The government has moved away from maximized competition and lowest responsible, responsive pricing to Best Value Procurements. Best Value is a gray area that is open to subjectivity and therefore we offer the following comment.
The term's "best value" and "lowest overall cost alternative" are not mutually exclusive. A best value analysis lends itself to determining the "lowest cost alternative." Best value procurements involve tradeoffs between cost and technical. For example, if one vendor offers a high-end computer at a higher price, while another vendor offers a lower-end computer at a lower price, then the higher-price computer may in fact be the best value and result in the lowest overall costs to the agency. This is true if the greater computing power of the high-end computer increases the efficiency of the agency's operations, thereby saving the agency money when compared to the capability of the lower-end, lower-priced computer. The agency should document its decision to demonstrate that its evaluation of the vendors' responses to a Request for Quotes (RFQ) was reasonable and in accordance with the criteria outlined in the RFQ.
There is no legal requirement that the agency quantify any cost/technical tradeoffs in dollars. An agency should use whatever evaluation approach (e.g., narrative, quantification) best suits its needs, while at the same time being sensitive to the streamlined nature of the Federal Supply Service process. For example, agencies can use narrative explanations or its cost/technical tradeoff, so long as the evaluation is reasonable and consistent with the criteria identified in the RFQ.
If an agency has concerns that it may not be able to explain why a higher-cost item represents the lowest-cost alternative to meet its needs, the agency should look to the technical aspects. These may include warranty, computing power, reliability, past performance, or service locations. The question is whether the technical aspects provide a better deal to the agency than a comparable lower-priced item. For example, a higher priced product with a 5-year warranty may in fact be a better value at a lower cost to the agency than a lower priced product with a 2-year warranty.