In our opinion, lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) is not best value. It is not part of the best value continuum. It should be removed from FAR Part 15 along with the misnomer "continuum". LPTA has become the way in which agencies inveigle contractors into the best value game only to change the rules to LPTA in the source selection process. What the contractor thought was best value becomes LPTA. But the contractor thought that innovation in the technical proposal would be to its advantage. No, sorry, we're going with the lowest price. Time after time, complaint after complaint, we continue down the LPTA path deluding ourselves into thinking that we are reaching the best value decision.
Best value is a term of art reserved for a special process of cost versus technical superiority tradeoffs. The agency is asked to look at technical superiority to see if that superiority is worth the price premium. If, indeed, and in honest reality, the technical proposals are equal, then the best value axiomatically is the lowest price. But how often does that happen? Equal. Hardly. Evaluators have not done their job, most likely.
What's lost on the contemporary crowd is the history of advertised and negotiated procurement. It's time for a lesson. In the old days, there was what was known as advertised procurement and there was negotiated procurement. In advertised, the government specified exactly and in detail what it wanted the the contractor promised to comply in every respect. If the contractor demonstrated it would meet the requirements, the contract went to the lowest priced bidder. (That's where the term bidder came from - advertised procurement involved bidders - not offerors.) The bids were opened in public in front of anyone who wanted to see them, anyone could look at them and the winning price was chalked up (literally). There even was a dance called the two step which was a kind of qualifying round where the bidders were thoroughly checked out and pronounced qualified before they even submitted their prices.
FAR Part 14 is the lost part of FAR. The old advertised procurement is now called sealed bidding. It used to be all the rage and now you hardly ever hear of it. (I have not see a sealed bidding procurement in years.) Well, guess what. LPTA procurements belong in Part 14 where they can be handled properly just as they were in the old advertised procurement days.
The problem with the way LPTA is administered today is that it is used for performance specifications. We got away from the detailed specifications the government used in advertised procurements because Senator Chiles went on TV with a 4 inch mousetrap specification in his hands. Well, the government needs to specify exactly what it wants, in detail, if it is to use the likes of LPTA. We pretty much agree on that. If we are looking at whether the technical requirements are met, it seems we ought to specify with particularity what we require. As soon as you go there, you are in Part 14.
We need to rediscover FAR Part 14 and start using it where the government can specify what it wants. Follow those rules. Once the contractor is qualified and we have confidence it can do what we want, we should go to the lowest price. And, we really ought to consider the old two step as well. Use of LPTA today is entirely misplaced and misleading. Too many contractors think they are in a best value procurement when they are not. Let's call it what it is. If the government wants a performance specification, do a true best value tradeoff analysis. If it knows what it wants, use FAR Part 14 to find a qualified contractor with the lowest price.
Come to think of it, this is just another reason we need to hear from the old timers. How many of you understand what we just said? Too few, I fear. But the old timers are applauding and saying let's rediscover the virtues of FAR Part 14 and rid ourselves of the vices of Part 15.