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23 Wednesday, Apr 2014

The most-recent blog posts appear first. For past posts, click on the desired category in the column on the right.

Have You Lost a Recompete? Join Industry Experts to Discuss Recompetes at APMP Event Tonight!

NCA APMP Chapter logoAPMP is presenting a panel discussion on “How to Win Your Next Recompete” with best-in-industry panelists tonight Wednesday, March 19, at the Tysons Corner Westin.  Presenters include Nigel Thacker, a specialist who has written books on recompetes; Bob Lohfeld of Lohfeld Consulting; and Kristin Dufrene, VP of Proposal Development at Engility. The OCI team will be there to promote their new partnership with Nigel Thacker's Recompete Workshop.

Nigel Thacker, owner and Managing Director (MD) of the UK-based firm Rebidding Solutions, has a unique one-day Recompete Workshop designed to help companies greatly increase their chances of winning their recompete.  The workshop allows companies to efficiently kick off its recompete, systematically identifying everything that needs to be done as well as developing a schedule and assigning responsibilities.

OCI and Nigel Thacker have partnered together to offer the Recompete Workshop in the Washington, DC area.  Nigel and the OCI team will be exhibiting at the Wednesday evening APMP event.

Everyone is invited to come by and meet him during the cocktail hour starting at 5:30 PM. 

You can register at: 


Or walk-ins are welcome.

Wiehle-Reston East Metro Update

plaza reston metro Opening date for the Silver Line is yet to be determined, last month the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority suggested that the Silver Line could start this summer. Initially the Silver Line was set to open in late 2013 or January 2014. So far the seven-level parking garage and the plaza are complete. The plaza located above the garage is intended for mixed-use and will include retailers, a hotel and residential space. Construction on the luxury apartment building begun late last month and there is some finished retail space. Our offices will be easy accessible via the Reston Metro Station, OCI is 150-ft behind the newly completed garage.

Photo credit: Dave Madison Photography

Customized Human Resources Solutions Services (CHRS) Contract

CHRSLate in the afternoon on Friday February 7th, OPM gave notice of the cancellation of the Customized Human Resources Solutions Services (CHRS) contract by posting a vague one-sentence statement to FBO. The notice that “THIS SOLICITATION IS HEREBY CANCELLED” undoubtedly ruined the weekend of many bidders, and provided no explanation to why the contract was cancelled. CHRS, a five-year human resources IDIQ  contract estimated at a total value between $3B and $5B, was the follow-on to OPM’s Training and Management Assistance contract, the largest training contract in the federal government.

Letter to OPM

Stan Soloway, President and CEO of the Professional Services Council (PSC), wrote a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta on February 18th on behalf of the over 370 member companies of the PSC, many of which had submitted proposals for CHRS. In his letter, Soloway stated that offerors “expended substantial and precious resources in order to propose the best possible solutions” and were “stunned by the February 7th one sentence announcement that the procurement had been cancelled”.

In a statement provided to Washington Technology published on February 19th, OPM broke their silence on CHRS. The agency stated that awarding CHRS “would not satisfy the current and potential future requirements of the government” and that “the magnitude and scope of these changes are such that they could not be met through a modification of the solicitation.”

Unsatisfactory Answer from OPM

However, this explanation does not appear to be sufficient for PSC and the CHRS bidders that it represents. On the PSC website Soloway states, “The fact that the government’s needs may have changed as the federal procurement plodded along does not mean bidders and potential contract users do not have a reasonable expectation for more transparency and insight into what needs changed, why modification of the solicitation wasn’t an option, and how OPM is planning to fill the needs once TMA’s extension expires.”

If there are any winners in the aftermath of the CHRS cancellation, it is the current contract holders of TMA. OCI has heard rumors that the existing TMA contracts will be extended 2-3 years while OPM develops a new acquisition strategy for the recompete. Soloway echoes this concern in his February 18th letter to Director Archuleta.

Huge Losses for Bidders

The numerous CHRS bidders who are not on the TMA contact are facing the realization that their investment in CHRS proposal development is a sunk cost. Soloway estimates that, cumulatively, CHRS bidders have invested tens of millions of dollars in pursuit of CHRS. Alan Chvotkin, EVP of the Professional Services Council (PSC), said, “They had any number of options open to them, and they picked what seems to me the worst option and cancelled the program after proposals were already received.”  OCI president Russell Smith added, “They may have realized there were such strong effects from the budget problems that they need to fundamentally rethink the program.” 

