What are Simplified Acquisition of Base Engineer Requirements (SABER)

Source – AFFARS IG5336.9201-ch3-A

3.1 Introduction.

3.1.1. Simplified Acquisition of Base Engineer Requirements (SABER) contracts provide a streamlined means to complete construction projects estimated at less than 750K. Contracting personnel and civil engineers are encouraged to adapt their SABER-like acquisitions and processes to meet their local needs and the local environment.

3.2. Definitions

3.2.1. SABER contract generally means a fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract. A SABER contract includes detailed task specifications that encompass most types of real property maintenance, repair, and construction work. The features of a SABER contract are: Unit Price Guides (UPG). (Also known as Unit Price Books – UPB) UPGs are commercial pricing tools such as computer cost databases and libraries of hard copy books (and electronic format). Although rare, they might also include government-developed unit price books. UPGs list tasks by unit of measure and unit price. Because the prices are general, the team must tailor the UPG to a specific location. This step, called “localization,” is critical to the success of a SABER Program. Government and commercial software is available for localization and for compiling task listings and unit prices. Coefficients. Coefficients are factors multiplied against the standard unit prices in the UPG to calculate task order (TO) prices. Offerors propose coefficients for costs such as overhead, profit, minimum design costs, G&A expenses, bond premiums, and gross receipt taxes. The team can decide how many coefficients to use. Coefficients may include bands or ranges based on dollar levels, standard and non-standard hours, range or isolated site work, or work in secured areas. Air Force experience with SABER has shown that a good approach is to use tiered coefficients with break points at cumulative dollars awarded thresholds over the life of the contract, including options. This approach recognizes that a contractor’s overhead decreases as workload increases. For example, the RFP and resultant contract might establish coefficients for <$3M, $3-6M, and so on. An offeror’s proposed coefficients provide insight into the offeror’s experience and knowledge of the local construction market. Typically, we expect proposed coefficients of less than 1 in a strong competitive market. Experienced contractors will know this. Therefore, in this situation, a proposed coefficient of 1 or more might point to a flawed proposal or weak experience. To aid in the analysis of proposed coefficients, the team should consider requesting a rationale for each coefficient. Do not consider this information cost or pricing data in the context of FAR 15.

3.2.2. Minimum Design. Typically, minimum design for SABER is up to 35%. However, if the design requires the services of a registered architect or engineer, it is outside the parameters of minimum design. The contractor is responsible for submitting documentation that substantiates the proposed approach. Typically, supporting documents are requested from the contractor. Documents may include a Statement of Work (SOW), Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) chart, cost estimates, justification for non-pre-priced items (NPIs), verified as-built drawings, manufacturer’s or technical drawings/schematics for fabrication and assembly of structural elements, form, fit and attachment details for installation of materials/equipment, and design calculations to substantiate proposed layout and sizing of utilities and structural elements (i.e. HVAC loads, lighting, platform supports, etc).

3.2.3. SABER Task Order (TO) Pricing. The Task Order price is the product of required tasks, quantity, unit of issue, UPG price per unit, and the coefficient plus the negotiated price for any non-priced items (NPI). NPIs must be within the basic intent and general scope of the contract and be negotiated separately from UPG items before issuance of the TO.

3.3. Purpose of the SABER Program

3.3.1. SABER contracts expedite award of civil engineer (CE) requirements by reducing CE design work and acquisition lead-time. SABER can be either a single or multiple award contract. Contracting Policy Memo 05-C-01 states, a task order for a guaranteed minimum amount must be awarded at contract award. The contractor manages projects from an office, or in close proximity to the base since the relationship is long-term. SABER is generally best suited for non-complex, minor construction, and maintenance and repair projects that require minimum design. Typical SABER projects range from $50K-$500K.

3.3.2. SABER task orders are priced based on a UPG, therefore, the government may realize substantial cost savings by reserving smaller projects for SABER. However, multiple award construction contracts (MACC) are ideal for larger projects.

3.3.3. A successful SABER program provides: Improved customer service and responsiveness. After contract award, the time required to estimate, propose, negotiate, and issue TOs for individual projects is four weeks, or less; and Incentives for the contractor to work to a high standard, and complete projects in a timely manner in order to receive TOs for future projects.

