UPDATE (8/27/13): USfalcon has withdrawn its protest of the OASIS solicitation. The company’s protest, a USfalcon spokesperson said, was addressed and satisfied by changes incorporated in Amendment 1 to the OASIS solicitation, issued August 23rd. OASIS still has a pending protest from consulting firm Aljucar, Anvil-Incus, and Company (AAIC). GSA’s General Counsel filed a motion to dismiss AAIC’s protest for lack of standing; however, the motion was denied therefore the protest is ongoing.
First of all, some OASIS news – two agency protests were already filed early this month in response to the final OASIS Unrestricted solicitation. The first contends that the evaluation criteria is arbitrary, restricts competition, and does not allow agencies to select the contractor or contractors that best suit the government’s needs by not allowing Contractor Teaming Arrangements (the FAR Subpart 9.6 kind of CTA, not the GSA Schedules kind). For relief, the protest requests that GSA allow for the use of teams at the master contract level to meet the requirements. The second protest found the evaluation criteria overly restrictive and likewise contests the inability of bidders to form Joint Ventures in order to respond to the solicitation. According to the Federal Acquisition Regulations, agencies receiving an agency-level protest must stay the awards and decide the case within 35 days.
Moving on, thank you to all of those people who attended our GSA OASIS: To Bid or Not to Bid webinar last week; we had a good crowd for the event and I hope that attendees found it helpful. If you were unable to participate, you can download the presentation or listen to a recording of the webinar through Aronson’s website. There were a large number of questions submitted throughout the webinar and I was unable to answer all of them in the time allotted. As promised, I am posting a complete list of questions and responses here (multiple questions on the same topic were combined). You can also contact me directly with further questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 231-6253. The responses are based on my interpretation of the solicitations in conjunction with my historical knowledge of the procurement. I have included citations to the relevant solicitation sections wherever possible. Please note that formal questions to GSA about the final OASIS and OASIS SB solicitations must be submitted to email@example.com by 4:00pm CST Tuesday, August 20th. (Section L.3.5)
Q1: Tough question, but what is your guess of the minimum number of points required to justify bidding?
A1: That is a tough question, and a good one. If I knew the answer, I probably would use my psychic powers to win the Powerball and be off on an island somewhere! Unfortunately, I can’t begin to guess. GSA has suggested to look at your likely competitors in order to get some idea of where they will be…considering the many possible scoring iterations, I think that will be difficult to do.
Q2: For OASIS Unrestricted – Is the $25M min combined value an annual requirement?
A2: Yes, the $25M combined value is the minimum combined annual value of the five relevant experience projects (Section L.5.3.1(3))
Q3: Can we use CPARs rating in additions to PPIRs for Past Performance?
A3: It is my understanding that the two systems are linked in that Contracting Officers enter the past performance data into the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) and once it is finalized it is transmitted to the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS). The past performance data should be the same in both.
Q4: In the proposal format table on page 87 of the SB solicitation, for contract documentation it lists award document, FPDS report, SOW, PWS, solicitation documentation, invoice, deliverables. Are all of these required documents, or suggestions?
A4: Page 87 of the OASIS SB solicitation describes the submittals for the Pool Qualification Projects. What the contractor must prove for each pool qualification project is that the project was awarded under a NAICS Code associated with the pool and that the project had a past performance average rating of at least 3.0. Information such as the Statement of Work (SOW) or Performance Work Statement (PWS) may be necessary if the offeror is bidding under a pool that utilizes a NAICS Code exception to demonstrate that the contract was within the scope of the exception. There is an example of how this works in Section L.5.1.2(6) of the solicitation.
Q5: Do you think that GSA is using OASIS as a way to attract work to GSA, given the success of SeaPort Enhanced? This mirrors so many things that SeaPort Enhanced does so well.
A5: Partially, yes. OASIS also addresses two of the major complaints about the GSA Multiple Award Schedules, (1) the lack of an Other Direct Costs (ODC) mechanisms and (2) the inability to use cost-reimbursement contracts.
Q6: Do we have to submit two separate proposals if we bid one pool as Unrestricted and another as Small Business?
A6: Yes. OASIS and OASIS SB are two different contracts.
Q7: Can you clarify where in the RFP it is made clear that we cannot have subs on the master contract? I believe you but I want to be sure I am reading the RFP correctly.
