Safety, not price, was first in reverse auction

The Naval Supply Systems Command conducted the reverse auction to which Stephen M. Ryan referred in his column 'Reverse auctions need regulatory guidance' [GCN, Aug. 14, Page 22]. As head of contracting operations for NAVSUP, I wanted to address Ryan's concerns and clear up some confusion about this process.

The May 5 reverse auction for recovery sequencers included three contractors. Each of these contractors was qualified and approved by the government to make these sequencers, and each had successfully made this product in the last four years.

None of the technical requirements of the contract were removed or reduced in order to conduct the reverse auction, including a stringent testing requirement that must be met prior to acceptance of these items. This procurement was conducted the same as previous procurements with the exception of the way price negotiations were handled'via reverse auctioning.

As a result, I am confident that these sequencers are as safe or dependable as ones procured in the past. Safety always has been and always will be of primary importance to NAVSUP, and I am confident that there is no degradation of safety in this process.

Reverse auctions are simply a tool to conduct price negotiations. Our reverse auctions are conducted within the guidelines of Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 15 and are treated as negotiation discussions. Before we do a reverse auction, we establish a competitive range based on a review of offerors' written technical, price and past performance proposals.

Initial price proposals are still required, and each bid submitted during the auction is considered a revision to this proposal. At the conclusion of the reverse auction, the contracting officer is required to conduct the same analysis he must conduct in any other negotiated procurement.

The contracting officers are not required to award the contract to the lowest bidder. They consider both technical capability and price, and can make a best value determination and award to the vendor who offers the best value to the Navy.

The lowest bid does not necessarily always win; reverse auctions do allow for differing technical evaluations. How well a company performs in other contracts does matter to the service, and the Navy always considers past performance and a company's record for service and warranty compliance.

Our ultimate goal is always to procure the best product at the best price. Reverse auctions are simply an effective pricing tool. When used responsibly by an acquisition professional, reverse auctions will assist the Navy in dealing with the significant budget constraints it is experiencing.

Capt. Doug Roark

Deputy commander for contracting management

Naval Supply Systems Command

Mechanicsburg, Pa.

No new rules necessary

I read Stephen M. Ryan's column 'Reverse auctions need regulatory guidance' [GCN, Aug. 14, Page 22], and I could not disagree more. When did we ever get good, commonsense guidance for new concepts under procurement reform? Written guidance is exactly what we don't need.

Written guidance always has to group all possible scenarios into one document. And, the resulting regulations never fit all situations.

Let federal organizations operate like private businesses, and you'll see vast improvements in the way government operates. Keep tying our hands with ill-written guidance, and watch us fail.

Then Ryan even suggests that reverse-auction regulations be written at Internet speed. What an invitation for disaster. Nothing personal against the policy writers, but let agencies work through this new process. Sure, there may be a few bumps along the way as we learn, but what's wrong with that?

Procurement reform success depends on people being empowered to operate in a new way'like private business. No new guidance is needed. We are smart enough to figure out where reverse auctions will work and where they won't.

Let procurement reform work.

Name withheld


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