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Competition In Contracting Act (CICA)

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The Competition In Contracting Act (CICA) makes full and open procurement as the standard for most contracting opportunities. Before CICA many Federal contracts were not competed but awarded based more on who you knew within the government.

General

The Competition In Contracting Act (CICA) was passed into law in 1984 to foster competition and thus reduce costs. The theory was that more competition for procurements would reduce costs and allow more small businesses to win contracts. CICA requires almost all procurements to be competed as full and open so any qualified company can submit a proposal.

Provisions

CICA requires all procurements with an estimated value over $25,000 be advertised for at least 15 days on FBO. The solicitation on FBO also requires use of a standard format making it easier for companies to review. The solicitation is to be posted for at least 30 days before proposal are due.

If the contracting officer decides not to make the procurement full and open (also known as unrestricted) then they have to document the reasons for the decision. Procurements can still be set-aside for small businesses, disadvantaged, 8(a), HUBZone and veteran owned businesses but market research is needed to document that at least two responsible sources are available within the set-aside market.

A responsible source is defined in CICA as a company that meets the following:

  • Financial resources required to complete the contract if awarded
  • Has the ability to meet the delivery schedule
  • Has a satisfactory performance record
  • Has a satisfactory record of business ethics (no government contracting
  • Has or can obtain the technical, accounting and management skills needed to complete the contract
  • Has the equipment or production capability needed or can obtain it
  • Qualified to obtain the contract under applicable laws and regulations
CICA also establishes procedures for filing protests when errors in procurement are suspected. The protest has to be documented and filed with the GAO before the contract is awarded. GAO then has 90 days to investigate and issue a ruling.

A variety of procurement methods can be used to meet CICA requirements. These methods include:

  • Broad agency announcements (BAA)
  • GSA schedules
  • Architect-engineer contracts
  • Sealed bids
  • Competitive proposals
Architect-engineer contracts are covered by the Brooks Act which provides for selecting architect or engineer based on qualifications only with no price evaluation. Sealed bids are quotes submitted in a sealed manner and opened in public. Sealed bids are used for fixed price procurements that can be readily described and commercially procured.

Changes and Exceptions

There have been several changes over the years to reduce the burdens associated with CICA compliance:
  • Allowed use of multiple award contracts (MAC) and GSA GWACs
  • Provided simplified acquisition procedures for procurements under $150,000
  • Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 (FASA)
  • Federal Acquisition Reform Act of 1995 (FARA)
  • Services Acquisition Reform Act of 2003 (SARA)
  • Financial Assistance Transactions;
CICA allows for a few exceptions to full and open competition:
  • Only one responsible source (FAR 6.302-1)
  • Unusual and compelling urgency (FAR 6.302-2)
  • Industrial mobilization, engineering development or research capability (FAR 6.302-3); maintain industrial base
  • International agreement (FAR 6.302-4)
  • Authorized or required by statute (FAR 6.302-5)
  • National security (FAR 6.302-6)
  • Public interest (FAR 6.302-7)
  • Contract modifications as part of the scope and terms of an existing contract
  • Interagency agreements
  • Orders placed under requirements contracts or definite-quantity contracts
  • Procurements under set-aside programs such as the 8(a) program

Justification For Not Using Full and Open

Contracting officers must document any procurement that will not be by full and open competition. Knowing what the contracting officer needs to document can help you understand the process. The justification has to include:
  • Description of the procuring agencies needs
  • What statute or regulation is being used for the other than full and open competition and why has this regulation been selected
  • What is the anticipated cost of the procurement
  • Market survey showing the targeted set-aside group has at least two responsible bidders
  • What companies have expressed interest in the procurement in writing. This is normally from a sources sought release.
  • A statement as to any actions to be taken in the future to remove barriers to unrestricted competition.

Knowing the rules regarding procurements allows you to not only understand the procurement process but also see when the rules are not followed. If you lose a procurement and are determining whether to file a protest then you must know the provisions of CICA.

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