A7: There are two different things here that you may be asking about, so let me respond to both to be certain. The first is that GSA is not allowing bidders to submit projects where they were NOT the prime contractor to support relevant experience (Section L.5.1.9). The second is that teaming or Joint Venturing for the sake of bidding on the master contract is NOT allowed. Existing JVs can be used, but all of the relevant experience must come from the JV itself and not the parties comprising the JV (Section L.5.1.10). Both of these issues were discussed in the questions and comments for the draft solicitations if you need more background.
Q8: Do we need to submit 5 relevant experience projects per NAICS code within our pool? E.g. pool 1 has lots of NAICs codes–are we demonstrating experience in as many of those codes as we can?
A8: You only submit a total of five relevant experience projects regardless of how many pools you are bidding on. The NAICS Code considerations are addressed by the pool qualification projects; therefore, none of the relevant experience projects must map to a related NAICS Code (although points are earned if they do). (Section L.220.127.116.11)
Q9: There are 40 awards for each pool. Is that 40 for both Unrestricted AND Small Business, or 40 for Unrestricted and 40 for Small Business?
A9: OASIS and OASIS SB are different contracts; each will have at least 40 awards in each pool (except Pool 5, which was split into Pools 5A and 5B with 20 awards each). (Section L.2.3)
Q10: NAICS Code for Pool 4 is 541712, if a portion of the SOW of a contract can qualify under that pool, but contract is identified under a different NAICS in FPDS or solicitation, do you think this can be used to meet eligibility requirements for that pool?
A10: The NAICS Code listed in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) must match at least one of the NAICS Codes in the pool applied for (Section L.5.1.2(8)). You can contact the Contracting Officer and request a correction to the NAICS; otherwise, this project would not meet the pool qualification requirements (Section L.5.1.2(7)).
Q11: Any recommendations for “Mid-Tier” companies that do not qualify for unrestricted but are not SB in competitive pools? (e.g. 541330)
A11: The mid-tier companies are unfortunately a bit in “no man’s land” where OASIS is concerned. Your best bet is likely to look for subcontracting opportunities with awardees.
Q12: What evidence do you need to provide to prove ancillary support services and multiple locations?
A12: Please refer to Sections M.5.1.4 and M.5.1.6, respectively.
Q13: For projects that are on BPA/IDIQ, don’t they have to be from a single award BPA/IDIQ vs. a multiple award?
A13: That is correct and is an important distinction to make. Thank you for pointing this out. (Section L.5.3.1)
Q14: Will there be an IFF (like under MOBIS)?
A14: Yes, there will be a Contract Access Fee (CAF) for OASIS or not more than 0.75% (agencies can negotiate a lower CAF) that will apply to the total amount of each OASIS task order. (Section G.3.1)
Q15: In your opinion, did we have to qualify as a SB under the specified NAICS Code in order to use it for relevant experience/past performance? In other words, if we were considered a large business for a past effort, can we still use it?
A15: This is an interesting question…I don’t see anything in the OASIS SB solicitation about this either way. You may want to submit a question to GSA.
Q16: Are offerors required to provide pricing for every SOC Number, even those functional descriptions that we would intend to subcontract (e.g. Actuaries)?
A16: Yes. Although I don’t see in the solicitation where it expressly says this, GSA did specifically state this in the draft solicitation Q&A.
Q17: In your Meaningful Relationship Commitment Letter (MCRL) example you discussed multiple divisions potentially wanting to claim Corporate’s financial management past performance…was this a bad example or are you saying that company financial management for employee efforts working on a contract meets the FM core discipline requirement versus personnel providing, for instance, acquisition FM support for a gov program? You mentioned PM is a gimme…seems FM is a gimme too since we all have to manage our personnel and programs and we must manage company/personnel finances.
A17: I think there were some mixed signals here. The example I was giving about the MCRL from corporate had to do with the accounting system requirement, not relevant experience, although you can use a MCRL for relevant experience, too. In terms of whether the Financial Management core discipline is a gimme, I don’t think that I would say that, although it seems to follow what GSA said about Project Management being a gimme. I would review the criteria for Financial Management under Section C.2.2.6 and consider asking GSA.
Q18: (1) Do the five Primary Projects and Past Performance citations need to all be prime contracts or can they be subcontracts as well for both SB and unrestricted? (2) On L.5.1.2 (Pool Qualification Application projects) do the two projects have to be prime experience?
