On July 18, 2019, the Professional Services Council hosted an important event covering Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (“CPARS”) trends, their impact on contractor past performance ratings, and the consequence they have on winning federal contracts. As one of the speakers at this event, PilieroMazza’s Samuel Finnerty offered recommendations on what government contractors can do now to proactively engage and manage their CPARS ratings and  position themselves for future growth.   
One of the most interesting trends discussed was the sharp decline in the number of “Exceptional” and “Very Good” CPARS ratings assigned over the past few years.  Apparently, this is due to the government requiring acquisition officials to provide more detailed justifications for all CPARS ratings higher than “Satisfactory.”  No doubt, this trend has also been facilitated by what seems to be the current government mantra that a “Satisfactory” rating is “Good.”  Technically speaking this is true.  Performing a contract satisfactorily means that your company gave the government what it asked for.  However, from a practical/business perspective, the difference between a “Satisfactory” and a “Very Good” or “Exceptional” CPARS rating can be the difference between winning and losing a contract.  As such, it should come as no surprise that the sentiment I heard echoed by many of the industry personnel in attendance at this event was that, in many cases, a “Satisfactory” rating is simply not “Good” enough.  
Coupled with the fact that the government is increasingly using CPARS to evaluate past performance, and is even placing a higher importance on the past performance factor in certain procurements (e.g., OASIS), the trend towards “Satisfactory” ratings being the new norm could not come at a worse time.  As a result, now more than ever, contractors need to actively participate in the CPARS process and, when necessary, fight for higher CPARS ratings.  At the outset of performance, one of the ways a contractor can try to get ahead of any CPARS issues down the road is to discuss with the agency what types of additional efforts will warrant a higher rating—this way the contractor can plan ahead.  In addition, during performance, contractors can engage the agency to solicit feedback on their performance and can maintain detailed records of their accomplishments and deliverables.  This type of forward thinking will put your company in a much better position to advocate for a higher rating when commenting on a negative CPARS, and, when necessary, escalating your concerns by filing a CPARS claim.  
For more information on the process and timelines associated with responding to a CPARS and/or pursuing a formal CPARS challenge, please contact a member of PilieroMazza’s Government Contracts Law Group.  Please also refer to an earlier post on this topic here.
Samuel Finnerty, the author of this blog, is an Associate in the following practice groups: Government Contracts LawLitigationBusiness & Transactions Law, and Small Business Programs & Advisory Services.