Chief Operating Officers Article – Submitted by Bill Howell, with edits by Lauren Palestrini
The week of MHSRS was hectic with non-stop activities, but MTEC was delighted to see such extraordinary enthusiasm and interest from current and prospective members. I want to formally thank all who attended MHSRS and visited with us. It was extremely valuable for the MTEC team to hear members’ comments, which helps us continue what you like and improve upon what you do not like.
From these discussions, a few new topics were brought to our attention that I would like to address:
- Solicitation Methods: Please read the solicitations carefully for the intended goal and the methodology being employed. Many potential Offerors jump straight to the technical statement of work and overlook important sections of the solicitation. For example, several people told us they did not know that a Request for Project Information (RPI) did not immediately lead to a potential project award. RPIs are a means to garner information about members’ capabilities and resident technologies and to determine if there is sufficient expertise and technology maturity to bring forth a new topic solicitation. The RPI process is an effective way for potential Offerors to describe innovations to the military, so use it wisely.On the other hand, all Requests for Project Proposals (RPPs) should lead to at least one award (assuming proposals that meet the requirements of the RPP are received). Many MTEC RPPs require several process stages, depending on the complexity of the topic or the magnitude of funding. Do not confuse an invitation to Stage 2 of a solicitation process (such as a preparation of a Solution Brief Pitch or submission of a full proposal) with an award. The competition does not end until the government has completed an evaluation after the final stage of the solicitation process. The RPP will describe the solicitation methodology used, so please read it carefully. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Lauren Palestrini or Ms. Kathy Zolman at any time.
- Discussions During the Proposal Preparation Period: Throughout the RPP process, Offerors may ask questions. This is the most significant improvement of the OTA over standard FAR-based contracting. If you do not understand the requirements, or want to know where the most important aspects of a need lie, or hope to learn the potential dollar limitations of your proposals, please ask Dr. Lauren Palestrini. She works with the military to write the technical statement requirements within each solicitation, so she has strong knowledge of their needs and can answer many questions. If she cannot, she will make contact back to the military to obtain answers to your questions. Additionally, MTEC hosts a virtual proposer’s conference webinar 1-2 weeks after the release of each RPP during which the military Sponsor describes the technical requirements of the RPP and provides answers to all questions that Offerors have. This is a great opportunity for Offerors to hear directly from the military Sponsor.
- Proposal Re-Writes: After your white paper, solution brief, or proposal has been evaluated, the military may reach out to you to have discussions. These are opportunities for you to learn from the military and potentially reshape/rewrite your proposal to better reflect the military’s desired goal. Take discussions seriously, since this process allows you to provide a better proposal (technically and financially) and a more relevant solution.
- Funding Sources: Members feel that it has been difficult to understand funding sources, funding availability, and the many military sponsors (e.g., the Joint Planning Committees, the Program Area Directorates, Army laboratories, different military services). Here are some simple things to remember: At this point in the MTEC evolution, all available funds described in our solicitations are provided by the military, and they have two years to get onto contract and up to five years to be executed (but you should take far less time than that). MTEC’s own philanthropy fundraising is still too young to contribute dollars to projects, and private dollars from foundations and investor groups will most likely be added outside of the solicitation process and provided directly to members after negotiation and agreement. The available funds specified within an RPP have normally been there upon award (with a few exceptions).Where the misunderstanding lies may be within the Multi-Topic White Papers, where the Sponsor intends to have funds available, but the true dollar value was and remains unset. This was by design—the intent of this funding mechanism was to first allow Sponsors to review the submitted white papers and determine if any were of interest and only then assess their funding capabilities. So, rather than forward planned, it was a reactive funding mechanism where dollars from different “buckets” of money are being pulled together (e.g., expiring FY17 dollars, withheld FY18 dollars, and forward planned FY19 dollars). Although the total process has been lengthier than topic-specific RPPs, proposals will now begin to be placed on award over the next 18 months. The Multi-Topic RPP process was a success, and MTEC will award about $30M now, with the potential for another $20M next year. The amount of funding could still increase over time.
- Teaming: A significant number of MTEC awards are being made to teams. This is intentional and often indicated in our RPPs. Our longer-term focus toward the availability of a commercial product to meet a military need often requires that small businesses or universities may have needs that must be filled outside of their own capabilities.
We support teaming in multiple ways: First, through discussions with potential Offerors, we can connect you with other organizations that may serve as potential team members. Second, after proposals are evaluated, MTEC can combine two (or more) proposal teams to provide a solution more targeted to the military need. In the upcoming months, MTEC will launch a new software application that will allow current members to list their capabilities, which can be searched by other members looking for teaming support. We also plan to conduct webinars that will highlight certain service support capabilities that may be of interest to our membership. We are here to assist you with teaming, but it is ultimately up to you to determine who to team with and whether it is in the best interest of your proposal.