Any reader with insight is invited to comment below.

TEACH – A Major Opportunity for Training Support / Services Companies

TEACHTEACH (Train, Educate, and Coach) is a major new Multiple Award IDIQ coming out this year from the U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI).  The value is estimated to be $600-$800M annually for seven years (1 base year plus 6 option years).  Task Orders issued under TEACH will be limited to a three year period of performance (1 base plus 2 option years) unless otherwise justified. The current contract ceiling is $5.39B. 

The projected acquisition timeline calls for a final RFP release in July 2014 with awards in January, 2016. A draft RFP (with Section L &M) was release on February 28. The draft RFP and several other documents such as two sets of Q&As and  an interested bidder list are posted on the FedBizOpps site (Go to FedBizOpps.gov and search on Solicitation No. W900KK14R0003 for these and other documents).

Statement of Work

TEACH will provide a full array of training and training-related support services to U.S. Army Soldiers, other Military Services personnel, Department of Defense personnel, other Federal Agency personnel, contractor personnel, and partner nations in the skills required to successfully perform mission requirements. Work will be performed at both CONUS and OCONUS locations.

Much of this type of work is currently addressed under the Warfighter FOCUS (Field Operations Customer Support) contract, a single award IDIQ held by Raytheon. The primary scope under Warfighter FOCUS is the sustainment of fielded TADSS (Training Aids, Devices, Simulators and Simulations).  With an increasing number of requests for training services / support, the Government determined that it is in their best interest to break out these service / support tasks into this new TEACH contract.  TEACH will afford better pricing through increased competition and improved ability to support customers since some support requests were determined to be out-of-scope for Warfighter FOCUS.

Number of Awards

The Government has not specified the number of awards to be made but indicated that their goal is to select a small, manageable number of awards – to include awardees in both the large and small business categories.  Industry estimates for total number of awards range from 6 to 10 with at least 2 going to small businesses.

Large and Small Business

Of note, there will not be separate suites (or lots) for large and small businesses.  Both large and small businesses will respond to the same RFP and sample TOs and will be evaluated against a single set of evaluation criteria. 

The Government has been consistent in their approach to have all TEACH efforts performed under North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Class Code  611430 ? Professional and Management Development Training. The small business size standard for 611430 is established by SBA at $10M - based on the average "annual receipts" for the past three years.

The Government anticipates a requirement for 40% small business participation at the IDIQ level. While individual Task Orders will have flexibility in terms of small business participation, aggregate performance at the IDIQ level will need to meet or exceed this requirement unless otherwise justified to be in the best interest of the Government.

What do Bidders do Right Now to Win a TEACH Contract

At this stage, if you are looking to compete for a seat at the TEACH table as a prime (large or small business), you are actively engaged or will have completed a respectable level of maturity with the following:

  • You (as a team if not as a company) are known to the customers/buyers and have relevant / successful credentials.
  • You have analyzed all solicitation documents - including Questions & Answers posted to date.
  • You have made a comprehensive evaluation of the requirements of the draft RFP with particular   emphasis on the requirements for the sample TOs.
  • You have formulated follow-up questions or comments to address any areas of the solicitation remaining that put you at a competitive disadvantage – with hopes of modifying or eliminating onerous requirements / conditions before the final RFP.
  • You have talked with and secured general agreements with the team members important to your performance on the sample task orders – handshakes at minimum have been made and teaming / subcontracting agreements are in progress.
  • You have identified and begun discussion with any other team members that enhance your overall competitive position in terms of TEACH scope (even if not required for the sample TOs), and have positive discussions leading to a mutually beneficial agreement.
  • You have a realistic understanding of the key competitors’ strengths and weaknesses (ideally to include their key team members).
  • You have a clear understanding of the resources required to pursue the opportunity as a serious competitive team (B&P, capture/proposal personnel, facilities, executive commitment, etc.).
  • You have identified and likely assigned key contributors: Business Development lead, Capture Manger, Technical Lead, Proposal Manager, Pricing Lead.
  • Your Win Themes and Discriminators are taking shape and your overall strategy is maturing

This is a very prolonged acquisition as noted earlier with a final RFP planned for July 2014 and award made early 2016.  Competitors will need patience and a commitment to keep the core team involved over a prolonged period. 

