In the pre-solicitation phase of an acquisition, may I speak one on one with contractors, ask different questions of each, and not provide the same exact information to each as part of market research? For example, I want to let a contract to do some economic analysis, but I need to know the particular skill set of various firms before I decide if I can get the work done by contract. The detailed information is not available on the website or internet. Can I call up various firms and ask about their expertise? Could I also give examples of the work being sought and ask for cost estimates as part of market research?
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What you are describing is exactly the point of market research, as described in FAR Part 10. Prohibitions on disclosure of contractor information pertain primarily to "Contractor Bid or Proposal Information and Source Selection Information" (see FAR 3.104-4). It's also important to protect source selection information, defined at FAR 2.101 as "any (of the following) information that is prepared for use by an agency for the purpose of evaluating a bid or proposal to enter into an agency procurement contract..." Your comment about the "work being sought" by the Government is not for source selection purposes, but rather for requirements development and solicitation purposes. Once the RFP is available, all potential offerors will have an equal opportunity to develop and submit proposals...the key consideration relating to your question. Considering that this issue relates to ethics, I recommend you also consult with your organization's legal counsel.