Contractors get feedback from the government all the time. It’s a much rarer occasion when contractors are afforded the opportunity to give the government feedback. The Federal Acquisition Regulation Council (FAR Council) is looking to change that with FAR 52.201-1, Acquisition 360 (Acquisition 360 or final rule). In this blog, PilieroMazza examines implementation of Acquisition 360, as well as potential impacts on the procurement process for government contractors.
Initially proposed by the FAR Council in 2020, this final rule takes effect on September 22, 2023. Acquisition 360 encourages federal agencies to solicit contractor feedback at the conclusion of a procurement to assess the contractor’s experience. While many agencies occasionally look for feedback from their contractors, there is no standardized government tool to collect and regularly assess contractor procurement experiences. Oftentimes, if a procurement goes without protest, contractors may never have an opportunity to present feedback to the government about the procurement process from their perspective. Acquisition 360 aims to fill this gap by providing a standardized survey needed for this type of assessment.
Implementation of Acquisition 360
The FAR Council is developing a standardized set of questions for contractors to answer, which the government estimates will take about 10 minutes to complete. These questions allow contractors to address aspects of the procurement process voluntarily and anonymously. For example, the survey could allow contractors to comment on the speed of the Agency’s response to contractor questions, the contracting officer’s handling of a procurement, and any personnel changes that occurred during the procurement. Notably, the survey will include questions regarding the post-award debriefing process as the survey is geared towards evaluating aspects of an acquisition throughout its lifecycle.
Impact on Procurement Process
While what we really need is a CPARS for contracting officers and other government officials that should be directly used in pay and promotion evaluations, and which can be viewed publicly by prospective bidders and the public at large, this rule nevertheless signifies an important step for improving the contractor-government relationship throughout the procurement process. Contractors should take advantage of this opportunity and participate in this feedback process to shape future procurement. But despite the good intentions of the rule and the FAR Council, Acquisition 360 is expected to have minimal impact. Contracting officers are not required to include this FAR clause in contracts and contractors are not required to give feedback on their experience. This reality presents hurdles to the goal of the rule. Without requiring feedback, not only will it be a challenge to get already busy contractors to add another item to their plate, but it also means data collected will likely represent a population with experience unusual enough to prompt a survey response.
During the comments phase of this rule, there was a movement to make Acquisition 360 a mandatory aspect of the procurement process to ensure its success. Although that idea gained traction, it did not make its way into the final rule. Overall, this survey likely won’t collect enough data to be useful and, as a result, it won’t carry much influence on how best to improve a contractor’s procurement experience.
Bottomline, this process is meant to collect a contractor’s experiences as a participant in the government contracting industry and determine how that experience can be improved to encourage continued participation in future procurement. This process is not meant to address substantive issues with the solicitation and evaluation process—issues in those areas remain subject to the protest process. So, the real question is when will the federal government begin treating contractors as the critical team members they are instead of second-class citizens to be bullied and harassed using the CPARS process and draconian threats of termination and litigation? When will contractors get to have their voices heard instead of being silenced or ignored? Unfortunately, this is not going to correct the major problems that exist with government contracting personnel, but perhaps this can be a first step towards true reform to protect the contracting community from bad actors inside federal agencies.
If you have questions about how this new rule impacts your business or any other government contract-related matters, please contact Cy Alba or Annie Hudgins, the authors of this blog, or another member of PilieroMazza’s Government Contracts Group.
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