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What are advisory and assistance services, and how are they classified?

FAR 2.101 provides the following definition of this term:

Advisory and assistance services are those services provided under contract by nongovernmental sources to support or improve:

Organizational policy development; decision-making; management and administration; program and/or project management and administration; or research and development activities. It can also mean the furnishing of professional advice or assistance rendered to improve the effectiveness of Federal management processes or procedures (including those of an engineering and technical nature).

Advisory and assistance services can be classified as follows:

Management and professional support services. These services support or contribute to the improved organization of program management, logistics management, project monitoring and reporting, data collection, budgeting, accounting, and administrative/technical support for conferences and training programs.

Studies, analyses, and evaluations. These provide organized, analytical assessments/evaluations in support of policy development, decision-making, management, or administration.

Engineering and technical services. These offer support to the program office by providing such services as systems engineering and technical direction to ensure effective operation and maintenance of a major system, as defined by OMB Circular No. A-109.

When should advisory and assistance services be used, and in what situations can they not be used?

FAR 37.203 provides the following policy guidance:

The acquisition of advisory and assistance services is a legitimate way to improve government services and operations. Accordingly, advisory and assistance services may be used at all organizational levels to help managers achieve maximum effectiveness or economy in their operations.

Agencies may contract for advisory and assistance services when essential to the agency's mission to:

(1) Obtain outside points of view to avoid too-limited judgment on critical issues

(2) Obtain advice regarding developments in industry, university, or foundation research

(3) Obtain the opinions, special knowledge, or skills of noted experts

(4) Enhance the understanding of, and develop alternative solutions to, complex issues

(5) Support and improve the operation of organizations

(6) Ensure the more efficient or effective operation of managerial or hardware systems.

Advisory and assistance services shall not be used to:

(1) Perform work of a policy, decision-making, or managerial nature that is the direct responsibility of agency officials

(2) Bypass or undermine personnel ceilings, pay limitations, or competitive employment procedures

(3) Contract on a preferential basis to former government employees

(4) Create any circumstances which specifically aid in influencing or enacting legislation

(5) Obtain professional or technical advice that is readily available within the agency or another federal agency.

What is performance-based acquisition (PBA)?

FAR Section 2.101 defines performance-based acquisition (PBA) as follows: "PBA means an acquisition structured around the results to be achieved as opposed to the manner by which the work is to be performed."

Another working definition might be: PBA involves acquisition strategies, methods, and techniques that describe and communicate measurable outcomes rather than direct performance processes. It is structured around defining a service requirement in terms of performance objectives and providing contractors the latitude to determine how to meet those objectives. Simply put, it is a method for acquiring what is required and placing the responsibility for how it is accomplished on the contractor.

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