Open Competition for Architectural and Engineering Services

Issue

The Small Business Competitive Demonstration Program (SBCDP) was created 20 years ago with the goal of enabling federal agencies to facilitate greater participation opportunities for small businesses. Under SBCDP, agencies agree to a 40% contracting goal, together with the flexibility to structure their contracts to optimize the participation of small businesses in either prime or subcontract roles. Agencies that fail to achieve the 40% goal under SBCDP default back to using small business set-aside contracts and the standard federal 23% goal.

Under SBCDP, small firms benefit from the increased contracting opportunities, while federal agencies and taxpayers benefit by unrestricted access to the most qualified architectural and engineering (A/E) firms or teams of firms. This is particularly relevant as agencies package together large procurements that require multiple engineering disciplines and specialties. 70% of ACEC’s members are small firms that offer specialized services and expertise and are well suited to combining with others of differing disciplines when competition is based on qualifications.

SBCDP is particularly suited to A/E procurements. Because of the highly technical nature of A/E services work, the federal Brooks Act (P.L. 92-582) requires competition through a Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) process. Firms (or teams) are evaluated and ranked based on contract specific qualifications. The agency then finalizes a scope of work with the top-ranked firm and negotiates a fair and reasonable cost.

The federal government — and most states — use QBS because it ensures that tax dollars are invested wisely. A/E services represent a very small percentage of the total project construction and life-cycle costs, yet the design produced by the most highly qualified team is essential to achieving optimal performance. The SBCDP is effective because it preserves the ability of agency procurement officers to identify and hire the most qualified teams on behalf of the taxpayer, while at the same time increasing contracting opportunities for small firms.

ACEC Position

Congress should continue the SBCDP for A/E services because:

  • The A/E services industry differs from all others. The differences result in an industry composed mostly of specialized firms that team their qualifications to pursue work.

  • SBCDP benefits small A/E firms, by increasing participation goals and encouraging teaming.

  • SBCDP complies with the federal QBS procurement process, ensuring that taxpayers benefit from highest capability, innovation, on-time performance and project cost savings, regardless of firm sizes and not limiting offerors.

  • SBCDP directly provides for responsive action if it does not achieve goals.

  • Participation of small firms should include total services provided as prime and subcontractors.

 

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