Base Operations Support (BOS) Contracts, Lucrative But Hard to Win
RFPs for Base Operations Support (BOS) and O&M services for facilities are booming, now that the bidding season has started. There are more than 32 open solicitations (due date after the first half of June), and 13 presolicitations and source sought notices published on the FBO. Many of these are large scale projects. The RFP for DLA Distribution San Joaquin, California, which is due on the 7th of July, is one of them.
The current ongoing contract, which was awarded in December 2011 to Wolverine Services, had a value of over $33 million.
The DoD budget for BOS was $19.57 billion during 2016 and the requested budget for 2017 is nearly $20.6 billion (this does not include the $1.3 billion OCO funding for 2016 or requested OCO funding of $1.4 billion for 2017). The 2016 budget was split between the different arms as below (sorted by amount):
- Army (Army, Army Reserve, National Guard): Approx. $9 billion for 2016, and $9.4 billion requested for 2017
- Navy (Navy, Marines, Navy Reserve, Marines Reserve): Approx. $6.4 billion for 2016, and 6.55 billion requested for 2017
- Air Force (Air Force, Air Force Reserve, National Guard): Approx. $3.5 billion for 2016, and $3.75 billion requested for 2017
- Defense Health Program: Approx. $800 million for 2016, and $870 million requested for 2017
Unfortunately for contractors, most of the BOS RFPs are not MATOCs or multiple awards. They are single awards, which makes the competition very stiff. At the same time, due to the inherent complexity of expertise required by BOS contracts – the Office of Management and Budget has identified 29 different services as base support functions – writing compelling proposals for such RFPs is a difficult task as it requires many SMEs and expertise in different areas. Thus, your proposal needs to be encompassing and yet focused.
The Government states that in BOS contracts the most important part, as far as they are concerned, is the PWS and the associated QAP (Quality Assurance Plan). For the contractors, this translates into ensuring that their proposals give clear evidence that they have the capability to execute the contract per the PWS. So whereas in other types of proposal writing, vague referrals to issues might be acceptable; here, you need to provide concrete solutions that the Government reviewers can understand. You need to make them confident that you can do it properly and efficiently. Part of that is obviously done through providing past performance and experience, which must be presented properly.
However, a major part also relies on how you develop the management portion of the proposal including management structure, methodologies, quality control plans, staff capabilities, etc. For those companies who are entering this arena for the first time or who are teaming up with other companies to augment their capabilities and past performance, it is indeed necessary to strengthen their proposal development capabilities, either by hiring experienced proposal managers with SME in this area or to outsource their requirement to capable companies.
Due to the inherent multitude of expertise needed for BOS contracts, it is usual that many companies team up so that they can cover the entire range of requirements for the RFP, at the proposal level as well as post contract execution. Companies must carefully assess their short falls in their past performance per the requirements of the RFP and team up with others who can fill those deficiencies. Experience shows that proper teaming at the proposal stage is much more important than for planning purposes in the execution stage. After all, if you get the contract, you can always find proper subcontractors to execute the project for you; what counts is to have the proper past performance to win the contract.
In other words, companies must focus on the proposal preparation of their past performance and experience, rather than how they will execute some unknown requirements. I have unfortunately seen capable companies back down from entering an RFP, even though they had the proper experience and past performance to have a good chance of winning the RFP, because they were uncertain about how they would execute a very small part of the project. At the end, you need to risk, logical risks of course, to be able to compete in this arena.
BOS contracts are very lucrative but you need to have proper instruments in place. Proper sourcing and intel, a good teaming relationship, and a competent proposal team complemented with an outside proposal development agency are some of the requirements to be successful in getting those contracts. And once you get the contract, the honeymoon will last for a day or two but then all hell will break lose – as is the case for all contracts – as the execution of the contract is a feat in itself.