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The Myth of Government-Industry Communication (Why Cool Hand Luke’s “The Captain” Was Right.)

Monday, June 10, 2013   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Guy Timberlake (
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"What we've got here is...failure to communicate."

Those famous words from the classic film truly represent the current state of affairs that exists when it comes to agencies and vendors engaging in meaningful conversations for the purpose of mutual market research. Depending on whom you ask, it’s nothing new and fault resides on both sides of the fence.

Before we get too far into this, let’s take the current level of budget constraints, LPTA and sequestration off the table. This communication ‘disconnect’ was festering long before these terms were part of the daily vernacular or the cause of the daily headaches that accompany the realities of the day.

Generally speaking, neither side appears particularly adept at talking to the other, but both perform exceptionally well when it comes to talking at each other.

To this day, too many companies persist in trying to force a square peg into a round hole, effectively selling with minimal (if any) understanding of a prospective customer, the mission, or the true need. This also applies to procurement and the level of understanding (or not) many companies have about how a certain agency buys, and positioning themselves accordingly.

It is said "Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” All too often it seems quite a few companies are vying for the benefits of "opportunity” and "luck” without having paid their dues in the area of "preparation.”

Even with current efforts underway by Uncle Sam to alleviate unnecessary challenges, many agencies have seemingly taken a path contrary to the guidance in the "Myth-Busting 2” memo issued by OFPP. Some agencies have taken aspects of it to an extreme in the form of onerous Requests For Information (RFI) that double the Bid & Proposal spend for companies by requesting critical information vendors will surely be required to submit again in an ensuing Request For Proposal (RFP), if one should be issued.

I would still enjoy the opportunity to discuss this current strategy being employed by some parts of the government, and how they factor in FAR 10.001(b) that cites "When conducting market research, agencies should not request potential sources to submit more than the minimum information necessary." I have to believe being asked to submit resumes, specific teaming strategies (to include naming partners) and fairly specific management approaches in a response to an RFI is covered in here somewhere.

The Catch-22 is more than a few of these far-reaching market research efforts also represent down-selects that means companies who opt not to respond may be left standing on the sideline when the RFP is issued.

The all too familiar result of responding to these is, well, NOTHING. This was the subject of a few pieces I penned earlier this year on the topic of "RFI TMI” also referred to as "non-price RFPs” by some in Government.

The level of frustration consuming Government and Industry, and the chalk outline of many small federal contractors who have succumbed to these and other environmental pressures continue to mount and cause increasing harm to the availability of a viable Federal/Defense Small Business Industrial Base. It effectively detracts from the ability of agencies to acquire quality supplies and services to support business operations and mission.

The growing revolt against over-reaching agency market surveys and mutual distrust results in:

  • the recent snub by 8(a) companies where SBA Miami hosted a mandatory industry day for a DHS opportunity worth millions, and no 8(a) companies bothered to show up;

  • exchanges I have with contracting officials at multiple agencies where opportunities are posted on FedBizOpps and no responses are received OR the quality of the responses clearly indicate a lack of having read and understood the Sources Sought/RFI/RFP/RFQ document or that those responding simply had no pride in authorship.

Overall, I believe many agencies and contractors have good intentions but are hindered by a number of necessary and unnecessary obstacles, some of which are self-imposed.


The Chief Visionary

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


Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC says...
Posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Eva, I agree!
Eva Freund, The IV&V Group, Inc. says...
Posted Monday, June 10, 2013
I would add another reason to the lack of response by small businesses -- that of statements of work that are so incomplete, incorrect or convuluted that it would take a working knowledge of the project or organization to understand what they are really looking for. This is compounded by the inability of the agency to respond with timely answers to submitted questions.

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