DHS Wants AI to Improve the Contract Performance Assessment Reporting System

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The Homeland Security Department wants proofs or viable prototypes that demonstrate how artificial intelligence can support contracting officers as they conduct past performance evaluations and make effective use of data from the Contract Performance Assessment Reporting System, according to a solicitation on the FedBizOpps website. 

Run through the department’s commercial solutions opening pilot program to competitively procure innovative items, the solicitation was originally posted in early August but amended this week to include the government’s answers to submitted questions.  

“An AI solution for CPARS may significantly assist contracting officers conducting past performance evaluations by identifying relevant past performance assessment records in a more accurate, consistent, faster and useful manner, reducing the administrative workload on contracting officers while increasing the quality of the outcome,” the solicitation states.

When selecting services over the simplified acquisition threshold, contracting officers are required to consider vendors’ past performance. CPARS is the central system federal officials use to collect and share contractor and vendor past performance information. But according to the solicitation, anecdotal evidence indicates that contracting officers face challenges trying to use the data for past performance evaluations, due primarily to the “volume of records and the inability to rapidly identify relevant reviews.” 

Because AI can recognize patterns, insiders hope a robust tool could enhance contracting officers’ ability to sift through all offerers CPARS performance ratings and data, and allow them to gain a more informed, accurate view of the vendors’ performance around specific work. 

“The Government hopes, as a threshold, that the demonstrations will show that AI can help the contracting officer identify which records in CPARS contain the most relevant information to the past performance evaluation in question,” the solicitation reads. “The Government also desires data-driven and evidence-based recommendations about opportunities to improve the data quality of the past performance information inputted by contracting officers into the CPARS, based on the provided test data set and informed by the development of the proof of concept/viable prototype.”

The agency will award up to five commercial solutions opening agreements worth up to $50,000 each and winners will be expected to successfully demonstrate their prototype works within four months of the award being announced. Homeland Security will provide test data comprised of approximately 1,000 records representing 50 contractors. And while it’s not required in the proof, the agency wants the final product to consider all past performance reports contained in CPARS. 

The prototype will be hosted in the contractor’s system and accessible to the government through a secure web-based interface—but user feedback sessions, demonstrations and briefings will occur at federal facilities. And while it’s not mandatory in the initial prototype, the government also wants a solution that eventually allows for the accommodation of multiple users. 

“An agency with 100 contracting officers will probably want all of them to be able to use the solution at the same time,” the solicitations said. 

The government may also go on to award follow-on procurements based on the prototypes, which will initially be evaluated on technical merit, price and business viability. 

Submissions to the CSO solicitation must be delivered by Aug. 27 and awards should be unveiled by Sept. 25.