[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 249 (Friday, December 28, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 76588-76590]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-31323]


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SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION

[Docket Number SBA 2012-0019]


Request for Proposal Platform Pilot

AGENCY: Small Business Administration .

ACTION: Notice and request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The Small Business Administration (SBA) is announcing a pilot 
where federal agencies will test a new request for proposal (RFP) 
platform (RFP-EZ) to streamline the process through which the 
government buys web design and related technology services from small 
businesses for acquisitions valued at or below the simplified 
acquisition threshold (SAT). RFP-EZ is one of five projects sponsored 
by the Office of Science and Technology Policy's Presidential 
Innovation Fellows Program, which leverages the ingenuity of leading 
problem solvers from across America together with federal innovators to 
tackle projects that aim to fuel job creation, save taxpayers money, 
and significantly improve how the federal government serves the 
American people.
    Under the RFP-EZ pilot, which will initially run from December 28, 
2012 through May 1, 2013, agencies will identify individual 
procurements valued at or below the simplified acquisition threshold 
that can be set aside for small businesses to test a suite of 
functional tools for: (1) Simplifying the development of statements of 
work, (2) improving agency access to information about small 
businesses, (3) enabling small businesses to submit quotes, bids or 
proposals (collectively referred to as proposals) electronically in 
response to a solicitation posted on Federal Business Opportunities 
(FedBizOpps); (4) enhancing efficiencies for evaluating proposals, and 
(5) improving how information (including prices paid by federal 
agencies) is captured and stored. The pilot will be conducted in 
accordance with existing laws and regulations. Interested parties are 
encouraged to review and comment on the functionality of RFP-EZ, as 
described at www.sba.gov/rfpez and highlighted in this notice. 
Responses to this notice will be considered for possible refinements to 
the RFP-EZ platform during the pilot and as part of the evaluation of 
the benefits and costs of making RFP-EZ a permanent platform fully 
integrated with FedBizOpps, the System for Award Management and agency 
contract writing systems.

DATES: Comment Date: Interested parties should submit comments in 
writing to one of the addresses below on or before March 28, 2013.
    Effective Date: This pilot RFP EZ initiative will be effective on 
December 28, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Please submit comments only (do not submit proposals) via 
one of the following methods:
     Online at: www.sba.gov/rfpez Please include your name, 
company name (if any), and cite ``RFP-EZ initiative'' in your 
correspondence.
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Identify your comments by SBA Docket Number SBA 2012-0019 and follow 
instructions for submitting comments. SBA will post all comments to 
this notice on www.regulations.gov. If you wish to submit confidential 
business information (CBI) as defined in the User Notice at 
www.regulations.gov, you must submit such information to Sean J. 
Greene, Associate Administrator for Investment and Special Advisor for 
Innovation, 409 Third Street, SW., Washington, DC 20416, or send an 
email to rfpez@sba.gov. Highlight the information that you consider to 
be CBI and explain why you believe SBA should hold this information as 
confidential. SBA will review your information and determine whether it 
will make the information public.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sean J. Greene at 202-205-6513. You 
may also email questions to rfpez@sba.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

A. Background

    Over the past two decades, the Federal Government has taken 
increasing advantage of technology to improve the efficiency and 
effectiveness of the acquisition lifecycle, from performing market 
research to recording contractor performance information. A number of 
government-wide systems provide support for functions commonly 
performed by all agencies. For more than 10 years, ``FedBizOpps'' 
(accessible at www.fedbizopps.gov) has served as the single ``one-
stop'' government-wide point of entry for posting solicitations over 
$25,000, allowing commercial business suppliers to search, monitor and 
retrieve opportunities in federal government markets. FedBizOpps has 
significantly enhanced access to information on government acquisitions 
by capturing a wide variety of business documents associated with 
upcoming acquisition opportunities--including notices, solicitations, 
and other related acquisition information maintained at central points 
or on agency Web sites. FedBizOpps allows potential offerors to search 
and download information from a central point using a consistent 
process to locate business opportunities that they can then evaluate 
for suitability. It allows government buyers to streamline the 
preparation and issuance of notices and solicitation information.
    While FedBizOpps has enabled agencies and their contractors to make 
important advances over the paper-based processes that it replaced, it 
currently does not address a number of functionalities that could 
further improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal 
acquisition process for both sellers and buyers. This limitation is 
especially problematic for small businesses, including start-up small 
businesses considering the federal marketplace (new entrants), and 
those that are non-traditional government contractors. All of these 
businesses are