3.3.3. Concurrent SABER Contracts. Concurrent SABER contracts, one for vertical construction and one for horizontal construction where the contractors do not compete with each other for task or task orders, have worked well.  Careful consideration must be given to establishing multiple SABER contracts. Such things as volume of workload, limited facility space, limitations on competition, etc. must be taken into consideration.

3.4. Limitations of SABER Contracts

3.4.1. SABER is not appropriate for large, complex construction projects that require extensive design effort or for predominately single skill/material projects for which competitively awarded contracts, single trade ID/IQ contracts, or competition under a MACC would be more cost effective.

3.4.2. Architect-engineer (A-E) services. SABER is not an appropriate acquisition approach for A-E services as defined in FAR 36.601-4(a). The Brooks Act (40 U.S.C. 541-544) requires use of specific procedures (see FAR 36.6) to acquire A-E services. Non-personal services subject to the provisions of the Service Contract Act (e.g., a TO solely to install carpet when the labor involved exceeds $2,500) are not SABER requirements. The Department of Labor (DOL) has jurisdiction over the classification of a requirement. They determine if it is construction work subject to the Davis-Bacon Act or a service subject to the Service Contract Act. The DOL guidance provides services such as carpet installation, landscaping, asbestos removal, and building demolition performed are construction because they are incidental to a larger construction project. If the preponderance of the work is non-personal services, even though there may be some incidental related construction work, the project falls under the Service Contract Act and is not a candidate for SABER.

3.5. Acquisition Planning

3.5.1. SABER Working Group. Experience reveals key players are CE, contracting, legal, and other affected functional areas. The team plans and implements a SABER acquisition that supports the installation requirements in the timeframe needed. Team responsibilities include: Estimating the expected scope of the installation SABER Program. To include considering historical information, projected funding opportunities, projected mission changes and bed-downs. Determining the appropriate minimum and maximum contract amounts. Determining the feasibility of using other DoD contracts. These may be ideal sources for funding the contract minimum. Determining the organizational structure of the SABER post-award surveillance and administration office.

3.5.2. Base Civil Engineering (BCE) prepares SABER program specifications. These include the master specification and the technical or guide specifications. The master specification describes the overall scope of the SABER Program and is part of Section C in the RFP. The technical specifications define specific construction standards for tasks ordered under the contract and form the basis for developing line item work tasks in the UPG. The BCE chooses the UPG after developing the specifications,

3.5.3. Request for Proposal (RFP) The SABER RFP should closely mirror the format and content of a large construction ID/IQ solicitation. Unique features of a SABER RFP generally include the following: A description of the coefficient(s) that the offeror must propose, to include a tiered approach in which the offeror proposes declining coefficients based on cumulative task order expenditures. For example, the first tier might require coefficients for total task orders up to $3 million. The second tier might encompass cumulative expenditures between $3M and $5M with yet another tier for cumulative expenditures exceeding $5M. Regardless of the strategy used, the RFP must fully describe the tiers and explain implementation of the approach. Identification of individual coefficients for standard hours, non-standard hours, geographically separated ranges or sites, secured areas, and/or varying project magnitudes, as appropriate; Identification of the applicable UPG and any required related software, hard copies, and/or computer support requirements; A sample SABER project scheduled for an award later under the resulting SABER contract. Selecting a sample is highly recommended as it provides a demonstration of the offerors’ understanding of the design aspect of the SABER program and confirms the offeror’s commitment to provide the quality design packages to the government. The level of architectural/drafting support performed by the contractor (not to be interpreted to mean A-E services); A provision covering the preparation of designs in the last quarter of the fiscal year in anticipation of fall out funds (a sample hold harmless agreement is attached in Appendix C); and A provision for adding non-prepriced items (NPIs) to the contract.

3.6. SABER Execution and Contract Administration.

3.6.1. Processing Civil Engineer Project Orders after Contract Award. The SABER project manager should provide the contracting officer project orders:: Supported by a government estimate in as much detail as practicable, but taking into consideration the nature of the contract. However, the estimate should contain enough detail to support the programming estimate. FAR 36.203 requires preparation of an Independent Government Cost Estimate when the anticipated price/cost of the construction or modification is $100K or more. Include a statement of work, including concepts, sketches, and drawings; Identify any statutory cost limitations; Furnish any special instructions or requirements; and Include required cost comparisons, justifications, and approvals. Assist in the timely closeout of completed projects.

