DOD slammed on ENCORE III contracting

Two federal contracting groups don't like the Defense Department's selection process for its massive upcoming $17.5 billion multiple award IT contract.

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Two federal contracting groups want changes to the selection criteria in the Defense Department's upcoming $17.5 billion multiple award IT contract.

The IT Alliance for Public Sector and the Professional Services Council aired their concerns in a letter dated April 22 to Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, objecting to the use of the "lowest price technically acceptable" (LPTA) standard in source selection in the ENCORE III multiple award contract.

The groups made the letter public on April 28.

The Defense Information Systems Agency released the request for proposals for ENCORE III in late March. Nineteen categories of IT products and services can be ordered under Encore III, including cloud services, enterprise IT policy and planning and "computer-telephony integration." The goal of the contract is to maximize the use of commercial products and allow agencies to link their legacy systems with new technology.

"In our opinion, LPTA is the incorrect source selection process to use for ENCORE III, and its use directly contradicts your March 2015 memo on the appropriate use of LPTA," the industry groups' letter states.

The use of LPTA has been controversial at DoD and civilian agencies alike.  The approach can be used to lower pricing and costs, but also, some say, can lower the bar on technical quality and expertise.

As the PSC/ITAPS letter went out, legislators on Capitol Hill were introducing bills aimed at discouraging DOD officials from using LPTA in IT acquisitions.

Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who sponsored the legislation, said they believe LPTA is overused, especially when it comes to IT. In a statement announcing the bill, Warner said relying on LPTA "provides no incentive for DOD to seek out the most innovative IT and engineering solutions, especially important as we are working to encourage more innovation in cybersecurity."

In the letter to Kendall, ITPA and PSC said using LPTA is inappropriate because the requirements of the solicitation are too technologically complex, the future workforce requirements over the next decade too uncertain, and the prices too disconnected from the actual work to be executed. The groups said pre-award protests have been filed by perspective offerors on the acquisition.

The groups noted that IT purchased through the contract would be used in the Joint Information Environment to help the military securely communicate and share information. Using LPTA to get technology based on price rather than best possible capability, they said, is "troubling" in the light of growing cyber threats and the need for "information superiority."

The groups suggested that DOD use the cost/technical tradeoff source selection methodology, if the goal is to obtain high caliber information technology services.