We applaud the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) for making one of its 2012 issues the proper use of lowest price, technically acceptable (LPTA) acquisitions. NDIA says it is acceptable to use LPTA for janitorial, grass cutting, mail handling and snow removal but not for complex engineering services. Amen. Tradeoffs among technical factors, past performance and price must be made for complex items and services. Technical services, including most engineering projects, do not lend themselves to source selection based on LPTA. NDIA points to the growing concern about DOD's expanded use of LPTA. We believe LPTA should be under attack. Criticisms of its use are warranted. Acquisition leaders and contracting officers alike should heed NDIA's concern and our reminder to pay attention to FAR.
Yes. Pay attention to FAR. As we have pointed out, FAR 15.101 covers the "best value continuum" by saying LPTA may be appropriate "where the requirement is clearly definable and the risk of unsuccessful performance is minimal". Grass cutting should go to the lowest priced bidder. On the other hand, the "less definitive the requirement, the more development work required, or the greater the performance risk" tradeoffs (best value) should be used. FAR 15.101-2 clearly says in the use of LPTA's, "tradeoffs are not permitted".
We need to interject a word about language. Best value procurements are those in which there are tradeoffs among technical factors, past performance and price. LPTA's are not best value procurements because they do not involve tradeoffs. Yet LPTA's are considered part of the "best value continuum" in FAR 15.1. We think the regulation creates some confusion among members of the contracting community because what we commonly call best value (tradeoffs) is discussed with LPTA's as part of a "best value continuum". The two are separate notions. We don't really see a continuum. LPTA is not best value as we understand it.
So, what happens? Contracting officers think the continuum is a sliding scale so that they can slip some procurements from best value tradeoffs to LPTA's. Or, they think LPTA's are perfectly acceptable since they are discussed under the "best value continuum". Wrong. The slip approach violates the law against changing the rules in the middle of the game. And the notion LPTA's are always perfectly acceptable is just plain wrong even under the continuum language in the regulation.
The answer? Get on board with NDIA. LPTA's are acceptable for grass cutting but not for more complex items and services.