After initial awards, individual TOs will be evaluated as small business set aside candidates, and the Government does anticipate reserving several Task Orders for competition only among the small business participants. 

Companies (both large and small) that are awarded contracts will not be required to bid on every TO, but the Government expects a high participation rate for any eligible company on each TO, and there will be minimum TO response percentage defined in the final RFP.

If your company is in need of help with TEACH or any other opportunities, OCI has an extensive base of experienced proposal professionals across multiple skill areas – with a strong base of local talent in Orlando, FL and Washington DC metro areas, as well as other areas where there is a high concentration of federal business.

Please contact Mike Summers at 407-733-7815 or email him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for additional information.

NOAA’s $3B PRO-TECH Moves Forward

iStock 000009870259SmallThe Professional and Technical Support Contract (PRO-TECH), originally estimated by Deltek to be released last December, finally kicked off Wednesday with an Industry and Speed Dating event hosted by Deltek. The NOAA presentation was led by Mitchel J. Ross, Director of Acquisition and Grants Office, from the NOAA, Silver Spring office.

This new $3B program from NOAA will be a full and open procurement with multiple award contracts and most of the awards being reserved for small businesses. Although total spend on small business is unknown, NOAA hopes to promote socioeconomic contracting. The contracts for professional and technical services will focus on five NOAA Domains.

  • Oceans and Coastal services
  • Satellite/Observing Systems Services
  • Fisheries
  • Meteorological Services
  • Enterprise Operations

What We Learned From the NOAA Director

Director, Mr. Ross, pointed out three things NOAA will be particularly looking at during the proposal evaluations:

  • Past Performance
  • Approach
  • Price

In regard to the Past Performance section Mr. Ross noted that quality and relevancy of experience will be a focus for evaluatiion. He also mentioned that they will look for differentiators among offers. Since there are five different domains and separate proposals are required for each, proposals must support all the specific service requirements for the domain; “no piecemealing” Mr. Ross stated.

When evaluating price, Mr. Ross mentioned that NOAA will not be looking for lowest price, technically acceptable, “LPTA has its place like with commodities but not with this,” he said.

Teaming partners should be coherent, crafted for a purpose and have specific roles, Mr. Ross added.

Insight into the NOAA Solicitation

According to the NOAA PRO-TECH office, the Draft Solicitation is anticipated to be released during summer 2014 and a final in October 2014. Separate proposals are required to be submitted for each Domain, and separate contracts will be awarded for each Domain. Specific requirements will be identified and defined at the task order level, and the contracts will be used by any office within NOAA that may issue task orders within the scope of each Domain. There are fourteen listed objectives of the acquisition included in the draft PWS. Samples of a few are shown below:

  • Worldwide professional and technical services coverage to all NOAA offices
  • The providing of  comprehensive performance and solution-based  contract vehicles,
  • Conducting of scientific and technical research and experiments to better understand natural physical, biophysical, geochemical, ecological systems and processes.
  • Contributing to NOAA’s small business contracting plan
  • Establishing contracts with companies capable of providing the necessary personnel, material, equipment, services, and facilities to perform the requirements at the task order level.

Additionally, under the Enterprise Operations Services Domain, there are fourteen unique NOAA Enterprise services which range from Strategic Planning Services to Human Capital Management Services to Facilities Management Services.

Contract Consolidation

It appears that this umbrella contract reflects the way NOAA intends to consolidate their contracts to reduce overhead in the contract shop by combining many separate and dispersed contracts across the agency. They also state as an objective in the draft PWS that they want this to be an integrated requirement document focusing on efficient cross-utilization of resources and that unique requirements may call for coordination and integration of multiple tasks with limited resources. This objective tells me that contractors who bid and win multiple Domains will have an advantage over single Domain awardees at the task order competition stage.

