You can never tell what might drive a specific action taken by a contracting officer or specialist. Most of the time they are trying to get a job done the best way possible. But certain actions, that repeat themselves, do have a pattern - and sometimes it is a pattern of abuse that corrupts the system. One of those patterns is the issuance of a Sources Sought or Request for Information that has a response time of just a few days, often including weekend time when the announcement is more likely to be missed, which appears to be just what they want.
We will use the following announcement as an example - although we do not know why the contracting specialist did this, but it is hard to imagine any other reason than the following: they have set a response date in order to limit the opportunity to respond - enabling a result that they desire rather than supporting the spirit of the process, which is to do a legitimate market study to determine if there is a small business that can supply the required service.
R–Geriatric Scholars Program Evaluation and Evaluation-based Resource Development
Solicitation Number: VA26215N0245
Agency: Department of Veterans Affair
Added: Jun 12, 2015 12:33 pm
Response Date: June 15, 2015
As you can see, the announcement was posted to FBO mid-day on Friday, with the response due the following Tuesday. Again, any one situation could have some legitimate driving force necessitating such action, although it is hard to imagine what that might be. However, in performing pipeline opportunity research for a variety of clients we see a fair number of these types of actions, with 3 to 5 day turn times. Far too many to ignore the pattern, or the purpose, which is to prevent small businesses from responding, so the rule of two will not come into play and the government is left to execute the procurement in whatever manner they choose - usually full and open.
What to do - when you see a notice like this, copy the reference and send it to your Congressman. But do not just complain - offer a suggested solution. Our suggestion - that all Sources Sought and Requests for Information have to remain posted on FBO for a minimum of 10 workdays. As we all know, while the government often complains that they have an urgent need and must act quickly, an argument they often use for short turn times on proposals as well, they then take months before the next step in the procurement process is executed. If actions speak louder than words, urgent is more a state of mind than a reality in the procurement process.
We will have other articles on this topic in the future – please let us know what you think, and your ideas for improving the process.