JB MDL Pitch Day Using a Commercial Solutions Opening

At JB MDL, we’re planning to hold a Pitch Day for Wing-level requirements using a Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO). We just posted our CSO to FedBizOpps here.

We’re trying to model our JB MDL Pitch Day after the Air Force Pitch Day, except Air Force Pitch Day used a Broad Agency Announcment (BAA) for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts and we are using a CSO for commercial solutions.

Here is our timeline:

I am generating an effort – following your lead – that will leverage virtual pitch days. I believe it may be an incentive tool to get more non-traditional defense contractors involved.

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Here is an overview of our CSO:

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) is conducting a commercial solutions opening (CSO) authorized by section 879 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 (Pub. L. 114-328). Under a CSO, the Air Force may competitively award proposals received in response to a general solicitation, similar to a broad agency announcement (BAA), to acquire innovative commercial items, technologies, and services, based on a review of proposals by scientific, technological, or other subject-matter expert peers within the Air Force. Under this CSO, all items, technologies, and services shall be treated as commercial items.

The Air Force intends to obtain “innovative” solutions or potential new capabilities that fulfill requirements, close capability gaps, or provide potential technology advancements. Solutions may include existing technologies or procedures that are not currently in use by the Air Force that would enhance or streamline Air Force mission capabilities. Based on available funding, the Air Force is targeting solutions priced less than $100,000. However, the Air Force will still evaluate proposed solutions priced greater than $100,000.

“Innovative” is defined as any technology, process or method that is new as of the date of submission of a proposal. It also includes any new application of an existing technology, process, or method.

This CSO contains broadly defined areas of interest and interest in more specific requirements. While these areas of interest are geared toward meeting JB MDL requirements, the Air Force reserves the right to award contracts from this CSO to meet Air Force requirements outside of JB MDL with similar areas of interest and mission requirements.

JB MDL will utilize an open, two-step CSO evaluation process. In phase 1, offerors must submit a white paper and a pitch deck for evaluation. Once the evaluations are complete, all offerors will be notified as to whether they will be invited to pitch their proposal at a Pitch Day event (phase 2).

Offerors that are selected will receive an invitation to make a live pitch to the JB MDL team during a Pitch Day event to be held 10 June 2019 in Newark, NJ. Offerors will pitch their solution to evaluators and will be immediately notified if they were selected for an award.

In order to expedite funds, the Government intends to pay this contract with the Government Purchase Card (GPC); which is just the Government credit card, but this his will require you to have the ability to accept a credit card payment at this event for payment.

Further information on JB MDL Pitch Day will be made available as the event date gets closer.

Here are the areas of interest from our Contingency Response Wing:

JBMDL191-003​ TITLE: Contingency Response

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Logistics, Communications, Business Systems, Engineering

DESCRIPTION: The 621st Contingency Response Wing rapidly deploys Airmen to provide airbase opening, airfield assessments, theater-wide air mobility command and control, contingency load planning, and liaise with, and advise, joint and international partners. The Contingency Response Wing wishes to stay at the cutting edge of these various technologies and is looking to partner with small businesses that may have solutions to Air Force challenges. The areas listed below are high level challenge areas that the Air Force is interested in novel solutions:

  1. Logistics systems

  2. Automated warehouse/equipment management systems

  3. Wing communications systems

  4. Database management

  5. Virtual reality/augmented reality training programs/systems

Additionally the Contingency Response Wing has a number of specific challenges that require tailored solutions:

  1. Warehouse management solutions to facilitate rapid deployment. Solutions should address inventory management and visibility, storage optimization, and predictive asset life cycle tracking.

  2. Virtual reality/augmented reality training programs to facilitate shortening upgrade/certification training timelines and reduce required travel for training opportunities.

  3. Development of centralized global management system to consolidate access, input and tracking of unit level training/certifications that are currently tracked by multiple legacy systems.

  4. Tools to address communication gaps between Wing’s multiple geographically separated units. Tools should facilitate management of Wing calendar to include meetings, engagements and exercises, and consolidate distribution of information on Wing activities.

The Contingency Response Wing is interested in exploring innovative technology solutions that may not be covered in the list above. This solicitation for ideas is intended to be a call for open ideas and technologies that cover other related areas not currently listed (i.e. the unknown-unknown).

The goal is to give Wing and Squadron Commanders options for their Squadron Innovation Funds. We’re also hoping to expose the evaluation team members, who will come from across the organization, to a wide range of new technologies in their industries.

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If you are following along, we have a landing page with an overview of our CSO. We intend to add more information as we get questions and finalize our plans.

Also, the best CSO resources we’ve found are on the Air Force Contracting Central CSO page (cac required). Read the OSD memo, SAF/AQC memo, and the FAQs attached to the SAF/AQC memo.

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ASK ME ANYTHING (New Date/Time)

Due to technical issues, the Ask Me Anything (AMA) teleconference is rescheduled to 7 May 2019 at 1300 EST. To access the AMA, dial in to 301-909-7349 (new number), passcode 24730271.