[[Page 76589]]

potentially challenged by the complexity the various applicable rules 
governing federal contracting and information on upcoming acquisitions.
    Examples of how FedBizOpps current functionality could be enhanced 
include the following:
    1. FedBizOpps makes notices of proposed contract actions available 
in a standardized web format and allows sellers to quickly access, 
browse, and download solicitation information related to such notices 
through a direct link, but does not support vendor creation of 
electronic proposals in response to a solicitation. As a result, 
contractors must download solicitations and separately generate their 
own proposals; there is also no consistent or easy way to pose 
questions on solicitations, other than to generate emails.
    2. FedBizOpps has streamlined and eliminated transaction steps for 
agencies by allowing them to post notices and solicitations without 
rekeying information and maintaining individual agency Web sites, but 
does not simplify the process for generating statements of work (SOW) 
or tracking incoming proposals to support the evaluation of proposals.
    3. Although FedBizOpps is available to the public, the federal 
marketplace has largely remained an enigma for new entrants and many 
small businesses--particularly new firms that have little or no past 
performance and lack familiarity with the types of products and 
services different agencies commonly acquire. In addition, there is 
also no easy way for federal agencies to gather information about the 
capabilities of small businesses and the prices they charge for various 
products and services.
    As stated above, failure to address these and other shortcomings 
has created barriers to entering the federal marketplace for small, 
high-growth businesses and new entrants, and perpetuates inefficiencies 
for contracting and program offices that could be eliminated with 
better use of technology. Closing these gaps can enable the government 
to leverage the untapped talents of these entities and meet taxpayer 
needs with products and services that are both more effective, 
innovative, and less costly for taxpayers. To successfully close these 
gaps, new functionalities must be deployed to meet the unaddressed 
needs of small businesses, new entrants, and contracting agencies.
    1. For small businesses and new entrants, these needs include:
    (i) Making the language in statements of work easier to understand 
and consistent
    between procurements for the same need;
    (ii) Making it easier to seek clarification from the government on 
notices and solicitations as offerors consider and prepare proposals; 
and
    (iii) Enabling contractors to create proposals electronically in 
response to solicitations and providing templates and other tools to 
help them navigate through the proposal development process, including 
pre-populating information, where possible, to complete standard forms 
for proposals, such as the SF 1449, Solicitation/Contract/Order for 
Commercial Items.
    2. For agencies--both procurement offices and program offices--
these needs include:
    (i) Providing statements of work templates for repetitive needs 
which can be searched easily by small businesses and new entrants;
    (ii) Improving access to information on the capabilities of small 
businesses and new entrants and the availability of historical pricing 
information; and
    (iii) Providing for the ability to pre-populate solicitation forms 
and track proposals.

