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RFI's: Requests For Information Overload?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012   (3 Comments)
Posted by: Guy Timberlake (
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I was having a conversation with a member the other day when he asked the question "What exactly can the Government request in one of its Requests For Information (RFI)?"
Good question, I thought. I know generally it's to help them get clarity as to the approach Government is contemplating as well as the capabilities available from industry. Honestly, I've never read that part of the FAR, so I did.
FAR Subpart 15.2 - Solicitation and Receipt of Proposals and Information says exchanges of information from the earliest identification of a requirement are encouraged and also describes how RFI's should be managed. It also gives several examples of the types of information that can be discussed. At the end of the day, the goal is to 'enhance the Government's ability to obtain quality supplies and services at reasonable prices.'
Makes complete sense to me, but you know the other shoe is going to drop, right?
The subpart also talks about identifying and resolving concerns related to areas of the anticipated acquisition such as the Government's approach to assessing past performance, which is interesting considering a recent RFI issued by a defense agency for an intended small business set-aside, requested detailed past performance. How common is this? Specifically, it requested:

Please provide examples of past performance demonstrating that your firm has performed projects and/or tasks of similar scope and complexity as those detailed below. At a minimum, provide a contract number, point of contact information (i.e. phone number and e-mail address) for the customer supported, a brief summary description of the task requirements of each referenced contract, and the total dollar value of each contract referenced.

Hmm. Isn't this information going to be requested again when the RFP is issued?
This next item really had me scratching my head:
Would your company plan to support the requirements under some type of subcontracting, partnering, or teaming arrangement? If so, please identify those firms you intend to work with under such an arrangement and an explanation of how the firms would be uniquely qualified to support such an effort.
Again, isn't this information that would be provided in a formal response to an RFP? This too seems to be very specific information for a non-binding information exchange that does not bear fruit.
There has been a good amount of chatter in the small business community for the last eighteen months or so related to the amount and specificity of information being requested by some agencies at the RFI and Sources Sought stage.
If companies, particularly small government contractors, need to somehow expand their B&P budgets to account for writing one and a half proposals (or more) for each requirement, agencies should step up their award of Simplified Acquisitions to small businesses to help them tuck away a few extra operating dollars.
So, how much requested information is too much at this point of the procurement cycle? What is the information "break point" for your company?


The Chief Visionary


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

Differentiate Yourself. Develop and Leverage Your Small Business C4ISR™.
(Capacity, Commitment, Core Competency, Intelligence, Strategy and Relationships)


Michael Sullivan, The Fearthainne Group says...
Posted Wednesday, August 22, 2012
As usual, there are several ways of looking at this issue. Since B & P money is difficult, at best, for small businesss to find, I normally recommend to my clients that they skip RFI's and Sources Sought completely. As part of the corporate strategy, an elementary question is, "Does a response to an RFI or Sources Sought add anything to the strategic direction (or campaign) of my business?" At the same time, I ask myself, "What is the government agency's agenda for making the request?" Is the KO or COTR really trying to lay a foundation to find "qualified" companies to meet set-aside requirements or is it used to "justify" not having set-aside criteria? Is it really to find the best price or best value for the government? By having strategic, federal campaigns driving BD, Capture, & Proposal processes, small businesses can best apply scarce B&P money to more logially build and effectively manage pipelines of which RFIs & Sources Sought are merely items to be tracked.
Jaime Gracia says...
Posted Sunday, August 19, 2012
Asking for information that belongs in the RFP defeats the objective. The purpose of the RFI is to qualify firms that can perform the requirements, establish opportunities for socioeconomic considerations, and establish competition and thus better pricing and solutions. However, the information about past performance can be sometimes tedious and cumbersome. I always try to get my clients to understand that making industry respond to a mini-RFP does not make sense, since they are required to read all that information and vet the firms for compliance and make objective decisions about who can, and cannot, do this work. There really is no point is asking for information that either will not get reviewed until the RFP, or simply to check boxes. We have enough wasted time and money in the procurement process.
Steven Mackie, SSI says...
Posted Friday, August 17, 2012
I don't mind providing corporate quals and indications of past performance in an RFI - as I don't view those as "secret sauce" proprietary. I do brissle when the Government asks for detailed explanations of our approach toward performing specific tasks. Those answers should be given in proposals. Detailed approaches provided in RFI's can too easily find their way into the final RFP thereby giving proprietary information to all of the competitors. I think the Gov't is well within it's rights to ask for corporate quals, some past performance information, and industry's input on the contract construct (e.g. SLA's or performance based incentive structure etc). As always, you pose thought provoking questions. Keep 'em coming! Steve

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