Insight into winning an AF VAULT Contract

  |  August 30, 2020

Ken Blair

Before all the gymnasts in the readership get antsy, this vault is the Visible Accessible Understandable Linked Trusted Support solicitation. (The Air Force has ALWAYS had a thing for acronyms…)

Background: Probably in the early third quarter (according to DelTek) the Air Force will release the VAULT Support solicitation for full and open competition. This contract will be an IDIQ with an estimated ceiling of $950M and a 5-year Period of Performance and up to five (5) awards. The anticipated contract type for task orders will most likely be Firm Fixed Price or Firm Fixed Price with Level of Effort. The draft RFP was released on 8/26.

In its push to realize data as a strategic asset, the Air Force is looking for subject matter expertise to assist with several areas. These include:

  • Data preparation and architecture
  • Development of agile algorithmic solutions
  • Evaluation/Execution of data governance and data maturity models
  • Use of data analytics across several lines of research

To be eligible for the contract, all offerors must have participated in the VAULT Advisory Multi-step (AMS) process that took place in April of this year.

Response Effort and Timeline

This response with be a multi-stage effort with differing timelines for the response submissions. Each of these steps is considered a “GO/NO GO” such that the eventual 5 winners will have to survive each.

Per the draft here are shown in Table 1:

Table 1. VAULT Support Response Steps

Step 1: FCL, AMS Response Confirmation, Small Business Subcontracting Plan
Step 2: Professional Employee Compensation Plan (PECP), IDIQ Pricing Sheet & Small Business Commitment Document (SBCD)
Step 3: Technical Due
Step 4: Oral Presentations

The Air Force will provide a technical scenario to each of the survivors of Step 2 which will form the basis of the Technical Response.

The timeline for Steps 1 and 2 is shown as October in the draft. Obviously, this will change should the solicitation be delayed.

Proposal Content:

Unlike typical proposals, each step of the process contains a separate set of deliverables that will be evaluated in-turn. Apparently, this is an attempt on the Air Force’s part to streamline the evaluation process so that only those offeror’s having a reasonable chance to win are fully evaluated. Hard to say if that will be the effect, but if the effort is successful, we’ll see an award in early 2021. This would be a far better result than waiting multiple 10s of months for an award that’s the common practice now for many large procurements.

Steps 1 and 2 contain discrete documents that are generally seen in Model Contract volumes.

Step 3 content will be based entirely on the technical scenario provided by the Government after the Step 2 evaluation. It’s not clear at this time if it will require a multi-volume response.  But we also do know that you will be required to provide your oral presentation slides with the technical response.

Evaluation Factors: The Evaluation Factors include the following:

Step 1 will be evaluated based on either being “acceptable / non-acceptable” or “compliant / non-compliant”. This evaluation will confirm the offeror’s participation in the AMS process, validation of your Facility Clearance, and a review of your SBCD.

Step 2 will be an evaluation to determine if your IDIQ Pricing Worksheet and PECP are fair and reasonable along with the calculation of a Total Evaluated Price. While not stated in the draft Evaluation Criteria, we can assume that the Air Force will identify a competitive range and use that as criteria for their “acceptable / non-acceptable” determination. Please recognize that the rates provided in the worksheet are ceiling rates to be discounted at the task order level.

For Step 3, here is the wording from the draft:

“Offerors written presentation should cover the proposed strategic approach, methodology, and understanding of the PWS tasks and scenario. The Government will evaluate the Offerors use of industry best practices as well as the Offerors proposed outcomes, challenges, assumptions, and alignment (if any) to DoD Enterprise Standards….”

Step 3 will follow the standard Outstanding/Good/Acceptable/… rating we have come to know and “love.”

It’s interesting to note that the term “past performance” never appears in the draft solicitation.

How Do I Win: The good news is that the Air Force is allowing you to basically grade yourself out of the competition, saving precious B&P dollars. If you didn’t participate in the ASM, don’t respond. If you don’t have a Top Secret FCL, don’t respond.

If you can pass the other Step 1 requirements in addition to the two mentioned above CONGRATUALATIONS! You can submit that documentation and be invited for Step 2.

Step 2 is going to be your pricing exercise. Take a hard look at your pricing on your other IDIQs and on any GSA Schedules you may hold and consider what discounts you’ve provided on any winning task orders. If you haven’t won any task orders, then really consider how you’ve structured your pricing under previous IDIQs/schedules and price accordingly.

The other part of Step 2 will be the evaluation of your PECP. Make sure your plan addresses all the requirements of FAR 52.222-46.

If you get this far, you now are on the path to structure your technical response (Step 3). Be sure to be compliant with any instructions provided by the Government. WE can’t really give a lot of guidance here because the Government hasn’t released any information about what the technical scenario may entail. Just review the evaluation criteria provided above and in the draft.

What Do I Need to Do NOW: Perform a proposal readiness assessment to be sure you can qualify for the Government’s process. Given that the subject of this solicitation concerns data, start to gather proof points where you have performed transitions from stovepipe systems in to common data stores using normalized data, and consider how that was (or could have been) done using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. Use these proof points to substantiate your performance and give the Government an opportunity to give you credit for previous work.

Errata:

GovWin Opportunity ID:            185041

Beta.SAM.Gov Notice ID:          FA701420R0008 (this is the latest; may change with the final RFP

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