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Solicitation and Selection Methods

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FREE Request for Proposal Letters Toolkit, 2014 EditionAlso known as: procurement methods, RFP handling, purchase methods, competitive proposals contracting, or competitive negotiated acquisition.

Depending on the amount involved in the procurement of new goods, products, or services, you may choose the option best matching your needs amongst the following solicitation and selection methods:

  1. Informal purchase process
    1. Micro-purchase
    2. Small purchase
  2. Formal competitive purchase process
    1. Best-price purchase
    2. Best-value purchase
  3. Formal non-competitive purchase process

Micro-purchase process

Also known as: micro procurement methods


A micro-purchase does not require obtaining competitive quotations if you determine that the price to be paid is fair and reasonable.

Micro-purchases should be equitably distributed among qualified suppliers in the local area and purchases should not be split to avoid the requirements for competition above the micro-purchase threshold

Minimal documentation is usually required:

Small purchase process

Also known as: small procurement methods


Small purchase procedures may not be used if the services, supplies, or other property costs either less than the micro-purchase threshold or more than the small purchase threshold. If small purchases procedures are used, price or rate quotations shall be obtained from an adequate number of qualified sources.

As a method of procurement, small purchase procedures recognize that, up to some statutory level (the small purchase threshold), it could cost more to conduct a formal competition than the value expected to be yielded by the formal competition. This procedure requires obtaining only limited competition from an adequate number of qualified sources (at least two). Solicitations and quotations for small purchases may be either oral or written.

Best-price purchase process

Also known as: best-price procurement, lowest-price procurement, or lowest-priced technically acceptable method.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), document setting forth basic policies and procedures for proper acquisition by all federal agencies, defines this process as follows:

  1. The lowest price technically acceptable source selection process is appropriate when best value is expected to result from selection of the technically acceptable proposal with the lowest evaluated price.
  2. When using the lowest price technically acceptable process, the following apply:
    1. The evaluation factors and significant subfactors that establish the requirements of acceptability shall be set forth in the solicitation. Solicitations shall specify that award will be made on the basis of the lowest evaluated price of proposals meeting or exceeding the acceptability standards for non-cost factors. If the contracting officer documents the file pursuant to 15.304(c)(3)(iv), past performance need not be an evaluation factor in lowest price technically acceptable source selections. If the contracting officer elects to consider past performance as an evaluation factor, it shall be evaluated in accordance with 15.305. However, the comparative assessment in 15.305(a)(2)(i) does not apply. If the contracting officer determines that a small business' past performance is not acceptable, the matter shall be referred to the Small Business Administration for a Certificate of Competency determination, in accordance with the procedures contained in Subpart 19.6 and 15 U.S.C. 637(b)(7)).
    2. Tradeoffs are not permitted.
    3. Proposals are evaluated for acceptability but not ranked using the non-cost/price factors.
    4. Exchanges may occur (see 15.306).

(FAR § 15.101-2, Lowest price technically acceptable source selection process)

So, best-price procurement is used when:

To solicit offers from providers, the best-price purchase process relies on an Invitation to Bid (ITB), also known as Invitation to tender (ITT), Invitation for Bids (IFB), or Sealed Bids. Although simply one of many procurement methods that may be used, the best price purchase based on sealed bid method is sometimes more appropriate for particular projects, like construction or purchase of goods. When used, the sealed bid method defines specific requirements that have to be followed:

Best-value purchase process

Also known as: best-value procurement, greatest-value procurement, or tradeoff process

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), document setting forth basic policies and procedures for proper acquisition by all federal agencies, defines best value as follows:

"Best value means the expected outcome of an acquisition that, in the Government's estimation, provides the greatest overall benefit in response to the requirement." (FAR § 2.101)

FAR also defines this process as follows:

  1. A tradeoff process is appropriate when it may be in the best interest of the Government to consider award to other than the lowest priced offeror or other than the highest technically rated offeror.
  2. When using a tradeoff process, the following apply:
    1. All evaluation factors and significant subfactors that will affect contract award and their relative importance shall be clearly stated in the solicitation; and
    2. The solicitation shall state whether all evaluation factors other than cost or price, when combined, are significantly more important than, approximately equal to, or significantly less important than cost or price.
  3. This process permits tradeoffs among cost or price and non-cost factors and allows the Government to accept other than the lowest priced proposal. The perceived benefits of the higher priced proposal shall merit the additional cost, and the rationale for tradeoffs must be documented in the file in accordance with 15.406.

