GAO Tells Agencies to Improve Market Research Documentation

A report issued by the Government Accountability Office examines how four federal agencies conduct and use market research.

In preparing the report,  GAO reviewed regulations and market research policy and guidance at the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation, and at the Federal Aviation Administration, which is not subject to the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

The 28 contracts reviewed by GAO included some evidence of the market research conducted. The market research conducted on 12 higher dollar contracts tended to be more robust and included more techniques that involved outreach to vendors—such as issuing requests for information to industry—which appeared to help promote competition.

However, agencies did not take advantage of many available market research techniques on 16 lower dollar contracts, and as a result, they may have missed opportunities to promote competition. GAO also identified limitations in the market research for seven DoD and DHS lower dollar contracts that appeared to be incomplete or outdated.

Further, in 14 of the 28 contracts, the 4 agencies did not document one or more of 4 basic elements that GAO’s review of agency guidance identified as important to the ability to understand the research.

GAO recommended that DOT update its market research guidance and that DoD and DHS take action to ensure their acquisition personnel clearly document the basic elements of the market research that was conducted.

For the complete report, see: Market Research: Better Documentation Needed to Inform Future Procurements at Selected Agencies. GAO-15-8, October 9.

About William Van Huis

Bill Van Huis is a Senior Writer/Analyst for Wolters Kluwer Law & Business who tracks and analyzes new regulations impacting federal government contracting. He also follows court decisions involving bid protests and contract disputes. You can find his work in WK publications like Government Contract Reports and the FAR and DFARS Matrix Tools. Bill is a Certified Professional Contracts Manager, and he has a law degree from Southern Illinois University, where he graduated summa cum laude. Prior to joining WK, Bill worked both inside and outside state and local government in the areas of procurement and municipal finance. Bill also worked as a staff attorney for the Illinois Supreme Court.
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