B. RFP-EZ

    RFP-EZ is a suite of open source web-based applications that are 
designed to make it easier for small businesses, including ``new 
entrant'' small businesses that have historically not done business 
with the federal government, to discover and submit proposals on 
promising small dollar contracting opportunities in the federal 
marketplace that match their strengths. Equally important, RFP-EZ is 
designed to reduce burden and improve efficiency for contracting and 
program offices looking for low-cost, high-impact solutions from these 
sources. RFP-EZ has been developed to enable new efficiencies within 
the existing regulatory framework for conducting small dollar 
purchases, including policies and procedures set forth in Part 13 of 
the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) governing procurements under 
the SAT, Part 5 requiring posting of notices of solicitation in 
FedBizOpps for actions over $25,000, and Part 4 addressing 
registration. Specifically, RFP-EZ software supports the following 
functional tools:
    1. SOWComposer is designed to help program and contracting offices 
write clear, easy to understand SOWs through a template-driven process 
that enables users to develop, store, retrieve for re-use, and share 
within or among agencies descriptions of requirements by document, 
section, or subsection. The software allows contracting offices to 
comment and edit SOWs, finalize and post them to FedBizOpps (after 
agreement is reached with the program office), and recognize an SOW on 
FedBizOpps that was created by SOWComposer. It enables program and 
contracting offices to quickly retrieve agreed-upon ``best in class'' 
plain language requirements descriptions for re-use, which, in turn, 
should make posted solicitations more understandable and easily 
discoverable when searched by the small business community.
    2. BidMaker is a web-based interface that is intended to simplify 
and reduce burden for small businesses to bid on government 
solicitations in several ways. For example, this tool allows small 
businesses to respond directly online to a solicitation supported by an 
SOW that has been created by SOWComposer, rather than having to 
download a solicitation and develop a bid ``offline.'' It also permits 
small businesses to pose questions to buying offices directly online 
for more efficient clarification of issues identified in solicitations 
and gives buying offices the ability to place limitations on the size 
of proposals to keep costs down for buyers and sellers. If a small 
business decides to submit an offer, the tool provides instructional 
``helper text'' to facilitate the development of bids and simplified 
proposals. Small businesses may save draft proposals for later review 
and refinement, and pre-populate required forms with previously stored 
information (either on the instant procurement or a future 
solicitation, such as about their capabilities or proposed solution to 
meet the government's requirements) to avoid redundant data entry. The 
system will ask only once for information that may be required on 
multiple forms.
    3. BidMonitor aims to help contracting officers sort through 
incoming proposals generated by BidMaker. It allows contracting and 
program offices to see a list of all current, active SOWs generated by 
SOWComposer and bid upon by BidMaker, key identifying information from 
incoming proposals (e.g., name of the offeror, date offer was 
submitted, and summary information about the firm drawn from the System 
for Award Management), see the full text of proposals, have an archived 
online discussion about proposals received, and review an archive of 
prices previously paid to the bidding entities by the same or other 
agencies.
    4. RFP-EZ Marketplace allows small businesses to register for an 
account, sign up to receive email alerts when new deals are posted 
matching profile

[[Page 76590]]

information, search SOWs through multiple dimensions, such as by 
category, and send messages to agency points of contact to ask public, 
on the record questions. In addition, SOWs can be linked to and are 
indexable by well-known commercial search engines to give greater 
access to the public.
    5. Portfolio Browser permits agencies to identify a list of small 
businesses who have previously performed work for the government before 
and view a profile of the firm showing the name of the firm, location 
of the firm, small business status, prices previously paid by the 
government for the products and services of this vendor or currently 
offered estimated pricing (including catalog pricing, if any). Searches 
could also be conducted on any of these elements.
    Additional information about the functionality of RFP-EZ may be 
found at www.sba.gov/rfpez

