Should dress clothing items be approached on the assumption of being commercial or non-commercial procurements, and are the arguments used by both sides with or without merit?
Does the use of Government Furnished Material by default render an item non-commercial?
1. Should dress clothing items be approached on the assumption of being commercial or non-commercial procurements, and are the arguments used by both sides with or without merit?
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You shouldn't assume that the required clothing is commercial or noncommercial. You should perform market research to determine if commercial items (as defined in FAR 2.101) are available to meet your needs, or if your needs can be restated in a way to permit use of commercial items. See FAR 10.002(b)(1)(i). Your commercial item determination should be based on the results of your market research.
The reasons given for classifying the clothing as noncommercial do not necessarily disqualify the items from being commercial. Just because you use a MIL-SPEC doesn't mean an item is noncommercial. For some items, the commercial standard is a MIL-SPEC (e.g., MIL-PRF-23699F-STD is a standard for gas turbine lubricant that is required in some commercial aircraft). Further, requirements for shade, sleeve length, etc., and provision of material by the buyer may be customary in the commercial marketplace.
The definition of "commercial item" is very broad. From what you've written, it seems that some are taking a narrow interpretation.