The lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) acquisition strategy, which focuses on price over value, has become the dominant approach that agencies are applying to federal contracting. The accelerated transition to this strategy has been fueled by sequestration and the growing need for government to do business at a reduced cost. Contractors are still learning how to operate in this new environment, but many fear that the emphasis on lower cost labor will reduce the expertise of the work force and result in lower levels of effort.
The LPTA strategy is a step down from best value, admits Tony Constable, president, CAI/SISCo, a company that provides business development support services to industry. In a best value contract, the winning proposal is chosen based on an aggregate view about the perceived value, and that value is tempered somewhat by price. Even if the underlying contract switches from one contractor to another one, the new company could still retain much of the trained labor force. In an LPTA contract, the price—not the solution—is the primary decision criterion, and this affects labor pricing much more so than it does product pricing.
Being an incumbent contractor is the worst place to be on an LPTA bid, because the needed flexibility in labor prices requires huge salary and benefit cuts. Constable calls it the race to the bottom as it relates to labor, but he also acknowledges that the LPTA strategy is reasonable to a point depending on the work.
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