicate the best plan for Government to evaluate.
  • APMP believes this action discriminates against small-to-medium companies who routinely hire consultants to participate on all parts of a proposals. This language unfairly favors large companies that have the financial resources to keep SMEs on staff year round – a luxury most small to medium sized companies cannot afford.
  • APMP believes the language inhibits an entire sector of the proposal industry (consultants) from earning a living simply because of their classification.

We find it particularly disturbing that after the VA “no consultants” language, most of the professionals in Government we met with were also appalled but told us not to worry because they believed it was an isolated, one-off attempt.  A few months later, and we see similar, exclusionary language from a completely different agency. Our fear was then and continues to be that this could become a regular requirement for all of the wrong reasons. Once is an anomaly, twice is worrisome and three times is a trend.

APMP continues to believe that Government has benefited tremendously from proposals with consultant participation in the past.  Consultants are brought in on proposals to help the SMEs better articulate the message so that the Government can better understand the solution and make it easier to select the best solution provider. Intelligence and expertise does not mean SMEs are great communicators/writers.

That’s why we are fighting this language and we ask you to join us.  As an industry we must unite behind our consultant members. Whether you are a consultant or a company that hires one to help on your proposals, this type of exclusionary language is destructive to the proposal process and has to be stopped.

APMP has already filed its formal comments before tomorrow’s 10 AM May 19, 20015 deadline using many of the points outlined in this post.  If you would like to join the list of companies commenting please do so by e-mailing ACQ.SEI.Enterprise@census.gov and make sure to put (YOUR COMPANY NAME) – DRAFT RFP Comments – YA1323-15-MS-0003.

We’ve asked that the U.S. Census Bureau take action and remove the offending language.  We’ve let them know that Industry strongly believes this is an arbitrary requirement in attempt to perfect procurement, but actually has a negative rippling effect that will contribute to a proposal that promotes exclusion.

We hope you will too.  Send this link to your Industry colleagues and have them join us.

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