The Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) of 1984 (41 U.S.C. 253) (FAR Subpart 6.1″Full and Open Competition”) is a public law enacted for the purpose of encouraging the competition for the award of all types of government contracts. The purpose was to increase the number of competitors and to increase savings through lower, more competitive pricing. CICA became law in 1984 as a foundation for the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). The act does not apply to prospective contracts that will be awarded using Simplified Acquisition Procedures (SAP).
Contracting Officers shall provide for Full and Open Competition through the use of the competitive procedure or combination of competitive procedures that is best suited to the circumstances of the contract action.
“The contracting officer must promote competition to the maximum extent practicable.”
Contract Competition Procedures
The competitive procedures are “sealed bidding” (formerly termed “formal advertising”) and “competitive proposals” (formerly termed “negotiating”). CICA requires that for all contract actions expected to exceed $25,000.00, the contracting agency must publish (synopsize) the proposed contracts in the Commerce Business Daily (CBD). Currently, these notices must be published at least fifteen (15) days before the issuance of a solicitation for bids. The agencies are also required to allow at least thirty (30) days response time between issuing the solicitation and receiving bids (sealed bidding) or proposals (competitive proposals) (FAR 5.203). The intent of the Act is to increase the number of bidders or proposers competing for government contracts by publicizing contracting opportunities.
Full and Open Competition
To ensure the enhancement of competition, the statute requires the government to obtain full and open competition and has only a limited number of exceptions to this rule. The agencies are not permitted to use sole-source procurements unless the written authorization of the Agency head is obtained and specific statutory or regulatory authority exists for sole source or limited competition. Every deviation from the requirement for the full and open competition must be documented in writing and authorized by the appropriate government official. Therefore, agencies rarely seek to limit competition.
There are exceptions to CICA’s competitive rules and mandates. The CICA does not apply to:
- Orders placed under single-award requirement contracts or definite-quantity contracts
- Orders placed under single-award indefinite-quantity contracts that were entered into pursuant to the provisions of CICA
- Orders placed against a single-award task order and delivery order contracts entered into pursuant to FAR Subpart 16.5
In addition, CICA requires each agency and procuring activity to establish a “competition advocate” within its organization to review and challenge any procurement that limits competition. At the Congressional level, a Senate subcommittee was established to oversee the implementation of CICA and encourage competition for government contracts.
CICA also amended the protest procedures that are contained in Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 33. Specifically, it established that a protest before contract award to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will cause the award to be suspended until GAO rules on the protest. It also established a deadline of ninety (90) workdays for GAO to issue a ruling or forty-five (45) calendar days if the express option is requested by either party.
AcqLinks and References:
- 41 USC 253 – Competition in Contracting Act of 1984
- Website: FAR Subpart 6.1″Full and Open Competition”
- Website: FAR Subpart 6.3 “Other Than Full and Open Competition”