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Source Selection

ACON 082


The process wherein the requirements, facts, recommendations, and government policy relevant to an award decision in a competitive procurement of a system/project are examined and the decision made.

Alternate Definition

Source Selection generally refers to the process of evaluating a competitive bid or proposal to enter into a Government procurement contract. The term "source selection" is used for referring to acquisitions awarded according to Federal Acquisition Regulation Parts 13 (Simplified Acquisition), 14 (Sealed Bidding), or 15 (Contracting by Negotiation). However, it is most commonly used specifically for FAR Part 15 acquisitions.

General Information

The Source Selection process may be formal or informal. Formal source selection is used for high-dollar value or complex acquisitions where someone other than the procuring contracting officer is the source selection authority (SSA). The process begins with the establishment of an evaluation plan for a proposed acquisition, and ends when the SSA selects a contractor to receive a contract award and debriefs the offerors. Informal source selection procedures are less complex, as the procuring contracting officer (PCO) can determine which offer constitutes best value for the Government without formal input from other Government officials specifically designated for that purpose.

Agency heads are ultimately responsible for source selection. The contracting officer is designated as the SSA unless the agency head appoints another individual for a particular acquisition or group of acquisitions. In DoD, the SSA must be an individual other than the PCO for acquisitions with a total estimated value of $100M or more.

During formal source selections, the SSA is responsible for:

  • Establishing an evaluation team tailored for the acquisition that includes appropriate contracting, legal, logistics, technical, and other expertise to ensure a comprehensive evaluation of offers
  • Approving the source selection strategy or acquisition plan before release of the solicitation
  • Ensuring consistency among the solicitation requirements, notices to offerors, proposal preparation instructions, evaluation factors and subfactors, solicitation provisions or contract clauses, and data requirements
  • Ensuring that proposals are evaluated based solely on the factors and subfactors contained in the solicitation
  • Considering the recommendations of advisory boards or panels (if any)
  • Selecting the source or sources whose proposal is the best value to the Government

During formal source selections, the contracting officer is responsible for:

  • Serving as the focal point for inquiries from actual or prospective offerors after release of the solicitation
  • Controlling exchanges with offerors after receipt of proposals
  • Awarding the contract(s)

During informal source selections, the contracting officer is responsible for all of the functions above. The concept of best value is at the heart of source selection. An agency can obtain best value in negotiated acquisitions by using any one or a combination of source selection approaches. In different types of acquisitions, the relative importance of cost or price may vary. For example, in acquisitions where the requirement is clearly definable and the risk of unsuccessful contract performance is minimal, cost or price may play a dominant role in source selection. At one end of the best value continuum is the tradeoff process. At the other end is the lowest priced technically acceptable concept. A tradeoff process is appropriate when it is in the Government’s best interest to consider award to other than the lowest priced offeror or other than the highest technically rated offeror. When using a tradeoff process:

  • All evaluation factors and significant subfactors that will affect contract award and their relative importance must be clearly stated in the solicitation
  • The solicitation must state whether all evaluation factors other than cost or price, when combined, are significantly more important than, approximately equal to, or significantly less important than cost or price.
  • This tradeoff process permits tradeoffs among cost or price and non-cost factors and allows the Government to accept other than the lowest priced proposal. The perceived benefits of the higher priced proposal must merit the additional cost.

The lowest price technically acceptable source selection process is appropriate when best value is expected to result from selection of the technically acceptable proposal with the lowest price. When using the lowest price technically acceptable process:

  • The evaluation factors and significant subfactors that establish the requirements of acceptability must be set forth in the solicitation. Solicitations must specify that award will be made on the basis of the lowest evaluated price of proposals meeting or exceeding the acceptability standards for non-cost factors.
  • Tradeoffs are not permitted.
  • Proposals are evaluated for acceptability, but are not ranked using non-cost/price factors.