Single-award Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) under the new Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 8.4: Are they still a viable tool in the contracting officer’s toolbox?

This Comment is the last, for now, in a series of three on the new FAR 8.4 ordering procedures. On balance, the new FAR 8.4 does a very good job laying out the competitive requirements for orders under GSA’s Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) program. (See Jonathan Aronie’s, of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, chart for a summary of the new ordering procedures.) In particular, for orders exceeding $150,000, the references to eBuy as one method to provide notice to all MAS contractors capable of meeting the requirement are critical to ensuring an effective, competitive and streamlined ordering process.

However, with regard to FSS BPAs, the new FAR 8.4 may make it so difficult to establish and manage single-award BPAs that they may not be a viable tool in the contracting officer’s tool box. FAR 8.405-3(a)(i) directs that the contracting officer shall, to the maximum extent practicable, give preference to establishing multiple-award BPAs, rather than establishing a single-award BPA. FAR 8.405-3(a)(ii) provides that no single-award BPA exceeding $103 million, including options, may be awarded unless the head of the agency executes a written determination justifying the use of the single-award BPA. Single-award BPAs must be structured with one base year with up to four one-year options. See FAR 8.405-3(d)(2). Further, FAR 8.405-3(e)(3) requires that the competition advocate must approve the exercise of any option year under a single-award BPA. In contrast, FAR 8.405-3 does not limit multiple-award BPAs to a one-year base and up to four one-year options. Nor does it require approval of the competition advocate to extend a multiple-award BPA. Does the new regulation strike the right balance or is it a matter of form over substance?

FSS multiple-award and single-award BPAs are both valuable acquisition tools that should be available to contracting officers. Indeed, I love multiple-award BPAs. They can be a great way to enhance competition while leveraging requirements. However, there will be situations where multiple-award BPAs are not the best fit given an agency’s unique requirements, such as well-defined requirements for a specific recurring need. In such circumstances, a single-award BPA may be a more cost-effective approach. The requirements should drive the decision, not the process. FAR 8.405-3(a) provides contracting officers with the factors that they should be considering in making a determination about whether to use multiple-award BPAs or a single-award BPA. However, the question remains whether the hurdles included in the regulations regarding the award and maintenance of single-award BPAs unnecessarily limit their use. That would be unfortunate. Single-award BPAs are an effective acquisition strategy for competing and leveraging an agency’s requirements.

Single-award Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) under the new Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 8.4: Are they still a viable tool in the contracting officer’s toolbox?

This Comment is the last, for now, in a series of three on the new FAR 8.4 ordering procedures. On balance, the new FAR 8.4 does a very good job laying out the competitive requirements for orders under GSA’s Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) program. (See Jonathan Aronie’s, of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, chart for a summary of the new ordering procedures.) In particular, for orders exceeding $150,000, the references to eBuy as one method to provide notice to all MAS contractors capable of meeting the requirement are critical to ensuring an effective, competitive and streamlined ordering process.

However, with regard to FSS BPAs, the new FAR 8.4 may make it so difficult to establish and manage single-award BPAs that they may not be a viable tool in the contracting officer’s tool box. FAR 8.405-3(a)(i) directs that the contracting officer shall, to the maximum extent practicable, give preference to establishing multiple-award BPAs, rather than establishing a single-award BPA. FAR 8.405-3(a)(ii) provides that no single-award BPA exceeding $103 million, including options, may be awarded unless the head of the agency executes a written determination justifying the use of the single-award BPA. Single-award BPAs must be structured with one base year with up to four one-year options. See FAR 8.405-3(d)(2). Further, FAR 8.405-3(e)(3) requires that the competition advocate must approve the exercise of any option year under a single-award BPA. In contrast, FAR 8.405-3 does not limit multiple-award BPAs to a one-year base and up to four one-year options. Nor does it require approval of the competition advocate to extend a multiple-award BPA. Does the new regulation strike the right balance or is it a matter of form over substance?

FSS multiple-award and single-award BPAs are both valuable acquisition tools that should be available to contracting officers. Indeed, I love multiple-award BPAs. They can be a great way to enhance competition while leveraging requirements. However, there will be situations where multiple-award BPAs are not the best fit given an agency’s unique requirements, such as well-defined requirements for a specific recurring need. In such circumstances, a single-award BPA may be a more cost-effective approach. The requirements should drive the decision, not the process. FAR 8.405-3(a) provides contracting officers with the factors that they should be considering in making a determination about whether to use multiple-award BPAs or a single-award BPA. However, the question remains whether the hurdles included in the regulations regarding the award and maintenance of single-award BPAs 23

unnecessarily limit their use. That would be unfortunate. Single-award BPAs are an effective acquisition strategy for competing and leveraging an agency’s requirements.