The original version of this blog was posted Aug. 5, 2014, written by Patricia Miller. Now, four years later, one of Integrity’s program managers, Dan Altobelli, revisits the ever-relevant topic. Read on for some industry standards from Patricia, and some updated must-dos from Dan.
Even though it’s the dog days of summer in the “real world,” it’s mid-winter and heading to a new year in the procurement and acquisition world. This is sprinting season for any acquisition professional working on completing acquisition packages, negotiating offers and awarding the contracts before the fiscal year (FY) ends. Contracting Officers (COs) should be proactive in doing all that needs to be done to ensure the requirements are awarded in a timely fashion. Contracting Officers Representatives and Program Office staff should be doing all that need to be done to facilitate that activity.
While each agency has its own internal policies and regulations, there are some common must-do steps for both modifications on existing contracts and new requirements.
Once funding has been approved on an existing contract, it is important to let the contractor know if the Government intends to exercise the option. Generally, the time frame is between 30 and 60 days. After this is done, the following actions are required to update procurement documents, dependent upon your agency’s regulations:
- Prepare a memorandum to the CO explaining the parameters for the modification request (e.g., add items, exercise the option, delete Contract Line Items (CLINs), and change the scope).
- Update the Market Research to ensure the incumbent contractor’s prices are still in line with current market practices and pricing.
- Update the Independent Government Cost Estimate (IGCE) to prove that the incumbent’s awarded prices are still considered fair and reasonable.
- If applicable, update past performance reports through the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting (CPARs) or any other mechanism to validate contractor’s performance.
- If applicable, update the Contracting Officer Representative’s (COR) information (this occurs if there is a change in either the COR or updated training completed by the current COR).
- Forward the completed acquisition package to the CO for final review and approval.
The PR or requisition package for a previously approved new requirement should be submitted prior to the agency’s publicized “cut-off” date, which is usually between June and August. However, I recommend as a best practice to submit your new requirements as soon as possible as any new requirement that has not yet been funded runs the risk of becoming a funding source for an existing requirement that may need additional funds. Any new requirements after the cut-off date must be approved by several layers (both Finance and Acquisition) within the organization (see Unfunded Requirements, below). It is possible that some will be funded, and others will not.
Here are some suggested documents needed for new requirements:
- Approved funding documentation
- Acquisition Plan (AP) based on the dollar amount of the requirement. The AP should include an analysis that determines among other items, the appropriate contract type and vehicle for the requirement based on market research, the technical and business requirements, Agency Small Business requirements, and other appropriate factors. Contract vehicles to consider include but are not limited to GSA Alliant, OASIS, NITAAC, NASA SEWP, any Strategic Sourcing vehicles available within your agency, and GSA Federal Supply Schedules.
An IGCE comparing at least three contractors’ pricing based on the market research and a proposed contract vehicle to be used. Also, a memorandum to the CO explaining the new requirement and the period of performance, if applicable. Once completed, submit the acquisition package to the CO for review and final approval
Unfunded Requirements (UFRs)
These are the unplanned requirements that arise over the course of the year as user needs change or threats evolve. The finance, acquisition and program office parties must meet to discuss if any of these UFRs will be funded. Depending upon the circumstances, the approved UFRs will be treated as either a modification or new requirement.
Why Time is of the Essence
This is the most critical time for the acquisition cycle because the Government is nearing the end of the fiscal year. With fewer than 30 business days remaining, there are many steps to complete in a condensed window of time. The luxury of a 30-45 day review cycle must now be condensed. Although the review time is reduced, it is imperative that quality checks are performed on the documents before forwarding to the CO for signature. Once reviewed and approved, the documents must be uploaded into the contract writing system approved by your agency.
Remember, last minute rushes may result in lower-quality acquisition packages which could cause undue delays with the final procurement process. Your CO will still perform the mandated due diligence to ensure the acquisition is compliant with all legal, regulatory and policy requirements. Remember the adage about poor planning? Your poor planning won’t create an emergency for your CO. It will just mean that your package will be returned, and you may not get your award this year. Constant communication between the CO and PM/COR are critical to reducing confusion and minimizing any delay, especially at this time of year. This is not the time for surprises. Your CO is likely handling a portfolio of contracts and so they will have limited bandwidth – take extra steps to stay in touch and make sure you’ve got answers for all the questions.
Cross the Finish Line
Always remind yourself of the significance of meeting the impending deadline and how if the requirements are not completed by the end of the fiscal year, there will be a negative impact on the organization and its ability to meet its mission. Proactive COs and CORs are the keys to successfully finishing the race.
So, prepare all necessary documents depending upon modification or new requirement. If compelling and urgent after the Official Cut Off as outlined by your specific agency acquisition policy and/or finance make sure you perform adequate quality checks for all documents to ensure accuracy and completeness. Make sure that the CO has all documents needed to review and award the acquisition package in a timely manner. Finally, maintain communications with your CO throughout the process. Following these steps will lead to increased probability of in-time award of requirements.