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3 min read

David v. Goliath Webinar Series Part 1

Government Contracting | RFIs and Sources sought | Before Bid Release

Starting Before the Solicitation and Using the Q&A


David and Goliath Series Part 1

Joe Whitcomb, Joel Hamner, and Dani Tarolli are the dynamic speakers leading the engaging webinar. This informative webinar delves into the crucial significance of taking early action in the procurement process. Divided into two sections, a stimulating facilitated conversation and an interactive Q&A session, this webinar offers a comprehensive understanding of the topic. The speakers are readily available to address any follow-up questions via email. They stress the utmost importance of initiating the procurement process even before the release of the RFP. To be well-prepared, they recommend diligently tracking and promptly responding to RFIs and sources sought.

Contractors must stay informed about the specific type of procurement the government is utilizing, whether it is a blanket purchase agreement or a negotiated procurement. It is vital to ascertain whether the procurement will be divided among multiple contractors or awarded to a single awardee. Additionally, contractors should be knowledgeable about any set-aside requirements, such as SDVOSB or small business set-asides. By actively responding to RFIs and sources sought, contractors significantly enhance their chances of securing a procurement set aside for a specific group.

RFIs and sources sought

Dani inquires if contractors can still submit a bid even if they choose not to respond to an RFI or sources sought. Joel and Joseph both confirm that it is possible, but stress the importance of responding in order to safeguard their rights throughout the procurement process. Joseph specifically encourages SDVOSB and VOSB businesses to actively participate in RFIs and sources sought. Following this, Dani asks about the most crucial aspect of a solicitation.

In response, Joel advises contractors to familiarize themselves with the source selection criteria and evaluation methodology to tailor their proposals accordingly. He also warns against including unnecessary information that could potentially be used against them. Joel and Joseph engage in a discussion highlighting the significance of being mindful of various contract aspects, including the type, performance period, and set-aside criteria. They further emphasize the importance of thoroughly reviewing FAR and other agency clauses to identify any that may not be applicable or conflict with each other.

ambiguities in the bidding process

Joseph urges contractors to remain vigilant for any ambiguities or puzzling aspects in the procurement process, emphasizing the importance of seeking clarification during the Q&A period. Joel and Joseph further delve into the significance of comprehending the agency and acquisition process, as well as staying informed about submission deadlines. Dani raises a question about whether the contracting staff is obligated to provide a question and answer session for every solicitation. Joseph then highlights the value of taking early action in the procurement process, particularly in relation to filing a pre-award bid protest if the government fails to respond to inquiries.

Joseph also stresses the importance of understanding the deadlines for filing protests. Dani seeks suggestions for helpful questions to ask, and Joel suggests seeking clarification on any ambiguities, requesting the removal of irrelevant terms, and recognizing the potential challenges faced by small businesses in a David vs. Goliath situation. The speakers emphasize the significance of using the Q&A process to clarify any issues and hold the government accountable for their intentions.

the Q&A process

In a fascinating discussion, Joel provides a real-life example of how the Q&A process can effectively address concerns about unique terms in a procurement. Joseph emphasizes the importance of identifying major deviations in the government's purchasing methods, such as bundling or consolidating contracts. He also highlights the need to advocate for small businesses and ensure their inclusion in procurement decisions.

Dani raises an important question about the potential risk of losing a contract if a contractor files a legal action. Joseph assures that the government is prohibited from retaliating against contractors for legal actions, as it would be unlawful. He further emphasizes the value of using the Q&A process to document the government's refusal to answer questions, which can serve as evidence in a bid protest or court case. Joel reiterates that the government is legally restrained from taking legal action against contractors and advises approaching questions in a straightforward manner to maintain a positive relationship with the government.

limitations on subcontracting

Joseph emphasizes the importance of speaking up when faced with ambiguous clauses in a contract, as the government can use this against you in a bid protest. He also addresses a query regarding limitations on subcontracting, explaining that it is the responsibility of the contracting officer to ensure compliance with these limitations. If a contractor discovers that the incumbent or awardee is violating these restrictions, they have options to protest at the SBA, file a responsibility determination, or take legal action.

During the discussion, the speakers delve into the penalties for non-compliance with limitations on subcontracting, which can be as high as half a million dollars. Joseph Whitcomb advises contractors that if they find themselves competing against someone who is not following the rules, they can bring a qui tam or post claim. Joel Hamner further explains the ostensible subcontractor rule, which stipulates that if a subcontractor performs a majority or vital components of a subcontract, they will be treated as an affiliate of the prime contractor. Joseph Whitcomb also provides valuable resources for newcomers to government contracting, including the SBA, PTAC, and various books and guides.

The speakers also highlight the availability of free webinars through PTAC, which are accessible in almost every state. Joseph Whitcomb announces that they will address unanswered questions from the chat and Q&A by creating short videos to be sent out via email. Whitcomb concludes by reminding the audience that this is just the first of five webinars and that there are multiple ways to contact the law firm for further inquiries.