C. Pilot

    SBA, in conjunction with OSTP's Presidential Innovation Fellows 
Program and the Office of Management and Budget, is conducting a pilot 
for federal agencies, on a voluntary basis, to test RFP-EZ. The purpose 
of the pilot is to evaluate the effectiveness of the platform in 
increasing access and decreasing barriers to entry to entering the 
federal marketplace and its potential for improving the overall 
efficiency of acquisitions valued under the SAT for government agencies 
and small businesses, and especially those small businesses that are 
new entrants. Pilots will be conducted in accordance with existing FAR 
policies set forth in FAR Part 13 addressing acquisitions under the 
SAT, including the basic policies in 13.003, the synopsis and posting 
requirements at FAR 13.105, the solicitation processes at FAR 13.106-1, 
and the evaluation of quotations or offers at FAR 13.106-2. Information 
on the pilot, including scope and length, requirements for test 
acquisitions, and evaluation is summarized below. Additional 
information, including a list of agencies participating in the pilot, 
will be made available at www.sba.gov/rfpez.
    1. Scope and length. Under the pilot, which is initially planned to 
run through May 1, 2013, agencies will be encouraged to use the RFP-EZ 
platform for a small number of technology-oriented professional 
services procurements under the SAT, such as web design, that have been 
set aside for small businesses under one of the following North 
American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes: Graphic Design 
Services (NAICS 54130), Customer Computer (NAICS 541511), Data 
Processing, Hosting and Related Services (NAICS 518210), Video 
Production (NAICS 512110), Video Post-Production Services (NAICS 
512191), Web Hosting (NAICS 518210), Display Advertising Services 
(NAICS 541850), and Media Advertising Representatives (NAICS 
541840).Small businesses, including small-disadvantaged, women-owned, 
veteran-owned, service-disabled veteran, and HUBZone small businesses, 
are well represented in these service categories, providing a robust 
opportunity to study potential benefits and costs of the platform. 
Separate Administration initiatives to increase attention on the use of 
small business set-asides under the SAT will help to ensure ample 
choices for pilot candidates. An assessment of initial results (see 
item no. 3, below), and feedback from the public to this notice, will 
be used to help inform next steps, including whether the pilot should 
be extended and/or expanded before decisions are made on making the 
platform permanent.
    2. Requirements for pilot procurements. When an agency selects a 
suitable SAT purchase for the pilot it will be required to use 
SOWComposer to create the SOW, accept offers created through BidMaker, 
and evaluate offers using BidMonitor. Agencies must post notices of the 
solicitation in FedBizOpps (if posting in FedBizOpps is otherwise 
required taking into account the size of the procurement). Agencies 
will also be required to state in the solicitation that small 
businesses will be required to register for an account in BidMaker to 
submit offers and inform them where they can access technical 
information and support for using the platform.
    3. Evaluation. SBA will work with pilot agencies to evaluate their 
pilot results against the following criteria based on the best 
available data:
    (i) Level of competition. The number of bids or offers received 
using RFP-EZ against the estimated number received for recent 
acquisitions for the same supply or service.
    (ii) Time to prepare statement of work. The time required to 
develop a statement of work and seek feedback from contracting and 
program offices (RFP-EZ will provide functionality to collect this 
data).
    (iii) Bid preparation . The time required to prepare an offer (RFP-
EZ will provide functionality to collect this data).
    (iv) Number of new entrants. The level of participation by first-
time participants in federal acquisition compared to the number of such 
entities in acquisitions for similar requirements conducted prior to 
the pilot, to the extent such information is available.
    (v) Customer satisfaction. Other feedback regarding the benefits 
and drawbacks of using the platform, such as reduction in time between 
the date the requirements office first develops a requisition until the 
date when a contractor begins to deliver services.

D. Public Comment

    SBA encourages the public to provide feedback on the RFP-EZ 
initiative, including whether the discussion above effectively captures 
the existing challenges to small business in federal contracting and if 
the proposed solutions provide a beneficial path forward. SBA 
especially welcomes comment in response to the following questions:
    1. What process-related improvements--especially those related to 
how technology is used--do you believe would have the greatest effect 
in encouraging small businesses, including new entrants, to participate 
in federal procurements below the SAT?
    2. What specific changes or clarifications, if any, would you 
recommend to the functional characteristics of RFP-EZ as described 
above (e.g., SOW Composer, BidMaker, and BidMonitor) to encourage 
greater participation by small businesses, including new entrants?
    3. What, if any, additional or alternative criteria would you 
recommend for evaluating results of the pilot?
    4. What, if any, additional steps might be taken to test RFP-EZ?
    5. What, if any, related regulatory changes might be considered to 
encourage greater small business participation in SAT purchases?
    Input provided in response to this notice, along with analysis from 
the pilot, will be used to help inform next steps. Before any longer-
term investments or regulatory changes involving information 
collections (e.g., involving business profiles) are pursued, SBA 
intends to develop and publish for public comment an analysis of impact 
under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

    Authority:  41 U.S.C. 1122.

    Dated: December 14, 2012.
Sean J. Greene,
Associate Administrator for Investment and Special Advisor for 
Innovation.
[FR Doc. 2012-31323 Filed 12-27-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 8025-01-P