WHAT ARE SOURCES SOUGHT NOTICES?
Okay, let’s backup. In order to understand why you should respond to SSNs within your firm’s area of capability(ies), it is helpful to understand what they are and why they are used. First, SSNs and RFIs are posted by the procuring agency to FedBizOpps or www.fbo.gov and will contain basic information about the potential opportunity, the type of business the SSN/RFI is requesting responses from (if any), and instructions on how to respond to the SSN/RFI (see sample below).
According to FAR Part 15.201(e), “RFIs may be used when the Government does not presently intend to award a contract, but wants to obtain price, delivery, other market information, or capabilities for planning purposes.”
According to FAR Part 19.501(c), a “Contracting officer shall review acquisitions to determine if they can be set aside for small business, giving consideration to the recommendations of agency personnel having cognizance of the agency’s small business programs. The contracting officer shall perform market research and document why a small business set-aside is inappropriate when an acquisition is not set aside for small business.”
In essence, SSNs and RFIs are the government’s way of conducting market research to determine who is out there that has the capability and resources to support a particular agency requirement – and in particular, agencies are able to determine whether there are small businesses (and/or businesses that fall into a more specific socioeconomic category) that are able to perform the contract.
ADVANTAGES OF RESPONDING TO SOURCES SOUGHT NOTICES
There are several advantages of responding to SSNs and RFIs, including the following:
- Submitting a response provides you with an opportunity to introduce your company to the Federal Government (and in particular, the agency that has issued the SSN/RFI), and to provide relevant information about your company’s capabilities/past performance in a particular area.
- The information you provide in your submission may help to shape the solicitation so that if/when it is ultimately released, it makes more sense from an industry perspective and it may also be easier/more intuitive to respond to.
- Sometimes, responding to a SSN/RFI is a prerequisite to responding to the solicitation or RFP when it is eventually released.
- Responding to SSNs/RFIs increases the potential for the opportunity to be “set-aside” for small businesses or a specific category of small business such as 8(a) firms, WOSB, SDVOSB or HUBZone businesses, thereby limiting competition to just those types of firms.
- Although it is fairly a rare occurrence, submitting a response to a SSN/RFI may lead to the opportunity being “sole-sourced” or “direct awarded” to your firm in the event you were the only qualified/capable response received and provided there is a vehicle for a direct award (i.e. you are an 8(a) firm eligible for receiving sole-source contracts).
If you are a small business and are not currently responding to SSNs or RFIs, you may be missing out on valuable opportunities. On the other hand, we do not mean to say that you should be responding to every single SSN/RFI that comes out. Rather, the decision to respond to a SSN/RFI should be part of your overall business development/proposal strategy, which ultimately considers whether the potential opportunity, if awarded, would be a good fit for your business.
In addition, responding to SSNs/RFIs does not mean utilizing cookie-cutter language from prior responses without giving any thought to the specific opportunity at issue. Rather, your response should be carefully considered and specific strategies utilized in order to give you a competitive advantage over other responses. We will provide some tips and strategies for responding to SSNs/RFIs in a later blog post – until then, we encourage you all to start monitoring FedBizOpps for Sources Sought Notices!