A Sources Sought Notice (FAR 5.201) is a government market research tool to determine if there are two (2) or more capable businesses or Small Businesses that can perform the requirements of a planned contract. It is not a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Invitation for Bid (IFB). The government uses it in developing Acquisition Strategies.
Definition: The Sources Sought Notice is a synopsis posted by a government agency that states they are seeking possible sources for a project.
Market Research (FAR Part 10) is conducted to determine the availability of commercial products and services and to identify and evaluate market practices. It’s a continuous process of finding viable sources of goods and services to meet government requirements and is mandated for all acquisition programs.
Definition: FAR 2.1: Market Research is a continuous process for gathering data on product characteristics, suppliers’ capabilities, and the business practices/trends that surround them — plus the analysis of that data to make smart acquisition decisions.”
Purpose of a Sources Sought
The purpose of the source notices is to make it easier for small businesses to get information about government contracts and to increase competition by letting people know about contracting and subcontracting opportunities. The information received by the government will:
- Determine if commercial sources exist to meet the requirement
- Access the market’s capability
- Determine acquisition strategy
- Small Business goal attainment
- Identify commercial practices
Definition: FAR 5.201(c): “the primary purposes of the sources sought notices are to improve small business access to acquisition information and enhance competition by identifying contracting and subcontracting opportunities.”
The government is required in certain instances to “set-aside” a certain percentage of their procurements to small businesses. Sometimes, the solicitation will specify explicitly that they are looking only for small businesses (or HUBZone, …) to respond. (Even if it doesn’t say “only small businesses,” it means only small businesses.)
Definition: FAR 19.501(c) states: “The contracting officer shall review acquisitions to determine if they can be set aside for small business, giving consideration to the recommendations of agency personnel having cognizance of the agency’s small business programs. The contracting officer shall perform market research and document why a small business set-aside is inappropriate when an acquisition is not set aside for small business.”
Difference Between Sources Sought and Request for Information (FRI)
The purpose of a source sought is to determine if a small business can perform the work required, while the purpose of a Request for Information (RFI) is to collect written information about the capabilities of various small business suppliers. Both are used as market research tools to develop strategy and build a database for an upcoming contract competition.
Why Should Contractors Answer a Sources Sought Notice?
Contractors often make the mistake of not responding to a Sources Sought because it doesn’t have a dollar value. Even though it doesn’t have a dollar value, it’s very important to your business. This is because early-stage opportunities, like Sources Sought, are when your business has the best chance of influencing a potential contract.
This is when your company can suggest ways to improve efficiency, cut costs, or make other changes to make the award go in your direction. Suppose you can persuade the contracting agency that the solicitation should include an important part that most of your competitors don’t have. In that case, you will have a much better chance of getting the job once the formal solicitation comes out.
Responding to a Sources Sought Notice allows your company to introduce itself to the Contracting Officer and start a conversation. It’s not a good sign if the government agency reviewing your final proposal has never heard of you before the final stage and has gotten to know other contractors during the solicitation process.
Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) for Sources Sought
- FAR 5.201(c) states: “…the primary purposes of the synopses notices are to “improve small business access to acquisition information and enhance competition by identifying contracting and subcontracting opportunities.”
- FAR 19.501(c) states: “The contracting officer shall review acquisitions to determine if they can be set aside for small business, giving consideration to the recommendations of agency personnel having cognizance of the agency’s small business programs. The contracting officer shall perform market research and document why a small business set-aside is inappropriate when an acquisition is not set aside for small business.”
AcqLinks and References:
- Navy “Strategies for Response to Sources Sought Notices”
- Navy Sources Sought Presentation
- Website: FAR 5.201(c)