USACE leadership reinforces qualifications based selection

By Charles E. Enos AIA posted 12-17-2020 11:04 AM


By Charles Enos, AIA, LEED AP, MBA and Edmond Gauvreau, FAIA, MPA
AIA Federal Architecture Task Group (FATG)


Over the last few years, we have noted inconsistencies among U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Districts and contracting teams in applying the qualifications-based selection process properly and that in some cases low price-based selection was being used. This phenomena was partially due to the prevalent use of Design Build as the primary method of construction contracting over the last 15 years, and contracting teams had gotten out of the practice of using the proper qualifications based selection guidance for Design Bid Build projects, including Multiple Award Task Order Contracts (MATOC) and Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) for design.


For a few years now, the FATG has been working behind the scenes with all of our contacts at USACE to urge them to ensure all of their contracting teams embrace and use Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) as per their own internal guidance.  With the recent changes in USACE leadership, including a new Director of Contracting, they recognized the need to reinforce the qualifications based imperative. In late 2019 USACE developed updated guidance on QBS for review, then issued it to USACE activities early in 2020, reinforcing the use of QBS to bring it back to the forefront for USACE contracting teams. A formal Engineering Regulation will be issued in late 2020 that will be published on the Whole Building Design Guide website (


Since the new directive went out, many firms have noted a significant increase in the official issuance of USACE Task Order Requirement Notice (TORN) for projects.  These TORNs are used by USACE to assist them in making qualifications-based selections for individual task orders.  MATOC/IDIQ contract holders can respond to the TORN to provide specific qualifications for the task order at hand to enhance and clarify their expertise and qualifications to assist the USACE for making the right selection. 


USACE will monitor the progress of the new guidance and TORNs over the next year and will modify the policy as needed to assure that Brooks Act processes are followed uniformly across all USACE activities.


Hooray for USACE, well done! 

Many AIA members are unaware of the AIA Federal Architecture Task Group, however the FATG has been working consistently over the years to improve government practices to benefit AIA members especially in the areas of Qualifications Based Selection, reasonable fees for architects, and standardization of procurement practices, and increased opportunities for small firms.  The FATG consists of senior architects in leadership positions from Federal Agencies and firms serving government clients, who are invited to serve on an annual basis from the AIA President.


Federal Architecture Task Group


  1. To guide the AIA Board Advocacy Committee on policy and advocacy about procurement and delivery issues before federal agencies and Congress
  2. To promote the quality procurement and delivery of A/E services at the federal level.


  1. Reduce the use of competition-limiting and fee-driven procurement practices
  2. Improve the quality of project delivery methods by ensuring the use of QBS for A/E services
  3. Minimize the practice of requiring uncompensated professional design services
  4. Help improve the quality, competency, knowledge base, and incentive structure of government technical, management and contracting staff who procure A/E services
  5. Improve organization and processes that lead to “stove-piping” of functions within agencies