Procurement Information Circular
PURPOSE: To provide a uniform format for the dissemination of source selection information to the contractor community
BACKGROUND: Center legal and procurement organizations have provided source selection information in varying degrees of depth and detail in the past. In an attempt to develop an Agency-wide approach, a team of Headquarters and Center procurement and legal representatives reviewed and developed suggested improvements for the development of source selection statements. The approach embraces a policy of providing more substantive information, in a consistent manner across the Agency.
GUIDANCE: Key components of the source selection statement development guide include: a definition of the function of the selection statement; a description of the format, content and order of the information contained in the statement; and identification of the roles and responsibilities of key source selection personnel.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This PIC is effective as dated and shall remain in effect until cancelled or superseded.
HEADQUARTERS CONTACT: Yolande Harden, Code HK, (202) 358-1279, firstname.lastname@example.org.
James A. Balinskas
Director, Contract Management Division
SOURCE SELECTION STATEMENT
Purpose. This guide is intended to promote NASA-wide implementation of best practices for developing Source Selection Statements (SSS). It is also designed to offer a set of uniform reference methods and techniques for developing a legally well-founded SSS.
Source Selection Statement (SSS). The SSS serves two different but related functions. The principal function of the SSS is to demonstrate that the Source Selection Authority (SSA) made a rational selection decision. A selection decision is rational if it is based solely on the evaluation criteria stated in the solicitation, as those criteria are applied to a reasonable evaluation of the proposals. The SSS demonstrates the SSA’s decision was rational by explaining (1) the SSA’s comparative assessment of the competing proposals, and (2) the SSA’s trade-offs between the non-cost/price benefits and cost/price benefits among proposals.
A secondary function of the SSS is to provide a publicly releasable overview of the procurement, including (1) a description the procurement process and (2) the government’s general assessment of each proposal.
Responsibilities. The application of sound business and technical judgment to the approaches, features and characteristics presented in the proposals (in light of the legal standards applicable to evaluations), and the clear, complete and reasoned articulation of that business and technical judgment, combine to create a legally, well-founded SSS.
a. The Source Evaluation Board (SEB) must accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses in each proposal (as well as evaluate cost or price). The relative degree of non-cost/price strengths or weaknesses in each SEB finding depends on the degree of either the benefit (for a finding of a strength) or the detriment or risk (for a finding of a weakness) that will likely accrue to or impact the agency from each feature or characteristic of a proposal. This involves the exercise of sound business and technical judgment by the SEB. The SEB cannot accurately assess a finding without making explicit reference to the non-cost/price benefit or detriment the finding brings to the agency.
b. The contracting officer (CO) and the legal advisor (and any other designated procurement advisor) must either be satisfied that the SEB has articulated sufficient findings to provide a solid foundation for the SSA to make a rational decision, or withhold their concurrences in the SEB work-product; if the findings are lacking, the SSA’s decision based on those findings may not be rational. The reviewing CO and legal advisor must ensure that (1) there is indeed a proposal feature or characteristic cited as a basis for a particular finding; (2) the SEB has stated, as part of the finding, the benefit or detriment/risk to the agency of the cited proposal approach, feature or characteristic; and (3) the finding is made in accordance with the selection criteria stated in the solicitation. The CO and the legal advisor must be certain the SSA fully articulates the rationale behind his or her comparative assessment of the proposals, and the trade-offs made among proposals. They must ensure that the logic path that the SSA uses to reach his or her business and technical judgment is rational and well documented. The CO and the legal advisor advise the SSA when the SSA’s reasoning appears to lack either rationality or sufficient support.
c. The SSA must base his or her selection decision solely on his or her findings, and on the evaluation criteria stated in the solicitation. The SSA may adopt the findings of the SEB without exception as the SSA’s own. The SSA is also free to disagree with any SEB finding, provided he or she either (1) specifically cites portions of the proposal contradicting the SEB’s finding or characterization of a proposal’s feature or characteristic; or (2) explains why his or her judgment of the benefit or detriment/risk flowing from a cited feature or characteristic differs from the judgment of the SEB. It is the SSA’s personal responsibility to fully articulate the rationale behind his or her comparative assessment of proposals, and the trade-offs made among proposals.
