Full and Open. No, More like Limited Or Closed

At Fedmarket we sometimes call federal competition for professional services and high technology products "Limited and Closed" as opposed to "Full and Open", which is the public posture of the federal government. We use the phrase "Limited and Closed" tongue in cheek to make a point. The bureaucracy can't take our posture when spending the public's money but, in fact, competition for professional services and high technology products has to be limited.

A federal end user's career can often be affected by the contractor selected to provide the product or service. The selection is usually made by the end user and/or affected stakeholders in concert with the formal evaluation committee established to evaluate proposals submitted in response to a publicly posted Request for Proposal or the sometime behind the scenes Requests for Quotes. End users and stakeholders have to know what they are buying on a personal level and vendor pre-selling before the public announcement of a procurement is encouraged by the Federal Acquisition Regulations. Would you select a surgeon to operate on you by issuing a request for paper proposals?

The result of all of this is that a pure evaluation and scoring of paper proposals is not what happens in real life. Proposals that win are based on pre-selling work done early in the buying process and the proposal must reflect both intimate customer knowledge as well as a solution that the customer believes will solve their problem. We call them "defensive proposals" or proposals that defend the beachhead you have already established with the federal customer.

The more money involved in a buy, the less the decision is made on paper alone. See Washington Post article Pentagon Postpones Tanker Competition, Decision to Next Administration.


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