FAR Part 15- Contracting by Negotiation

FAR Part 15 is one of the most widely used parts of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.   It governs negotiated procurements and allows the government to negotiate with offerors before making an award. Generally, the government will create the Request for Proposals (RFP) and note which contractors will be eligible to submit proposals to the RFP. Once bids are submitted, the government determines the competitive range and “negotiates”  with the contractors within that range.  FAR Part 15 procurements are intended to minimize the complexity of solicitations, evaluations, and source selection decisions, while maintaining a process designed to foster an impartial and comprehensive evaluation of the offeror’s proposals, leading to the selection of the proposal representing the best value to the government.

To find the best value,  the government may engage in a trade-off process if it determines  that “it may be in the best interest of the [g]overnment to consider the award to other than the lowest priced offeror or other than the highest technically rated offeror.”  If so, the RFP will state whether all evaluation factors other than cost or price, when combined are significantly more important than, approximately equal to, or significantly less important than cost or price.   According to the FAR, the perceived benefits of the higher-priced proposal shall merit the additional cost and the rationale for tradeoffs must be documented in the contract file in accordance with FAR 15.406. 

The government will evaluate proposals as defined in the solicitation. Evaluations must document each proposal’s strengths, weaknesses, and risks. Typical evaluations will review a contractor’s past performance, both past performance as a company with any of its subcontractors and past performance of key individuals with relevant experience to bring to the contract. If the offeror has no record of relevant past performance, the government must provide a neutral rating.  The government must properly document its assessment of the evaluation factors and provide a supporting narrative of each technical proposal in light of the evaluation factors.

If an offeror does not win a contract award, they may be entitled to a debrief. FAR 15.506.   The unsuccessful offeror may submit a  written request within three days after notification of the award for a debrief.   The debrief that identifies the basis for the decision and award. At a minimum, the debriefing shall include:

(1) The Government’s evaluation of the significant weaknesses or deficiencies in the offeror’s proposal, if applicable

(2) The overall evaluated cost or price (including unit prices) and technical rating, if applicable, of the successful offeror and the debriefed offeror, and past performance information on the debriefed offeror;

(3) The overall ranking of all offerors, when any ranking was developed by the agency during the source selection;

(4) A summary of the rationale for award;

(5) For acquisitions of commercial items, the make and model of the item to be delivered by the successful offeror; and

(6) Reasonable responses to relevant questions about whether source selection procedures contained in the solicitation, applicable regulations, and other applicable authorities were followed.