What Do Contracting Officers Really Think About the FAR?

Ever wonder what a contracting officer or procurement executive thinks about when deciding between using IDIQs (FAR part 16), GSA Schedules (FAR part 8), and Negotiated Acquisitions (FAR part 15)?  Well, we asked, and this is what we learned…

On July 29, Jeff Shen presented on the topic, “FAR Part 8 vs 15 vs 16: What is Best for Your Customer” to over 500 virtual attendees, most of whom were government procurement staff. During this presentation, attendees shared their preferences, recommendations, and suggestions on what they prefer to use when competing their requirements. The big takeaway – there is not one right answer! Red Team captured and summarized direct feedback from the Zoom chat box, so you all can see what they’re thinking and how they might interpret the perceived advantages and disadvantages of competing requirements on a GWAC or IDIQ, GSA Schedule, or Negotiated Acquisition.

Commentary on FAR Part 15
  • You can make any part of the FAR overly complicated, even FAR subpart 8.4, or appropriately streamlined, even Part 15!
  • GSA: FAR 15 is the equivalent of starting with a blank piece of paper. Flexible but TIME CONSUMING.
  • GSA: Too many times people start with FAR 15 when there are so many other simpler options that should be considered first.
  • Too much work when there are more streamlined vehicles out there than 15.
  • FAR 15 is too cumbersome and does not allow flexibility and creativity into the solicitation or evaluation process.
  • I prefer FAR 15!
Commentary on FAR Parts 8 and 16
  • FAR 8 & 16 limit your sources.
  • I don’t understand why the government doesn’t want to use 8.4 when it should be so much easier for them!
  • If you would like to consider 8.4 you can find your local GSA Director of Customer Service who can help with Rapid Reviews and Market Research here.
  • 8.4 and 16.505 do not require past performance.  One way to streamline.
  • 8.4, 16.505, and 13 allow for proposals to be compared; no need for ratings.
  • Debriefs for IDIQ holders (FAR Part 16) is a benefit for the agency, assists the vendor to submit a better RFQ response the next time.
Commentary on Advisory Down-Selects and Orals Presentations
  • Advisory Down-Select in any part of the FAR has proven very effective at encouraging good competition (moves us the “just send to 3” process) while keeping it easy for both industry and government.
  • Also, Phase 1 should be more important than Phase 2 when using Advisory Down-selects.  It gives it teeth.
  • Advisory down-selects are phased procurements where phase 1 factors inform down-select recommendations and those phase 1 factors carry forward to best value decision.
  • Oral presentations can be used in all of those FAR parts (8, 15, 16)
  • FAR Part 8 allows for simplified procedures – it DOESN’T mean the requirement needs to be simple.
  • Did an oral with FAR Part 16. Awesome direction and outcome.
Commentary on Market Research
  • Do market research to figure out which is the best route to go.
  • Market research will help you eliminate some options.
  • Conduct market research, including review of existing enterprise tools, analyze the results, and determine best strategy in coordination with the project delivery team.
  • When I do market research – I provide the draft PWS.
  • Market research should also include collaboration with other agencies.
  • I would do fact finding. There is nothing wrong with calling the vendor and asking questions. Fact finding is a part of market research, along with RFI’s and sources sought.
Final Thoughts

The government has many options at their disposal for competing requirements. Fortunately, government procurement executives are well equipped to decide on a particular contracting and procurement approach, but they are often open to industry feedback on the most feasible approach when competing their requirements. However, if we are to offer educated suggestions on a particular contract vehicle or procurement strategy, we need to understand the government procurement lifecycle and how they make contracting decisions. This includes understanding the differences, advantages, and disadvantages between FAR Parts 8, 15, and 16. Further, this also includes making sure you understand the detailed nuances between GSA Schedule, IDIQs, GWACS, and Negotiated Acquisitions.

If you are interested in learning more from this particular session or getting a copy of the slide deck, please feel free to reach out to Jeff Shen.