If a customer (and their commander) is not willing to accept an item offered by supply, is that simply their prerogative even though supply is a mandatory source IAW FAR 8.002(a)(1)(v)? Let me be clear that the customer is not trying to justify a brand name only purchase (although I'm sure they have a particular brand name in mind). They just don't want the brand offered by supply. Should they seek a waiver from the HHQ that initially approved the item to be stocklisted in the first place (and if such a waiver request exists, what is the process)? What is the expectation in terms of my due diligence as a contracting officer in how much push back I give for the customer to utilize supply? I have brought this question up to our supply folks thinking they might have some vested interest (job security?) in ensuring their resources are utilized but they seem unwilling to take a position.
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This is the first Ask-a-Professor question I ever answered about sweaty feet! However, it's a valid one. First, it's not correct for the customer to say that "their commander has the discretion to spend their O&M budget as they see fit." While the funds may be in that organization’s budget, they were appropriated by Congress and subject to requirements of the FAR rather than a commander's discretion. That said, a contracting officer can use reasonable business judgment to meet the legitimate and supportable needs of the requiring activity. I assume you already checked availability from Federal Prison Industries and the Ability One Procurement List (which are higher priority than wholesale supply sources). Once the contracting officer determines the boots are not available from those sources, it's up to him or her to document the reason the stock listed boots available from the wholesale supply source are not suitable in terms of quality. The customer should indicate the specific reason(s) for this in the actual purchase request. The contracting officer should then document the contract file with the rationale for not using the various required sources of supply so that a reasonable person can follow the logic of the purchase decision. I'm unaware of any formal waiver process (such as for Federal Prison Industries at FAR 8.604) in the FAR or its supplements for not using a wholesale supply source...which places even more importance on the contracting officer's proper documentation of the contract file. You may also want to check with the head of the contracting office to determine if there are any local waiver or approval requirements for this.