Can Vendors Now Rate Federal Agency Acquisitions? Almost!
by Alan Chvotkin, Partner
One of the holy grails of industry’s participation in the federal marketplace is for early and meaningful engagement with buying activities, particularly during the critical pre-award phase of an acquisition while the agency is developing and describing its requirements and companies are formulating their solutions and proposal responses. Almost a decade ago, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) began efforts to build strong vendor relationships and to simplify federal procurements to improve performance, drive innovation, and increase savings. Another of these long-standing efforts has focused on “acquisition 360” reviews to improve how agencies receive and use industry and internal feedback to strengthen their acquisition function from pre-award activities up to, and including, contract award and debriefings.
Now, after five years of regulatory gestation, on August 8, 2023, the FAR Council finally published a final rule titled “Use of Acquisition 360 to Encourage Vendor Feedback,” that will take effect on September 22, 2023. This rule provides agencies with a standardized tool for collecting voluntary vendor feedback. Still to come is the development of the final question set for the survey; the FAR Council promises that this question set will be available for public comment before adoption.
While the final rule is a welcome addition to the agencies’ toolkit for vendor communication, it stops far short of where it started and what it could have accomplished to further constructive feedback from vendors yet not risk being used to rate individual contracting officers or programs, or to compare procurement offices. For example, agencies are merely encouraged to seek voluntary feedback from interested parties in an acquisition, but even including the new clause at 52.201-1 “Acquisition 360: Voluntary Survey” is discretionary and may only reach those that choose to engage in a procurement.
I have been a long-time supporter of agencies obtaining “360” feedback on its acquisition processes. But I’ve also been a critic of the cautious and partial steps that have been taken by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, the FAR Council, and the agencies in seeking meaningful and constructive feedback. In November 2020, in an interview with Tom Temin of Federal News Network when I was Executive Vice President and Counsel of the Professional Services Council (PSC), I addressed the advantages and shortfalls of the September 2022 proposed rule and the November 16, 2020, comments PSC filed on the rule, including recommendations to improve the breadth, depth and magnitude of the feedback.
Even the helpful supplementary information accompanying this final FAR rule identifies additional areas where feedback might be helpful and how agencies can take advantage of the flexibilities in the final rule and the upcoming question set to improve the utility of the data gathered from federal program managers, contracting offices, and industry.
And I’ll continue to be an advocate for greater and more meaningful communications between government and industry throughout the entire lifecycle of an acquisition, including from those who chose to not even participate. The end result must be to improve the federal acquisition processes for all, not as the end-product itself, but as a means for improving acquisition outcomes.
 OMB December 4, 2014, memo to Chief Acquisition Officers, “Transforming the Marketplace: Simplifying Federal Procurement to Improve Performance, Drive Innovation, and Increase Savings”, available at
 Federal Acquisition Regulation final rule: Use of Acquisition 360 to Encourage Vendor Feedback (Aug 8, 2023), available at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2023-08-08/pdf/2023-16658.pdf (last viewed Aug 31, 2023)
 “Does Acquisition 360 go far enough?”, Federal News Network interview of Alan Chvotkin by Tom Temin (Nov 17, 2020), available at https://federalnewsnetwork.com/acquisition/2020/11/does-acquisition-360-go-far-enough/ (last viewed Aug 31, 2023)
 See Comments of Professional Services on FAR Case 2017-014 (Nov 16, 2020), available at https://www.pscouncil.org/a/News_Releases/2020/PSC_Comments_on_Acquisition_360.aspx (last viewed Aug 31, 2023)