The AMA will be comprised of:

  • Commercial Solutions Opening overview
  • Summary of the Areas of Interest
  • Questions and Answers
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Here are some of the statements from the cases I found interesting:

http://www.wifcon.com/cgen/400650.pdf

It is true that in prior cases we have looked to FAR part 15 for guidance in reviewing the agency’s conduct of discussions under a BAA when an agency uses negotiated procedures as part of the selection process, in which case the discussions must be meaningful. See Interstate Elec. Corp., supra, at 11. Here, however, the negotiations that occurred between Spaltudaq and the agency were not part of the evaluation and selection process, but occurred after the evaluation had been completed and Spaltudaq’s proposal had been selected for award. As discussed more fully below, by the BAA’s terms, the negotiations were not intended as discussions as defined in FAR part 15. Thus, the requirement for meaningful discussions as stated in FAR part 15, and in the cases interpreting that part, does not apply.

That is not to say that the agency’s conduct of post-selection negotiations under a BAA is not reviewable. Although we find that DTRA had no obligation to follow the specific requirements for discussions set forth in FAR Part 15, agencies may not conduct themselves in an arbitrary manner, and they must negotiate in good faith and in a manner consistent with the BAA. See Health Servs. Mktg. & Dev. Corp., B‑241830, Mar. 5, 1991, 91-1 CPD para. 247 at 7. As explained below, we find that DTRA met this standard in conducting negotiations with Spaltudaq.

http://www.wifcon.com/cgen/286466.pdf

Where discussions are conducted in negotiated procurements,(17) those discussions must be meaningful. That is, agencies are required to lead offerors generally into those areas of their proposals requiring amplification or revision.18 PeopleSoft USA, Inc., B-283497, Nov. 30, 1999, 2000 CPD ¶ 25 at 4-6. Nonetheless, where an agency’s discussions convey its overriding concern that an offeror will not comply with all of the solicitation’s requirements and identifies multiple proposal deficiencies which, if uncorrected, properly supports rejection of the proposal, the agency has met its obligations in this regard. Id.

(17) This acquisition was clearly conducted as a negotiated procurement. The Air Force’s own Industry Guide states that PRDAs are issued “with the intent to solicit competitive proposals,” Air Force Industry Guide for BAAs and PRDAs, at 1, and the express terms of this PRDA stated that “award decisions will be based on a competitive selection of proposals.” PRDA at 8
(18) In defending against this protest, the agency has argued, among other things, that the ENs constituted “requests for technical clarifications,” rather than discussions. In light of the multiple proposal deficiencies the ENs identified, the communications clearly constituted discussions, triggering the requirement that the discussions be meaningful.

IEC’s failure to provide adequate assurance that it would, in fact, deliver a product meeting the agency’s requirements provided more than an adequate basis for the agency to reject IEC’s proposal. On this record, the agency’s communications clearly met the standard for meaningful discussions.

https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GAOREPORTS-B-284021/html/GAOREPORTS-B-284021.htm

INRAD challenges the agency’s determination that its proposed effort is high
risk, and concludes that its proposal should have been funded.

We have accorded agencies substantial discretion in determining which proposals to fund under experimental and creative procurement programs where, as under the PRDA program, see AFMC FAR Supp. sect. 5335.9001, the agencies’ requirements are based, not on design or performance
specifications for existing equipment, but on new and creative research or development solutions to scientific or engineering problems. See I.S. Grupe, Inc., B-278839, Mar. 20, 1998, 98-1 CPD para. 86 at 3 (Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) procurement); but cf. Energy and Envtl. Research Corp., B-261422, B-261422.2, Aug. 23, 1995, 95-2 CPD para. 81 at 4 (PRDA award reviewed for reasonableness). Accordingly, it is our view that the Air Force had substantial discretion in deciding which proposal to fund under the PRDA in issue here. Where an agency has such discretion, we limit our review to determining whether the agency violated any applicable statute, regulation, or solicitation provision, or acted in bad faith. Cf. Virginia Accelerators Corp., B-271066, May 20, 1996, 97-2 CPD para. 13 at 2 (SBIR procurement).

Are all negotiations conducted as part of the evaluation and selection process subject to FAR Part 15 “discussions” requirements?

I know there is a push to rename these to “exchanges” or “interchanges” in FAR Part 13 & 16 streamlined procedures. Has that been tested in court?

Here is another resource to learn about CSOs. DIUx has been doing them for a few years and issued DIUx Commercial Solutions Opening How-to Guide in Nov 2016. The CSO example starts on page 12.

EDIT: The DIUx CSO was prior to the CSO authorized by section 879 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 (Pub. L. 114-328). Some procedures used by DIUx conflict with DoD and SAF/AQC policy, eg pg 16 from DIUx says Fair and Reasonable Determination not required. COs should rely on DoD & SAF/AQC policy as the primary reference.