Format and Content. The SSS consists of three parts: the Source Selection Decision (SSD), the Procurement History, and the Findings. The parts may be combined as an integrated document, or, for example, an SSD memorandum may have the History and the Findings as supporting attachments. The entire SSS must be publicly releasable, without redactions, even though each element of the SSS may derive from proprietary information in the proposals or from source selection sensitive information in the documentation of the SEB’s evaluation process. Therefore, the drafters must take care to express the findings without disclosing proprietary or source selection sensitive information. This may require describing a finding through a high-level description of its benefit or detriment, rather than as a detailed description of the underlying proposal feature or characteristic.
a. The Source Selection Decision (SSD) The SSA is responsible for preparation of the SSD, and may seek assistance from the CO, the legal advisor, or other designated procurement advisor. The SSD is the full expression of the SSA’s logic in making the selection decision, drawing from information in the Procurement History and Findings that he or she deems relevant to the decision.
First, consistent with the solicitation evaluation criteria and the SEB record (including the Procurement History and Findings), the SSA makes the required comparative assessment of the relative non-cost/price strengths and weaknesses of the proposals. The SSA relates the findings he or she found for each proposal to the findings for the other proposals. It is likely, but not required, that significant differences in the SEB’s numerical scores or adjectival ratings in one or more evaluation factors or subfactors will highlight where in the proposals the SEB determined there were significant qualitative differences in the benefits and detriments of competing proposals. After accounting for any offsetting or equivalent non-/price strengths and weaknesses, the SSA reaches and expresses a conclusion regarding which proposal provides a greater degree of benefit to the Agency, to what degree there is a difference, and the technical and business judgment bases for the difference. Where there are more than two proposals being comparatively assessed, large point or adjectival differences may validate and be cited in the summary disposal of the lowest technically rated proposals that are also not cost-competitive.
Second, if the ‘best’ non-cost/price proposal is not also the lowest cost/price proposal, the SSA must provide his or her trade-off analysis between the better technical proposal and the lower cost/price proposal. As with all aspects of the evaluation process, the trade-off analysis must be consistent with the evaluation
criteria stated in the solicitation. The SSA must take into consideration the relative importance among the evaluation factors, individually, and between the cost/price factor and the non-cost/price factors in making the trade-off. The SSA weighs the relative qualitative advantage in the “high-tech” proposal’s non-cost/price benefits against the “low cost” proposal’s quantitative advantage in cost/price. The cost to be considered may be either the proposed or the probable cost, depending on what the solicitation states. As before, the proper focus of the trade-offs is on the qualitative benefits inuring to the Agency, not on the points assigned at the factor or subfactor level solely for the purpose of highlighting evaluation areas the SEB recommended for consideration by the SSA.
b. The Procurement History Narrative. The CO drafts this concise narrative for the SSA, subject to the SSA’s changes, if any, and approval. This narrative outlines a brief history of the progress of the procurement. The Procurement History narrative details the important stages of the procurement and their dates, an abbreviated statement of the evaluation criteria and weights, the disposition of offerors not addressed in the SSD, and any unusual aspects of the procurement.
c. The Findings Narrative. The SEB drafts this narrative for the SSA based on the SEB’s findings. If the SSA disagrees with any of the SEB’s findings, he or she must add a description of each disagreement to the Findings narrative. The disagreements may be added in one of several different ways: for example, (1) immediately following the statement of the SEB finding disagreed with, (2) as a footnote to that SEB finding, or (3) collected in a separate section at the end of the Findings narrative. The Findings narrative details each finding (approach, feature or characteristic, and related benefit/detriment) for each proposal. If the SSA disagrees with a finding, the Findings narrative includes the SSA’s rationale for the different finding, specifically describing the change in terms of the proposal’s feature or characteristic or the SSA’s perceived difference in the benefit/detriment, or both. In addition, the disagreement must be made in relation to the evaluation scheme announced in the solicitation. Citation to the proposal is required to support a change to a finding; also, a statement of the SSA’s different business or technical judgment is required for a change to the perceived benefit/detriment flowing to the Agency from an offeror’s approach.