Overview of NOAA

NOAA was formed in October 1970 under the Department of Commerce from several existing non-aligned agencies that were among the oldest in the Federal Government. These included:

  • The Coast and Geodetic Survey, Formed in 1807
  • The Weather Bureau, formed in 1870
  • The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries formed in 1871

As a scientific agency, NOAA focuses on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere. Or as they like to say, they view the earth from the bottom of the ocean to space. In addition to its civilian employees, NOAA has a Corps of Commissioned Officers who navigate their fleet in support of research and operations. NOAA also has world class Data Centers in Asheville, North Carolina, Boulder, Colorado, Princeton, New Jersey, Suitland and Silver Spring, Maryland and Seattle, Washington.

Through the NOAA National Weather Service (NWS), we get our local and national weather reports, and each Congressional District has a local NWS office, much like the USDA agricultural extension offices throughout the USA. From the NWS we have learned new words such as “Polar Vortex” and “Global warming“.

Key Ingredient to Securing PRO-TECH

Contractors looking to prime the PRO-TECH  contract need to have a passion for the NOAA mission and provide value added solutions to their research and operational environments. NOAA has always been an early adopter of technology, and they pride themselves on their leadership role and the delivery of products such as the 72-hour weather forecast that is the driver behind our local and national weather reports and warnings. The NOAA warnings and forecasts are also shared with US NATO allies and are used by many countries in their airline navigation activities. Prior to NOAA Satellites, the world was unaware of many hurricanes being formed in the Pacific Ocean unless there had been reported by ships at sea. NOAA environmental satellites provide data from space to monitor the earth to analyze the coastal waters, relay life saving beacons and track tropical storms and hurricanes. Scientist use data collection systems on the satellites to relay data from transmitters on the ground to researchers in the field.

How We Can Help

Organizational Communications, Inc. (OCI) has supported both large and small companies on NOAA procurements in the past by providing consultants with backgrounds in NOAA domains required under the contract draft Performance Work Statement.

Please contact John Cook, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , to discuss how we can help.

5 Proposal Lessons Relearned

5lessonspicIt is critically important to capture and apply the “lessons learned” from each proposal.  I learned just how important this is as a Proposal Manager at Lockheed Martin and at SAIC for several years. 

Win or lose, best-in-class companies assess their strengths and weaknesses after each capture.  They typically do this shortly after the proposal submission, and again after a customer award decision.  The leaders involved in the capture effort collect and analyze facts and data to:

  • Improve the business capture / proposal process
  • Ensure mistakes or issues that surfaced  are avoided or mitigated in future bids
  • Improve the quality and/or effectiveness of your proposal  or your solutions
  • Improve the environment / experience for the people who contribute to the effort

Even when lessons learned are collected, there is often inadequate discipline applied to ensure that lessons are translated into actionable tasks and applied on the next effort.  This results in having the same lessons show up on multiple capture / proposal efforts – what I refer to as lessons re-learned. Below I summarize five common lessons I relearned too often.

  1. Identify and solidify teaming partners and subcontractors early.  In the best case, late additions/deletions or having confusion among team members about work scope will have a negative impact on the overall effort.  In the worst case, it could lead to a late no-bid decision. Get all agreements in place early (pre-RFP) and ensure everyone understands their role.
  2. Define the compliance matrix early and ensure all contributors understand and buy in – Start with section L (your proposal structure) and map every related requirement and evaluation criteria from the solicitation documents to the proposal paragraphs.  Then map all of your applicable win themes and discriminators to this.  It provides a powerful tool to help ensure your authors (and any independent reviewers) cover all the bases.
  3. Establish Price-to-Win (PTW) range early and ensure this drives your solution. The PTW range should be narrowed as you get closer to the final RFP and you should have a clear target by that time. Keep this number closely held with only senior leadership knowing the target.  Sub-allocate the cost portion of this target to major components of the solution (or team members) and challenge solution designers to meet their bogie (also known as Design-to-Cost).
  4. Line up commitments from the key contributors as early as possible (pre RFP) – Getting ‘A’ players to work the proposal is critical, but reality dictates that most ‘A’ players are also critical to ongoing business operations.  Planning workarounds early to ensure you get the best talent available will pay significant dividends and minimize rework. Further, if you find yourself with a proposal team member who clearly is not adequate for the assigned role, deal with it quickly by replacing them with someone that is capable.
  5. Let graphics professionals handle graphics.  Every one is a self-trained PowerPoint artist, and with today’s tools and countless libraries of clip art, authors typically want to spend time creating graphics as part of their writing.  This can consume (waste) a significant amount of time. Authors should certainly be encouraged to define graphic content that helps convey or substantiate the solution, but have them work with a professional graphic artist so the final product is effective and professional – and more importantly, allows them to focus on writing.