A18: Yes. Please note under Section L.5.1.9 GSA states, “any evaluation element under Section L.5., Volume 1 through 6, for which an Offeror was identified as a “Subcontractor” will be rejected.”
Q19: For Pooling Qualifications Past Performance are we supposed to use the same Past Performance Surveys for the Relevant Experience. The RFP isn’t clear. What is your take?
A19: The pool qualification projects do NOT have to be the same as the relevant experience projects. Please refer to Section L.5.1.2(4). In regard to using the same survey, I believe they were trying to state that you have to submit the same form (Attachment J.6) for past performance (if not listed in PPIRS) for both pool qualification and relevant experience.
Q20: So how will they accomplish the second point on slide 9 (determination of additional winners in certain socioeconomic categories)?
A20: GSA would like to have at least three awardees for the following socioeconomic categories in each pool-HUBZone, WOSB, SDVOSB, 8(a), and EDWOSB. So, for example, if there aren’t three 8(a) awardees in the top 40 for Pool 1, GSA will continue down the list of bidders until reaching the next 8(a) company. This will continue until three are identified. If there are not three eligible companies in any given socioeconomic category, then that category will not be available for set-aside task orders in that Pool. This process is described in detail in the draft solicitation under Section M.3.
Q21: With regard to acquisition of a company with OASIS, does having it not transfer apply to both large and small businesses?
A21: I do not know the answer to this question, you may wish to submit it to GSA.
Q22: In your opinion, do you think an offeror can count a project that was completed and the current iteration as 2 projects under experience. Meaning, can a contract and it’s recompete count as 2 contracts?
A22: Although I don’t know of anything prohibiting this, it seems potentially risky. I would consider asking GSA for their determination.
Q23: We have recently grown out of the NAICS code for which we have all of our past performance and therefore must propose in a pool with larger size standards (under 5.A, 5.B, and 6–which are 541712). Do you have any advice relative to L.5.1.2 (2)?
A23: Unfortunately, unless you can get a Contracting Officer to issue a “correction” to the NAICS Codes on a couple of projects per Section 5.1.2(7), then you would have to bid in the pools for which you qualify on the Unrestricted track.
Q24: Pools 5.A, 5.B, and 6 are the Pools with Exceptions. These Exceptions are very rarely used and we believe that it’s highly unlikely that companies will be able to provide two examples of prior contracts employing these exceptions. What is your opinion?
A24: When it comes to providing proof that a pool qualification project supports work under a NAICS exception, the offeror will need to submit some documentation from the contract such as the SOW or PWS that clearly shows that the work performed does fall under the exception (Section L.5.1.2(6)).
Q25: So for a small niche consulting company that doesn’t have the past performance across at least three core disciplines, our best (or possibly only) course of action is as a subcontractor to an OASIS contract winner. Correct?
A25: That is correct. As we discussed during the webinar, GSA has established very aggressive subcontracting goals for OASIS and failure to meet them can be cause for dormant status or even off-ramping. I would suggest looking into some of the groups that are working on putting together OASIS “teaming exchanges” to facilitate subcontracting to qualified small businesses so that you can get involved at close to ground-level.
Q26: In the Q&A #77 from the Draft RFP it is indicated that size standards are based on a company’s 3-year average number of employees but that is not addressed in the Final RFP. Should we assume size standard is the 3-year average?
A26: Size standard rules and regulations are developed and enforced by the Small Business Administration (SBA). According to the SBA, “size standards are usually stated either in number of employees over the past 12 months, or average annual receipts over the past three years.” An SBA Size Standards Tool uses the same methodology. If GSA included conflicting information in the draft, you may want to pose this question to them.
Q27: Will task orders require prime do 51% of the work?
A27: As OASIS SB is a professional services contract, the current requirement under Section H.10 is that “at least 50% of the cost of task order performance incurred for personnel shall be expended by the OASIS SB Prime Contractor (FAR 52.219-14, Limitations on Subcontracting).” This FAR clause is likely to change in the near future, but as of now, this is the requirement. NOTE: This clause does NOT appear in the OASIS Unrestricted solicitation.
About the author: Jennifer Aubel is a Managing Consultant in Aronson LLC’s Government Contract Services Group, where she leads clients successfully through the GSA lifecycle, from obtaining a new GSA Schedule contract through administering ongoing contracts.