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?