Mike Summers joined OCI in the fall of 2010 as VP of Sales for the Southeast Region, working out of Orlando, Florida.  Prior to joining OCI, he spent 14 years at Lockheed Martin and 3 years at SAIC as a proposal professional where he served as the Manager of Proposal Operations and worked multiple large proposals as Proposal Manager  - as well as working to advance capture process development and implementation.

Can You Afford to Lose Your Next Recompete?

Nigel Thacker Rebid ImgOn March 19th, APMP will host their monthly dinner and speaker series. The featured topic is “How to Win your Next Recompete”, everyone working on recompetes is encouraged to attend. There is a best-of-the-best panel with noted federal radio host Mark Amtower moderating.  Panelists include Bob Lohfeld of Lohfeld Consulting; Kristin DeFrene the Sr. VP of Capture at CACI; and Nigel Thacker a specialist on recompetes from the United Kingdom.

Nigel Thacker, managing director of Rebidding Solutions and author of Winning Your Rebid (Gower 2012) and The Recompete Guide (CAI/SISCo 2013), provides a structured 1-day Recompete Workshop designed to help companies win their recompetes.  OCI and Nigel have established a partnership to offer the workshop in the Washington, DC area.

In the workshop clients will learn how to systematically document everything needing to be done to win the recompete and come away with a complete list of action items. Past clients have described the workshop as “eye-opening”, “highly-interactive” and “tailor made to the organization”.

Too commonly the dreaded disease of “incumbentitis” affects companies, this workshop will help companies focus and prepare their rebid strategies.

OCI will be exhibiting at the March APMP event.  Everyone is invited to meet Nigel Thacker at the OCI booth starting at 5:30 PM.

This APMP dinner event will be held at the Westin Tysons.  For registration or more information about the event please click here.

“House of Lies” Provides Lessons to Proposal Professionals

dcThe TV shows House of Lies and House of Cards provide graphic lessons for proposal professionals. Both shows have characters that are determined to be game changers in their chosen field of work, and both have unbridled ambition to jump over their competition using any possible means. One wants to own his own agency and be the boss (Don Cheadle). The other wants to ultimately be President or at least the person who controls the office (Kevin Spacey). 

Federal Proposal Market Surges in 2014

moneyThe business question at top of all our minds is, how much proposal volume will we see in 2014?  Study of proposal market patterns over several years and our own month-by-month sales records from the past 15 years provide insight into this question.  

Looking Back, Federal Proposal Market in 2013 

Business in 2013 was slower than in 2012 at all proposal consultant agencies known to OCI.  The volume of 2013 business at OCI was down slightly compared to 2012.  As far as we know, business at all other proposal consultant agencies was down farther.  Figures we have heard in networking with significant competitors include business that was 14%, 17%, 25%, 35%, 40% and 50% lower in 2013 than it was in 2012.  The market was slow enough that most proposal consultants experienced abnormal amounts of time on the bench.  A few consultants left the industry, while others worked some in areas other than proposal services to augment their income.  Many businesses, especially DoD contractors, had layoffs and austerity programs due to the drop in federal business.  

UMCS-IV Up for Recompete: Army Corps of Engineers Releases MATOC Valued at $2.5B

matoc2The $2.5 B Utility and Monitoring Control Systems-IV (UMCS-IV) contract is the largest opportunity in 2014 for building control systems providers and integrators.  This Army Corps of Engineers program focuses on Building Automation, HVAC, Metering, Electronic Security, and Intrusion Detection.  It is open to all Federal Agencies to utilize.  The RFP for both the restricted and unrestricted award pools was released on January 21, 2014, and a Bidder’s Conference is announced for February 4th, 2014. The program, managed from the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center (CEHNC) in Huntsville, Alabama.

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