DIUx uses a 3-step (white paper/pitch deck, pitch, proposal) vs the JB MDL 2-step (white paper/pitch deck, pitch). Also they planned to award an OT while JB MDL is a commercial contract.

I discovered it on the AiDA Accelerate Contracting page.

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If you are looking at the JB MDL CSO as a template. We requested a white paper (5 pages max) and a pitch deck (15 slides max).

For our next iteration, we may ask for a 2 min max elevator pitch video submission. I was discussing this concept with a member of our technical team today.

Then I came across the Challenges/Demonstrations/Videos section of the AiDA Agile RFP page.

I’m going to save the language here for my future self and for anyone else who considers adding it to yours.

Below is suggested language that can be used for a video-based oral proposal:

The offeror shall submit a video that is no longer than X minutes in length, that addresses the following evaluation areas (insert evaluation criteria, questions, or scenarios). It is recommended the video features Agile project team members proposed for this effort.

NOTE: The quality of the video submissions will not factor into the government’s feedback. The government encourages low-cost video production, such as the cell phone video cameras.

Submission Instructions – Video submissions must be posted to Youtube.com for the government to access. Videos may be marked public or private. By XX date, the vendor must send a Youtube link and password to (email address) in order for the government to access the video submission. The government will not provide access to the vendor’s video outside of the government evaluation team without the permission of the vendor. Do not provide a shortened URL, such as youtu.be.

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Did you happen to record the AMA and post it anywhere?

Best,
Dan

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We didn’t record it but we updated each area of interest with the applicable questions and answers from the AMA. See amendment on FBO here.

Our first round closed on 17 May (we’re keeping it open for future proposals and updated areas of interest). We received 72 proposals. We’re working through the evaluations to get Pitch invites out by the end of the month.

JB MDL Pitch Day will be 10 June at NJIT in Newark NJ.

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Are you buying an idea or a product/service?

There are a few approaches people are trying. At JB MDL, in order to make a payment at the event, we were initially considering adding a CLIN for a successful pitch. Then when you sign the contract, you pay out the successful pitch CLIN using GPC. When the product/service is delivered, the Govt would make payment for that CLIN(s).

We’ve since changed our approach and plan to request approval to make a 15% advance payment at the contract level to facilitate the initial payment via GPC at the event. The contract will be for delivery of an innovative product or service. We submitted a class approval for any other Air Force Contracting office using the same process.

We are using a 2-step process (white paper / pitch deck -> pitch) where the pitch acts as the proposal in the form of an oral presentation.

Our approach may not be feasible if people are using the 3-step (white paper -> pitch -> proposal) process from DIUx, see below. Under those procedures, you wouldn’t have a final contract for the product/service at the conclusion of the pitch.

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Here’s a brochure we plan to use at small business events. Our first round closed on 17 May, but we plan to keep our CSO open for additional proposals and/or updated Areas of Interest.

Sir, what can the vendors expect in terms of resultant contract/agreement? Is it expected to be a Part 12 contract or purchase order with FAR/DFAR/AFFAR clauses or a tailored OTA? I’m assuming that CSOs are typically Part 12 orders/contracts. Just wondering if that info is posted in the CSO.

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The SAF/AQC Policy Memo on the SAF/AQC CSO page states you can award either an OT agreement or contract from a CSO. We intend to award a contract or order using FAR part 12.

We’ve attached a 1-page (front/back) model contract to the FBO announcement. It is a FAR part 12 based purchase order with applicable FAR clauses. The CLINs in the model contract say initial/final report, but we will add the product or service as the CLIN(s). Those are a carry-over from the SBIR contract at Air Force Pitch Day.

It almost fits on my phone screen

I think a lot of the excitement around OTs is the white paper solicitation process. The CSO gives you that type of solicitation and you don’t need to figure out the OT. I would only consider an OT from a CSO if a vendor or specific industry had an issue with any of the FAR part 12 terms & conditions.

Axel, thanks for the phone discussion and post. At a recent AFWERX event in Vegas, there was guidance released that suggested that the CSO process was for procuring ideas. The class deviation memo states, “contracting officers my acquire commercial items, technologies, and services using the CSO.” This is more in line with what we, 700 CONS/86 AW, are after. Since we’re overseas, we’d like to gauge interest from industry on what firms (US small businesses and local European companies) are interested in pursuing a CSO/Pitch Day opportunity with Ramstein Air Base. Our sources sought can be found here and we appreciate any feedback:
https://www.fbo.gov/notices/cbdb7349240a84f6daa63a2ef0b58c39

Thanks to JB MDL for leading the way for AF CONS!

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Awesome! Have you considered providing the option for companies to pitch via video chat (e.g. Skype, Google Hangout, or GoToMeeting)? AFWERX recently hosted an SBIR Virtual Collider Event hosted on video chat and I thought it worked well.

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Yes, we have. That’s probably worth adding to the RFI. Good catch!

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Here are some photos from the JB MDL Pitch Day. Ten small businesses pitched their innovative solutions and JB MDL awarded five contracts the day of the event.