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Acquisition Policy Flash! 16-07

What's New?

Department of Veterans Affairs Industry Engagement

Purpose:  To notify the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acquisition workforce of the issuance of the following memorandum:

Memorandum from the Principal Executive Director for Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction (003) on Encouraging Industry Engagement (VAIQ 7634725), dated December 22, 2015.

Dated:  February 23, 2016

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Parts Impacted:  FAR Part 3, FAR Part 10, and FAR Part 15

Effective Date:  Immediately

Background:  In February 2011 and in May 2012, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy issued two memorandums in relation to “Myth Busting,” which addressed the misconceptions to improve communication with industry during the acquisition process.  As a result of these memorandums and a directive from OFPP, VA developed a vendor communication plan to assist in improving VA’s engagement with industry during the acquisition process.

There has been a misconception that OALC has policy which limits interaction with industry above and beyond the requirements in the FAR.  This misconception is not accurate, and is in fact contradictory to the established policy.  OALC strongly supports and encourages an appropriate and robust dialogue with industry.

Applicability:  This notice applies to contract specialists, warranted contracting officers, Head of Contracting Activities, and members of the acquisition workforce.

Action Required: Initiate a proactive, appropriate and robust dialogue with industry.  Government officials can generally meet one-on-one with industry representatives to gather market data as long as no vendor receives preferential treatment.  Early, frequent, and constructive engagement with industry is especially important.  Access to current market information is critical for agency program managers as they define requirements and for contracting officers as they develop acquisition strategies, seek opportunities for small businesses, and negotiate contract terms.  Our industry partners are often the best source of this information, so productive interactions between federal agencies and our industry partners are encouraged to ensure that the government clearly understands the marketplace and can award contracts or orders for effective solutions at reasonable prices.

Prior to issuance of the solicitation, government officials — including the program manager, users, and contracting officers — may meet with potential offerors to exchange general information and conduct market research related to an acquisition.  However, any information that is shared in a meeting that could directly affect proposal preparation must be shared in a timely manner with all potential offerors to avoid providing any offeror with an unfair advantage (FAR 15.201(f)).  Some examples that government officials, other than contracting officers, may participate in to promote exchange of information include the following events:

  1. Industry or small business conferences;
  2. Market research (FAR 10.002);
  3. Site visits;
  4. One-on-one meetings with potential offerors;
  5. Pre-solicitation notices;
  6. Draft Requests for Proposals;
  7. Requests for Information; and
  8. Pre-solicitation or preproposal conferences.

The Competition in Contracting Act and Government ethics rules, as well as our acquisition principles, prohibit preferential treatment of one vendor over another.

When communications with a potential offeror is expected to include contract terms and conditions, any one-on-one meetings should include, or at least be coordinated with, the contracting officer (FAR 15.201).  After the solicitation is issued, the contracting officer shall be the focal point for these exchanges and for any contract term and condition related events and issues.

In conjunction with the contracting officer, various key VA personnel partake in acquainting the contractor with their responsibilities and expectations during the post award conference.

After the award of the contract, many interactions take place between the successful contractor and other VA staff.  It is essential that program managers and the contractor have ongoing interactions and develop a strong partnership to ensure that the terms of the contract are being adhered to, and that the needs of the veteran are being met.  It is common practice that the contractor and Government program/project managers have regular progress meetings.  Depending on the complexity, more frequent and more complex interactions may need to take place, such as formal In Process Reviews (IPR).  Meetings such as these take place between numerous stakeholders within the VA, and the contractor, (and the contractor s team), to ensure a timely and quality result.

The Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) often plays a crucial part of the interaction between the contractor and the Government.  The COR is the “eyes and ears” of the contracting officer.  The COR and contractor interact on a regular basis to ensure the needs of both, the Government and the contractor, are being met.

Most importantly, the VA and our contractors must establish a strong working partnership that will enable us to provide the premier service that our veterans deserve.

Two memos from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) provide additional clarification on the “Do’s and Don’ts” for industry engagement.  These “Myth-BustingExternal link to a government website and “Myth-Busting 2,” External link to a government website memos are titled “Addressing Misconceptions to Improve Communication with Industry during the Acquisition Process.”  In addition, the VA’s “Vendor Communication Plan” provides detailed guidance regarding appropriate behavior while engaging with industry.

OMB’s Acquisition 360 Initiative will enable industry to provide feedback on how well agencies do on specific acquisitions, which in turn, will allow agencies to have better, more actionable data that will help them improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the acquisition process.  Please reference OMB’s memorandum External link to a government website on the Acquisition 360 Initiative, dated March 18, 2015.

Additional Information:  Questions or concerns should be addressed to the Office of Acquisition and Logistics (003A), Procurement Policy and Warrant Management Service (003A2A) at (202) 632-5288 or