OMB releases second ‘mythbusting’ memo to improve communication with contractors

Asserting that “early, frequent and constructive engagement with industry leads to better acquisition outcomes,” the Office of Management and Budget on Monday released Mythbusting 2, a follow-up to guidance sent out in 2011 to encourage agencies and contractors to shed some of their reluctance to communicate.

“Whereas we focused last year on the misconceptions on the part of federal agencies, we want to continue the discussion by addressing in this memorandum the misconceptions that may be held by some in the vendor community,” wrote Lesley Field, acting administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement, in a May 7 memo to chief acquisition officers, senior procurement officers and chief information officers.

Agency recipients were encouraged to share the document with the contracting community, especially new contractors. Copies also were sent to agency counsels and ethics officers.

An attachment laid out seven “myths” that inhibit precontract communication -- which is often self-censored for fear of unintentionally disqualifying vendors from winning contracts -- and provided best practices agencies can use to help overcome any hesitancy. Examples of myths include:

  • “Misconception -- `The best way to present my company’s capabilities is by marketing directly to contracting officers and/or signing them up for my mailing list.’ ”
  • A second is: “Misconception -- `Agencies generally have already determined their requirements and acquisition approach so our impact during the pre-[request for proposals] phase is limited.’”

Field said the document also is designed to encourage incorporating more industry input into agency acquisitions, publicizing events that allow contractors and contracting officers to interact, and providing training and awareness to employees and vendors.

The memo cites two agencies as models for outreach to vendors. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission uses quarterly business seminars to educate vendors about the agency, as well as one-on-one discussions between vendors and project managers and technical counseling sessions for market research on specific requirements.

The Education Department holds webinars, advertised in the presolicitation phase, on FedBizOpps.gov, as a “virtual outreach” to increase competition.

Field announced the new document during a panel at a Monday conference on small business federal contracting hosted by the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council.

Asked how agencies were doing in implementing the principles of mythbusting, she said, “they are more mindful of the pre-RFP phase,” participating in more webinars and industry days, while contractors are getting more specific in how they target agencies. “Sometimes it’s just a simple conference call at the right time,” she said. “I’ve seen it happen with 100 folks participating, and I’m pleased.”

The first mythbusting memo, written by then-OFPP administrator Dan Gordon, came out in February 2011.

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