Angela Alban, SIMETRI’s president and CEO, moderated and introduced the fourth and final industry panel, “RFP Points: What Recurring Requirements is Industry Continuing to See That Are Unreasonable?” on RFP (request for proposal) issues at the 2023 Training and Simulation Industry Symposium.  Panelists included Garth Arevalo, CEO of Lukos; James Carver, business development/capture manager for COLSA Corporation; Rob Gallagher, aviation readiness director for Valiant Integrated Services; and Amy Motko, CEO and president of Carley Corporation.


Alban first asked the panel about allowable and constructive collaboration between industry and government they had encountered, and how those collaborations have benefitted.


Arevalo, who had been a contracting officer before becoming a CEO, responded that he’d previously worked with a variety of different federal agencies, and he highlighted USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development).


“They have a really robust, early acquisition engagement process, where they sit down and have true collaboration sessions with industry on their requirements,” Arevalo said. “They’ll have small to medium-sized groups get together about specific requirements where all potential bidders or anyone who’s interested, gets to give direct feedback to the government and PWSs (performance work statements) about future solicitations. They seem to be, of all agencies, maybe leaning the farthest forward, and their stakeholders are all over the world – so if they can do that, I think a lot of other agencies can learn from them.”


Alban went on to ask Gallagher about requirements that have kept him and his team from delivering a successful product or service, and he responded that he had no example of that happening. However, having retired from NAWCTSD before working for Valiant, he’d had experience “on both sides of the table,” and he had seen (working in industry) requirements that he’d questioned, and (working in government) he’d written requirements that he questioned in hindsight.


“I think some of the problems I’ve seen are particularly in MACs [multiple award contracts] and IDIQs [indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity] or places where we have repetitive task orders of similar items,” Gallagher said. “Having seen both sides, [I realize] the people writing those requirements understand what they mean, but for someone without the same insight reading those requirements, it may not be so clear.”


Gallagher said that confusing proposals can lead to “responses that are across the board,” on what a particular contractor’s interpretation of the requirements, which can lead to a situation with no clear objective technical requirements to evaluate against.


“It would be a lot easier if you had those upfront, very specific, objective criteria that would help both the government and industry, because we could write to exactly what you want,” Gallagher said. “You would be able to compare apples to apples with two proposals and say, ‘This is why this one’s better.’”


Carver said that having previously served in the acquisition workforce at NAVAIR, he’d been on both sides of proposal interactions. Based on his experience, he didn’t consider complications to be a matter of insufficient information given to industry, but once industry received the information, it wasn’t given enough time.


When asked if she had ever encountered RFPs with specific requirements that were unreasonable, or if requirements significantly changed after a contract award, Motko acknowledged that yes, it has happened. Often, according to Motko, it’s because it can take so long for the acquisitions center to get the RFP out. For example, in certain cases it might take a couple of years, and in that time, requirements can change because a user’s needs evolve.


“We’re finding some problems, especially in our classified environments where a lot of those tools are software subscription-based now, and they don’t run in classified environments,” Motko said. “That makes it very challenging because a small business can’t go out and spend $500,000 for an enterprise license that will be used on a two or three-year contract that has an annual $200,000 renewal.”


When Alban asked the panel about Orlando requirements fitting the “lowest price technically acceptable” (LPTA) strategy, Arevalo spoke bluntly, stating that there was nothing out of Team Orlando that was appropriate for LPTA.


“In the fractured, cultural environment we might live in, this is something you’ll get essentially 100% agreement in industry [and] I don’t know if there will be anyone in this room, in industry, that thinks LPTA is a good choice for the government,” Arevalo said. “You’ve got Congress that says, ‘Don’t do LPTA.’ You’ve got industry that says, ‘Don’t do LPTA.’ The warfighter doesn’t want LPTA. There’s no one that wants LPTA, so I’m not sure why we’re still doing it.”


Arevalo went on to emphasize that most of the federal government did not follow an LPTA strategy, and said it was “very disappointing” that the practice was still seen in the modeling, simulation, and training community. When Arevalo completed his comments, he received a round of applause from the audience.

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