    (FAR § 15.101-1, Tradeoff process)

So, best-value procurement is used when:

To solicit offers from providers, the best-value purchase process relies on a Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP sets forth acquisition requirements and ask providers to submit a competitive proposal. Although simply one of many procurement methods that may be used, the RFP-based solicitation and selection method is more appropriate than the sealed bids method for specific projects. Indeed, it's particularly the case when provided specifications focus more on outcomes and benefits whatever features are proposed by providers in order to achieve rather than for particular projects, like construction or purchase of goods. When used, the best-value purchase procurement method defines specific requirements that have to be followed:

Non-competitive purchase process

Also known as: noncompetitive procurement


The non-competitive proposal or sole source procurement process is accomplished through solicitation or acceptance of a proposal from one single source only when other procurement methods, namely micro-purchases, small purchases, and competitive procedures like sealed bids, or competitive proposals, are not applicable or lead to an unrealistic process.

Such circumstances could be:

Inappropriate Sole Source Justification

Sole sourcing is not appropriately justified and justifiable when used as a method of selecting a preferred vendor. Notwithstanding the fact that they could be voided by potential sole source solicitation protests, purchases of this king, when put under scrutiny, will surely attract auditors' interest in their quest for details suggesting a bit of favoritism, partiality, and other bias.

Sole Source Protest Letter Template

In the sole source solicitation context, a sole source protest letter may be sent by a prospective provider who is aggrieved in connection with the sole source solicitation process and resulting award of the contract to another provider, and would like to file a protest.

To help you identify what kind of facts are deemed valid, thus acceptable grounds for such a sole source protest letter, you might read the discussion "How to protest against Sole Source Solicitation" and, to create your own sole source protest letter, use the templates and samples provided in your FREE RFP Letters Toolkit.


Responsibility: being a responsible provider

Failing to be able to honor the contract agreed, the non-responsibility of the provider is established, so such provider is declared as non-responsible. The responsibility of a provider is established, so such provider is declared as responsible, when the organization is able to properly and successfully execute the proposed contract under the terms and conditions agreed. May be taken into account such considerations as integrity of the organization, compliance with public or internal policies, client references as record of past performance, financial viability, and whether technical or administrative resources to be dedicated to the project.

A non-responsible provider, although supplying all necessary information, would, for example, not be able to fully satisfy requirements defined in the RFP or would be financially unstable or unable to complete the project in a timely manner.

Responsiveness: submitting a responsive proposal

Failing to be able to honor the requirements as set forth in the solicitation document, the non-responsiveness of the proposal is established, so such proposal is qualified as non-responsive. The responsiveness of a proposal is established, so such proposal is qualified as responsive, when the proposed solution is conformed with all the requirements, terms, and conditions set forth in the solicitation document. May be taken into account such considerations as Return on Investment (ROI), cost analysis, installation, implementation, training, or support.

A non-responsive proposal would, for example, neglect to provide mandatory information or documents requested in the RFP.

Top Books on Procurement, Solicitation, and Selection

Source Selection Answer Book (2nd Edition)
by Vernon J. Edwards
Hardcover: 443 pages
ISBN: 1567261728

Book Description:
The newly expanded and updated second edition of this best selling and practical handbook is designed to give hands-on contracting professionals a solid working knowledge of this critical process.
This proven resource covers the entire source selection process, including acquisition and source selection planning, preparation of requests for proposals, proposal solicitation and preparation, proposal evaluation, award without discussions, discussions and final proposal revisions, final proposal evaluation, contractor selection, and debriefings and protests.

Source Selection Answer Book, Second Edition provides concise, straightforward answers to common questions about the Federal government's rules and procedures in selecting contractors including:

All in a unique question and answer format that allows the reader to go directly to the topic of interest for fast and comprehensive solutions!

Solicitation and Selection Web References

Simplified Acquisitions
SubPart 13, Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)

This part prescribes policies and procedures for the acquisition of supplies and services, including construction, research and development, and commercial items, the aggregate amount of which does not exceed the simplified acquisition threshold (see FAR 2.101). Subpart 13.5 provides special authority for acquisitions of commercial items exceeding the simplified acquisition threshold but not exceeding $5 million ($10 million for acquisitions as described in FAR 13.500(e)), including options. See Part 12 for policies applicable to the acquisition of commercial items exceeding the micro-purchase threshold. See FAR 36.602-5 for simplified procedures to be used when acquiring architect-engineer services.

