Alan Chovtkin, Executive Vice President and Counsel of the Professional Services Council (PSC) announced today a major effort by that organization to suggest changes to the way the government buys through the use of the lowest price, technically acceptable (LPTA) procurement method. Following a theme we began in these articles, Alan referred to the ambiguous word "continuum" in the regulation and suggested in passing he didn't know "what was in between."
We have stated over and over again that FAR 15.101 is poorly written and ill-conceived. Best value is the tradeoff process. LPTA is not. Therefore, there is no "continuum". In fact, the Court of Federal Claims (COFC) agrees, as we have reported. Best value (the use of tradeoffs) and LPTA (the prohibition on tradeoffs) are completely different animals. And they do not reside on some "continuum" or sliding scale. In fact, the regulation is a slippery slope for reasons identified by the COFC and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The tendency is for contracting officers to think they can move along the "continuum" during the source selection process.
What has been happening is that the agencies have changed the evaluation scheme during the source selection process. That's illegal, say COFC and GAO. Agencies cannot change the rules in the middle of the game. Moving along the sliding scale may seem acceptable the way the regulation is written but it is not. So we have advocated changing the regulation to get rid of the word "continuum" and to make it clear that best value and LPTA are completely different.
Alan's and PSC's effort, however, goes far beyond simple language changes. Alan is writing a white paper for broad publication which points out that LPTA may be good for commodities, but not for technology services. He explains that LPTA tends to lower the technical levels in favor of obtaining the lowest price. Among other things, this provides a disincentive to contractor innovation. Alan is gathering case histories from contractors on their experiences with LPTA. He has visited with all the high ranking procurement officials on this subject and plans another tour when his white paper comes out.
So, send in your LPTA horror stories (or positive experiences). We'll pass them on to Alan and we will send you his paper as soon as it comes out.