3.6.2. Site visit. The SABER project manager/inspector, contracting officer representative, using organization, and contractor should normally conduct a scope validation/site visit for each project order to discuss topics such as: Site access; Methods and alternatives for accomplishing work; Definition and refinement of requirements; Requirements for plans, sketches, drawings, etc; Detailed scope of work; and Time requirements for completion, phasing requirements, and liquidated damages.

3.6.3. Contractor’s project order proposals. The contractor develops a detailed price proposal by identifying necessary tasks in the UPG, verifying as-built drawings, refining quantities, pricing NPIs, preparing working drawings, and developing performance times. The SABER program manager may need to answer questions from the contractor and clarify technical aspects of the project.

3.6.4. TO negotiation. The contract administrator reviews the contractor’s proposal for scope, compliance, completeness, and reasonableness. This review should verify that individual line item prices are the same as in the UPG. The contract administrator then forwards the technical proposal to the SABER program manager for a technical review. The contracting officer and program manager jointly evaluate the proposed method of construction, tasks, quantities, performance schedules, and any contractor drawings and prepare documentation to support the evaluation. The SABER DO tracking tool (Appendix D) is a good tool to use for SABER administration. After completing initial evaluations, the SABER team reviews the proposal with the contractor. The contracting officer, with assistance from the SABER program manager, establishes the government’s negotiation objective, including any variations involving tasks, methodology, quantities, NPIs, and/or timelines. After completing negotiations, the contracting officer prepares a price negotiation memorandum (PNM) in accordance with FAR 15.406-3. A sample Task Order file checklist is available at Appendix B. Unless otherwise noted in the contract, consider SABER task orders as firm fixed price orders. Absent documented changes in requirements (necessitating increases in quantities), or evidence of gross mistakes, the underestimating of quantities of materials does not summarily entitle the contractor to an upward adjustment of price. Nor is the government entitled to a rebate of unused quantities in such orders unless specifically mentioned in the task order (i.e., order includes estimated quantity line items subject to a variation and for which the government will only pay for the quantities actually installed.)

3.6.5. Adding Non-Prepriced Items (NPIs) to the Contract NPI prices include only direct costs. Negotiating prices for NPIs and incorporating them in a TO does not incorporate the items into the contract for subsequent use as a priced item. To permit subsequent use, the contracting officer must incorporate prices for NPIs by supplemental agreement into the SABER contract itself, in which case they become pre-priced items under the contract. This may occur with an annual update to the UPG or separately at another time during the year. There is no limit on NPIs. However, experience reveals it is wise to keep them to a minimum.

3.6.6. Funding and End of Year Requirements In order to expedite year-end or emergency requirements, the contracting officer may process SABER projects up to the point of award in advance of full project funding. Before requesting the contractor’s proposal, the contracting officer should obtain from the contractor a no-cost agreement (in case the order does not materialize) with acknowledgment that funds are not available, or utilize a line item for project estimating. The latter compensates the contractor for the level of effort expended in estimating, designing, and negotiating the project order in advance of full funding. Any payment the contractor receives under this line item will be offset by a reduction from the negotiated price of the TO if the project results in an award. Contracting Officers should work closely with Civil Engineering to insure that projects priced in advance of funding are not excessive and that there is a high probability of funding. The contracting officer normally establishes milestones for actions in support of end-of-year actions to ensure sufficient lead time for SABER review, approval requirements, receipt of preliminary SABER project cost estimates, technical analyses, and negotiations.

3.6.7. Task Order Modifications. Modifications to SABER task orders are common. Routine modifications include differing site conditions and changes in requirements. However, SABER by its nature requires the contracting officer’s diligence in identifying contractor omissions or design carelessness.

3.6.8. SABER Inspection and Acceptance. While inspection is the inherent responsibility of CE, it is the contracting officer’s responsibility to ensure inspections, reporting, and tracking occurs. Normally payments are based upon on a percentage of completion for projects of sixty (60) calendar days or longer. The project inspector is responsible for verifying the amount of work completed, and ensuring overpayment does not occur.

3.6.9. Option Price Adjustments. There are several ways to structure SABER contracts to allow for option price adjustments. One strategy is to incorporate a static UPG for the duration of the contract and allow offerors the opportunity to propose different coefficients for each of the contract periods. Another approach is to incorporate a static coefficient, or coefficients, and update the UPG each period.

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