Sealed Bidding
SubPart 14, Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)

This part prescribes:

  1. Use of Sealed Bidding.
    The basic requirements of contracting for supplies and services (including construction) by sealed bidding;
  2. Solicitation of Bids.
    The information to be included in the solicitation (invitation for bids);
  3. Submission of Bids.
    Procedures concerning the submission of bids;
  4. Opening of Bids and Award of Contract.
    Requirements for opening and evaluating bids and awarding contracts; and
  5. Two-Step Sealed Bidding.
    Procedures for two-step sealed bidding

Contracting by Negotiation:
Competitive and Sole Source Acquisitions

SubPart 15, Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)

This part delineates policies and procedures governing competitive and noncompetitive negotiated acquisitions like:

  1. Sole source acquisitions. When contracting in a sole source environment, the request for proposals (RFP) should be tailored to remove unnecessary information and requirements; e.g., evaluation criteria and voluminous proposal preparation instructions.
  2. Competitive acquisitions. When contracting in a competitive environment, the procedures of this part are intended to minimize the complexity of the solicitation, the evaluation, and the source selection decision, while maintaining a process designed to foster an impartial and comprehensive evaluation of offerors' proposals, leading to selection of the proposal representing the best value to the Government (see FAR 2.101).

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FREE Request for Proposal Letters Toolkit, 2014 Edition


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POGO Urges OSTP to Ensure that Agency Scientific Integrity Plans Include Contractors and Grantees

POGO is pleased to see that most federal departments and agencies have finally made public their draft or final scientific integrity plans in response to President Obama's March 2009 Memorandum on Scientific Integrity. However, POGO is concerned that several agencies have not included contractors or grantees in their plans. The failure to ensure the integrity of science performed outside the government but funded with taxpayer dollars is particularly troubling given that some of these departments or agencies—such as the Department of Energy (DOE)—rely heavily or nearly entirely on contractors and grantees for scientific research. .

14 Federal Agencies Fail to Fulfill the President's Directive: Billions in Taxpayer-Funded Science Not Included in Integrity Plans and Policies

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Food and Drug Administration were two of 14 federal agencies that failed to set proper scientific standards for contract and grantee researchers, despite the fact that tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money funds this science each year, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) said in a letter sent today to the Obama administration..

POGO Supports DoD Effort to Redefine Commercial Items

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) urges you to support the Department of Defense's (DoD) legislative proposal for the National Defense Authorization Act that will result in improved oversight of billions of dollars' worth of so-called "commercial" goods and services..

POGO Supports Proposed Defense Contractor Crime Reporting Rule

The Department of Defense (DoD) seeks input on a proposal to amend the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) to expand coverage on contractor requirements and responsibilities with regard to the reporting of crimes committed by or against contractor personnel. .

POGO's Response to Professional Services Council Letter Regarding Reducing Civilian Workforce

Senators and Representatives recently received a letter from the Professional Services Council (PSC) responding to their letters to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in they criticized the Department of Defense's (DoD) efficiency initiative, which aims to reduce costs by scaling back the civilian workforce to 2010 levels rather than compliance with mandates to reduce reliance upon contractors. We would like to offer some perspective on a number of points raised in the PSC letter..

POGO and Partners Strongly Support Passage of the DATA Act

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing in strong support of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), H.R. 2146, which is planned for a floor vote this Wednesday. The DATA Act is an important step towards improving federal financial transparency and would empower the public to better understand how their federal dollars are being spent. .

A Test Case on Sanctions?

If there's one thing most Americans support in foreign policy, it's sanctions against Iran to halt its alleged drive for nuclear weapons. From President Obama to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich, leading candidates all want to put the economic squeeze on Tehran and to signal their support for Israel. President Obama recently announced he will ratchet up sanctions on the country's oil exports and declared a "national emergency" to deal with the Islamic Republic. The Senate will try to iron out its differences over anti-Iran measures in coming weeks, as bus stations around Washington, DC, are studded with advertisements questioning the President's resolve on the issue..

U.S. Wasting Billions on Over-Priced Service Contracts; Government Lacks Data to Make Informed Contracting Decisions, POGO Tells Congressional Subcommittee

The federal government more than doubled its spending on service contracts over the last decade, despite having inaccurate data on the "true" cost of those contracts—largely because of the misguided notion that outsourcing is more cost effective than using federal workers, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) told a Senate subcommittee today..

POGO's Scott Amey testimony on "Contractors: How Much Are They Costing the Government?"

I want to thank Chairman McCaskill, Ranking Member Portman, and the Subcommittee for asking the Project On Government Oversight (POGO to submit written testimony about the important, but often ignored, issue of service contracting costs. Although there are many initiatives in place to cut federal agency spending and reduce the costs associated with the federal workforce, the cost of contractor services has escaped scrutiny. Such avoidance is extremely disturbing because the government annually spends more taxpayer dollars on contractor services than it spends on goods, over $320 billion and $210 billion in FY 2011, respectively. To put that level of spending in perspective, total contract spending was $205 billion in FY 2000, of which services accounted for $128 billion of the total..

Last Modified: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 9:25:11 PM

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