As most know, contracts awarded inside the United States require full and open competition if they exceed the simplified acquisition threshold. This creates a 45-day minimum procurement administrative leave time based on a 15-day publication of notice of proposed acquisition, followed by a minimum of 30 days for offerors to submit bids. However, outside the U.S., when use of local contractors is contemplated, these strict requirements for publication of the synopsis are generally exempted. Obtaining full and open competition can be as simple as posting on bulletin boards, submitting to a local newspaper, or calling up sources from a local telephone directory.
Most contracts in a deployment setting are simplified acquisitions. During Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, the following contracting purchasing instruments were used: Standard Form 44 (85 percent to 90 percent); blanket purchase orders (7 percent to 12 percent); DD Form 1155 (2 percent); and imprest fund accounts (1 percent). Most of these purchases can be solicited orally, except for construction projects exceeding $2,000 and complex requirements.
Government-Wide Purchase Card. While limited to the micro-purchase threshold within the United States, authorized Government-Wide Purchase Card holders in a contingency environment can make purchases up to $25,000 for commercial items or services if outside the United States.
DD Form 1155 or SF-1449. A purchase order is a government offer to buy certain supplies, services, or construction from commercial sources upon specified terms and conditions. Contracting officers use a Standard Form (SF) 1449 (Solicitation/Contract/Order for Commercial Items) for purchases of commercial items. If SF-1449 is not used, DD Form 1155 (Order for Supplies or Services) should be used. These forms can be used as a purchase order, blanket purchase agreement, receiving/inspection report, property voucher, or public voucher. Only contracting officers are authorized to use these forms.
SF-44. An SF-44 (Purchase Order-Invoice-Voucher) is a multi-purpose, pocket-size purchase order form designed primarily for on-the-spot, over-the-counter purchases of supplies and non-personal services while away from the contracting office or at isolated activities. Using an SF-44, a purchase cannot exceed the Simplified Acquisition Procedure threshold of $1,000,000. The supplies or services must be immediately available. The contractor will make one delivery and the contracting officer will make one payment.
Blanket Purchase Agreement. A blanket purchase agreement is a simplified method of filling anticipated repetitive needs for supplies or services by establishing "charge accounts" with qualified sources of supply. Blanket purchase agreements are not contracts in and of themselves, and the existence of one does not alone justify sole-source purchasing. Consider using blanket purchase agreements with multiple sources to encourage competition. If insufficient blanket purchase agreements exist, quotations should be solicited.
DOD activities use DD Form 1155 for blanket purchase agreements, and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requires a description of the agreement, extent of obligation, purchase limitation, authorized individuals, delivery tickets and invoices. Orders for subsistence may exceed the simplified acquisition limit, but it still has to satisfy the competition requirements of FAR Part 6. Individual purchases using blanket purchase agreements shall not exceed the simplified acquisition threshold. However, the limitation for individual purposes for commercial item acquisitions conducted under FAR Part 13.5 is $5 million.
Imprest Funds. An imprest fund is a cash fund of a fixed amount established by an advance of funds from a finance or disbursing officer to a duly-appointed cashier. The cashier disburses funds as needed to pay for certain simplified acquisitions. Funds are advanced without charge to an appropriation, but purchases are made with notation on the receipts returned to the imprest fund cashier of the appropriation which will be used to reimburse the imprest fund for the amount of the purchase. Each purchase using imprest funds must be based upon an authorized purchase requisition. If materials or services are deemed acceptable by the receiving activity, the receiver annotates the supplier’s sales document and passes it to the imprest fund cashier for payment.
Commercial Items Acquisitions. Just as in the U.S., many purchases in the AOR are for commercial items. Contracting officers are authorized to use any simplified acquisition method to acquire commercial items, or may use one of the other two acquisition methods (sealed bidding or negotiations). FAR Part 12 sets out a series of special simplified rules, to include a special form, simplified clauses and streamlined procedures that may be used in acquiring commercial items up to $5.5 million, or $11 million in a contingency operation. The limitation on using any method for acquiring commercial items is that any contract for commercial items must be firm-fixed-price or fixed-price with economic price adjustment.
Simplified Acquisition Competition Requirements. The requirement for full and open competition does not apply to simplified acquisitions. However, for simplified acquisitions above the micro-purchase threshold, there is still a requirement to obtain competition “to the maximum extent practicable,” which ordinarily means soliciting at least 3 quotes from sources within the local trade area. For purchases at or below the micro-purchase threshold, there is no competition requirement at all, and obtaining just one oral quotation will suffice so long as the price is fair and reasonable.
Delivery Orders. These are orders for supplies or services placed against an established contract and when placing orders with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. There are three types of indefinite delivery contracts: definite quantity, requirements, and indefinite quantity. Requirements contracts require us to buy the specific supplies or services from that company whenever we buy them. The other two types give us a standing vehicle to place quick orders against, but do not prohibit us from seeking the items elsewhere.
Use of Existing Contracts to Satisfy Requirements. The Army, Air Force and Navy maintain excellent contingency contacts available for use, listed below, that can be tapped into for virtually any requirement. Investigate their requirements and pricing thoroughly prior to engaging them, as they can be expensive to use:
- The U.S. Army Material Command (AMC) has a cost-type contract known as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), which provides for comprehensive logistics and construction support to a deployed force anywhere in the world. Because this contract is already in place, a commander can streamline a mission without awarding a new contract or the need for obtaining logistical support. LOGCAP is primarily designed for use where no treaties exist, but can be used CONUS, as well as OCONUS.
- The U.S. Navy’s Contingency Construction Capabilities (CONCAP) program is similar to the Air Force Contract Augmentation Program. CONCAP is a Navy construction contracting program to provide responsive contracting vehicle and a large civilian contractor ready to respond to contingencies or natural disasters anywhere in the world.
Buy American Act. For articles, materials and supplies to be used outside the U.S., its possessions, Puerto Rico and any other place subject to its jurisdiction, the Buy American Act does not apply. In view of this exception, most acquisitions conducted overseas in support of a foreign contingency operation will not be subject to the Buy American Act and the regulations implementing the act.
Payment in Local Currency. Contracts entered into and performed outside the U.S. with local foreign firms will be priced and paid in local currency, unless an international agreement provides for payment in dollars or the contracting officer determines the use of local currency to be inequitable or inappropriate.
This article briefly summarizes the most widely used acquisition methods in the AOR. I am sure as many of you read this you are thinking I have missed some—you are correct. The brevity of the article requires I omit many of the finer points in order to provide as much clarity as possible.