Finding the previous contract & Incumbent

Why you care

  • Nothing is new: Most “new” government solicitations are effectively extensions of previous contracts. For example:
    • The IRS needs a contractor to provide IT help desk services to their employees
    • Three years ago the IRS awarded a contract to Vendor X to provide those services
    • Typically these kinds of services contracts last for five years
    • The IRS probably wants to continue receiving IT helpdesk services after this contract ends
    • So roughly a year before this contract ends the government will put out a new solicitation for IT helpdesk services so that they can:
      • Get bids
      • Select a new winner (Vendor X might win again, but they will have to compete for it)
      • Ensure if there is a new vendor, that they are up-and-running before the current contract expires
      • So that the IRS has un-interruption IT support
  • Some key terms:
    • Current contract: The active version of the contract. In the example above this is the IT helpdesk contract that is currently in operation and that you are researching
    • Incumbent: This is the company that holds the current contract
    • Re-compete: This is the solicitation for the next iteration of the IT helpdesk contract, The RFP for this contract will probably come out a year before the Current Contract expires and will start on the day after the current contract expires
  • The current vendor is in poll position to win the re-compete: For a variety of reasons incumbents have an extremely high win rate:
    • They have a working relationship with the customer
    • They have had years to influence the solicitation for the re-compete
    • They have a deep understanding of the work that needs to be done allowing them to optimize their solution and pricing
    • Good companies start thinking about, and investing in, winning the re-compete the day after they win the current contract
  • The current contract gives you a good idea about the process that will be used: The government is busy, so if the current contract, and the process used to administer the competition for the current contract, worked reasonably well the government will probably duplicate everything in the re-compete. So looking at how the current contract was structured gives you a good idea for:
    • Whether the government will issue a Sources Sought or RFI before the RFP
    • The work to be done in the re-compete
    • The evaluation and proposal requirements

Finding the incumbent/current contract with gov tools

  1. If you identified an expiring contract on USAspending: Then you know that there is an expiring contract in your strike zone, but the data in USAspending is pretty thin (specifically it doesn’t have the SS/RFI/RFP documents) so we have to find them on
  2. NOTE: If you are identifying expiring contracts on FedScout we include all the relevant SAM data (e.g. solicitation process information, solicitation documents, etc) in the expiring contract search to alleviate this process
  3. Searching based on solicitation number: Ideally the USAspending record has a solicitation number listed. If they do you can search for that in but:
    1. When the solicitation number migrates from SAM to USAspending the government removes the hyphens “-” and you need to add the hyphens back in to get the right record on SAM. So look at the solicitation numbers of some similar SAM records, see where those hyphens are, and guess where you should add hyphens and search
    2. You will have to select Inactive records also since the solicitation you are looking for on SAM probably is no longer active
  1. Searching based on award number: Option two is to get the award number out of USAspending, and then look for that award number in SAM.
    1. You have to do the same hyphen-adding guessing game
    2. If you find a matching award record you will need to open that award record and look for a notice ID, and then search based on that
  1. If there is no solicitation or award number match: A frustratingly large number of records in USAspending are missing their solicitation number and there is no match on the award number. If this happens you need to collect a basic of data-points to triangulate in on the right records in SAM:
    1. Get the NAICS code
    2. Get the PSC code
      1. A note on PSC codes, USAspending uses a four character PSC code (e.g. PSC: ####), SAM historically used a 1-2 character PSC code (e.g. PSC ##). So you may need to try both in SAM
    3. Get the Agency name
    4. Get the Sub-agency name
    5. Get the award date & the solicitation date:
      1. A note on dates: you will want to put a range into SAM for the award date & the Solicitation date
    6. Get the set-aside
    7. Get the winner’s cage code
  2. Finding a match in SAM: Once you have this information put it into and select award records and read the titles. Hopefully one of them is a good match, and looks like the record you are looking for

Finding the current contract/incumbent with FedScout

  • If you are on on Growth Plan or higher FedScout automatically identifies the most likely Current Contract/ incumbent and any other highly similar contacts

Other resources (Individual contract checks)

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FOIA request template

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