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Just How Much Competition Occurs In 'Competitive' Buys?

Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC, Sunday, July 27, 2014

Just How Much Competition Occurs In 'Competitive' Buys?

Over the last few years I've had an opportunity to become very familiar with Uncle Sam's data and information related to the purchasing activities of its agencies. To ensure I'm interpreting the information properly, I turn to a number of folks who are current and former contracting officials and acquisition executives from various agencies. Most of the time the discussions pertain to my simply validating something I believe to be true or learning my assumptions were incorrect and rebuilding from there. A few of the individuals have been involved in the validation of information already in or going into the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS-NG). In short, when I queried them on the integrity of the information, they made no bones about their confidence in its accuracy.

I say this as a prelude to the information I'm sharing here because I was very surprised at the results of my latest fact-finding mission. The meaning of the information? That remains to be seen but even the most conservative among us (which is usually me) tends to see areas of opportunity that appear to have been overlooked. Then again, maybe

Here is the basis for the information I will share regarding dollars obligated by federal agencies boards and commissions during the first three quarters of Fiscal Year 2014 (October 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014). I'm only looking at dollars classified by the agencies as 'competitive' which includes:

   - Competed Under SAP (Simplified Acquisition Procedures)
   - Competitive Delivery Order
   - Full And Open Competition
   - Full And Open Competition After Exclusion Of Sources

The competitive designation 'Follow On To Competed Action,' is not one I include because I consider these to be directed awards after the fact. I also looked at total obligations to include modifications after initial award, but will spend most of my time looking only at the initial award for the purpose of the report. I also queried FPDS-NG for actions where fewer than three offers were recorded as having been received. In the results there were either 2, 1 or 0 offers recorded by agencies for each obligation.

Here we go.

Total competitive obligations for the first three quarters of FY2014 where fewer than three offers were received by the Government come in at $73,219,279,433.67. This includes all modifications made after initial award. $60B of this was competed Full And Open, $10B Full And Open After Exclusion Of Sources and $3.2B Competed Under SAP. $400M went to Competitive Delivery Order. For another perspective, $45B was obligated when two offers were received. $28B when only one offer was received and $825M when zero offers were received.

Now here's what it looks like when we only take into consideration the initial award without modifications.

   - $19B in obligations that reflect initial competitive awards for the first three quarters of FY2014
   - $8B when two offers were received
   - $11B when only one offer was received
   - $445K when zero offers were received

These obligations reflect nearly five million different contract numbers assigned by sixty-two federal agencies, boards and commissions. Little surprise to find Department of Defense on top since they spend the most on pretty much everything. VA, HHS, DHS and DoJ round out the top five agencies accounting for $15B in initial competitive awards with fewer than three offers received (this includes initial obligations from DoD).

The majority of the initial award obligations, $12.5B, went to the award type 'delivery order' which indicates a purchase against a GSA Schedule, GWAC (such as Alliant or SEWP) or other Indefinite Delivery Contracts such as MACs and IDIQs. Nearly $5B of these initial obligations went to award types that are not buys against established contract vehicles.

Interested in knowing more about what was purchased and who was doing the buying? We'll dive into this via a few webinars over the next three weeks. We'll post the dates and times in our FPDS-NG User Group on LinkedIn.

But I will leave you with this.

There were 1,038 NAICS Codes referenced in the initial obligations for the first three quarters of the fiscal year. The top five account for $3.6B in obligations and represent:

  - Engineering Services
  - Other Computer Related Services
  - Commercial and Institutional Building Construction
  - Administrative Management and General Management Consulting Services
  - Computer Systems Design Services

As it happens, these are NAICS Codes for which a number of the small businesses I know have excellent qual's and past performance. I'm just sayin'.

If I were out there hunting for Q4 bluebirds, I would definitely consider the level of competition for recent related 'competitive' buys at the specific contracting offices I was engaged with. You never know what you might find!


The Chief Visionary

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."

Tags:  competition  contract  government  only one offer 

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