Criteria for acquisitions to use the lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) process will be released on the Federal Register Oct. 2 and have been finalized for Department of Defense (DoD) agencies, according to an upcoming Federal Register post and a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released September 26.
The report details the progress agencies have made in implementing mandates from the fiscal year 2017 and fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs) to revise the usage of LPTA for certain acquisitions, like IT.
“Federal agencies may award a competitive contract using a ‘lowest price technically acceptable’ process, picking the least expensive offer that meets requirements. However, this process may not be the best choice if requirements are complex, such as for IT services,” GAO notes in its summary of the report.
The upcoming Federal Register post, set to be finalized on Oct. 2, requires civilian agencies to avoid LPTA when acquiring IT and cybersecurity services “to the maximum extent possible,” and requires certain conditions for the use of LPTA above the Simplified Acquisition Threshold. Before using LPTA, agencies must assess whether the minimum requirements are clear, whether there is more than minimal value from exceeding requirements, and the agency has a high level of confidence that a review of other factors would not bring additional benefits. Agencies must also include a justification for using LPTA in the documents. The regulation is targeted at services, and does not apply to commercial off-the-shelf acquisitions.
The regulations recently finalized for the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) restrict the usage of LPTA even further. DoD has rules in place that cover most of the regulations for civilian agencies, and is adding additional ones as mandated by Congress. In the finalized rule, LPTA is only acceptable when “DoD would realize little or no additional innovation or future technological advantage by using a different method”, and for goods that are nontechnical or have a short life expectancy. DoD agencies will also need to include a justification when using LPTA.
GAO’s report found that the impact of these regulations should have a bigger effect on the Pentagon, as surveyed acquisitions from defense agencies use LPTA 25 percent of the time, compared to seven percent of the time for civilian agencies. Civilian agencies told GAO that they use the process less due to a lower number of large acquisitions without complexity, which pushes them away from LPTA. Of the surveyed agencies, GAO found one IT equipment contract and two IT services contracts using LPTA at DoD, and two IT equipment contracts and one IT services contracts using LPTA at civilian agencies.