B-158418, APR. 8, 1966

B-158418: Apr 8, 1966

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
(202) 512-2853
EmmanuelliPerezE@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

TO BECKER BROTHERS CARBON CO.: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED JANUARY 24. ATTACHMENTS THERETO WHICH WAS CONCERNED WITH THE METHODS EMPLOYED BY THE DEFENSE GENERAL SUPPLY CENTER (CENTER). IT IS YOUR BELIEF THAT THE GENERAL RUN OF REPLACEMENT CARBON CAN BE SUPPLIED BY ANY ONE OF SEVERAL CARBON MANUFACTURERS. SEVERAL EXAMPLES ARE CITED WHERE YOUR COMPANY HAD SUPPLIED CARBON REPLACEMENTS TO DIFFERENT MILITARY DEPARTMENTS DESPITE THE FACT THAT YOU WERE NOT THE ORIGINAL MANUFACTURER. THIS WAS BEFORE DSA ASSUMED THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR PROCUREMENT. IN ITS REPORT TO THIS OFFICE DSA ACKNOWLEDGES THE FACT THAT SPECIFIC MANUFACTURERS WERE REQUESTED TO FURNISH CARBON BRUSHES WITHOUT ANY PROVISION FOR SUPPLYING EQUAL PRODUCTS.

B-158418, APR. 8, 1966

TO BECKER BROTHERS CARBON CO.:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED JANUARY 24, 1966, AND ATTACHMENTS THERETO WHICH WAS CONCERNED WITH THE METHODS EMPLOYED BY THE DEFENSE GENERAL SUPPLY CENTER (CENTER), DEFENSE SUPPLY AGENCY (DSA), RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, IN THE PROCUREMENT OF CARBON BRUSHES AND CARBON PRODUCTS. THEREIN YOU POINT OUT, DSA HAS CONFINED ITS PROCUREMENT EFFORTS TO THOSE COMPANIES WHICH HAD FURNISHED THE ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT BY ELIMINATING THE WORDS "OR EQUAL" AFTER THE BRAND NAMED PRODUCT. EXCLUDING CRITICAL END ITEM USES, IT IS YOUR BELIEF THAT THE GENERAL RUN OF REPLACEMENT CARBON CAN BE SUPPLIED BY ANY ONE OF SEVERAL CARBON MANUFACTURERS. SEVERAL EXAMPLES ARE CITED WHERE YOUR COMPANY HAD SUPPLIED CARBON REPLACEMENTS TO DIFFERENT MILITARY DEPARTMENTS DESPITE THE FACT THAT YOU WERE NOT THE ORIGINAL MANUFACTURER. THIS WAS BEFORE DSA ASSUMED THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR PROCUREMENT.

IN ITS REPORT TO THIS OFFICE DSA ACKNOWLEDGES THE FACT THAT SPECIFIC MANUFACTURERS WERE REQUESTED TO FURNISH CARBON BRUSHES WITHOUT ANY PROVISION FOR SUPPLYING EQUAL PRODUCTS. HOWEVER, IT JUSTIFIES THIS TYPE OF PROCUREMENT BECAUSE TECHNICAL INFORMATION AVAILABLE TO THE CENTER IS CONSIDERED INADEQUATE TO DETERMINE EQUALITY. ALTHOUGH DSA DOES NOT REFUTE YOUR ALLEGATION THAT YOU HAVE SUPPLIED CARBON BRUSHES TO MILITARY DEPARTMENTS IN THE PAST ON AN INTERCHANGEABILITY BASIS WHEN YOU WERE NOT THE ORIGINAL SUPPLIER, IT DOES STATE THAT NONE OF THESE PROCUREMENTS WERE AWARDED BY THE CENTER AND ALL WERE FOR LESS THAN $2,500. FURTHER, AS THE CENTER POSSESSES NO FACILITIES FOR TESTING IT CANNOT DETERMINE BY TESTS THE EQUALITY OF THE PRODUCTS. FROM THE CENTER'S POINT OF VIEW, THE COST OF PROVIDING TESTS BY THE GOVERNMENT TO DETERMINE EQUALITY WOULD APPROXIMATE $2,500 AND THEREFORE WOULD NOT BE ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE.

IN FURTHER SUPPORT OF ITS POSITION THE CENTER MAKES REFERENCE TO A LETTER OF NOVEMBER 17, 1965, FROM THE SECRETARY OF THE NATIONAL ELECTRICAL MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION (NEMA), CARBON SECTION, OF WHICH IT APPEARS YOU ARE A MEMBER. THIS LETTER DEALS WITH THE PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED IN DETERMINING INTERCHANGEABILITY OF CARBON BRUSHES FOR REPLACEMENT PURPOSES. IN THE MORE DIFFICULT COMMUTATING MACHINES INTERCHANGEABILITY (BASED ON THE COMMONLY ACCEPTED STANDARDS OF RESISTENCE, FRICTION, COEFFICIENT, CONTACT DROP, PHYSICAL STRENGTH, ETC.) IS SAID NOT TO BE CONSIDERED POSSIBLE DUE TO INADEQUATE STANDARDS. ONLY ON THOSE MACHINES WHICH ARE EASY TO COMMUTATE, OR ON RINGS WHERE COLLECTION IS NOT A DIFFICULT PROBLEM, CAN INTERCHANGEABILITY OF GRADES BETWEEN MANUFACTURERS BE ACHIEVED, ALTHOUGH EVEN IN THIS CASE, THE OPERATING CONDITIONS OF THE MACHINE AND ENVIRONMENT HAVE AN INFLUENCE ON BRUSH PERFORMANCE. NOT ONLY IS INTERCHANGEABILITY LIMITED TO CERTAIN MACHINES BUT IT IS EXTREMELY COSTLY TO APPROVE MORE THAN ONE GRADE OF BRUSH AT A TIME FOR EACH MOTOR OR GENERATOR. IN ADDITION THE LETTER STATES,"THE TESTING OF BRUSHES FOR ACCEPTANCE BY THE DEFENSE GENERAL SUPPLY CENTER AS INTERCHANGEABLE WOULD INVOLVE TESTING OF MANY TYPES OF MACHINES AND WOULD BE AN ALMOST ENDLESS JOB AS WELL AS VERY EXPENSIVE AND TIME CONSUMING.'

THE RECORD IN THIS CASE PRESENTS CONFLICTING VIEWS AS TO WHETHER CARBON BRUSHES CAN BE INTERCHANGED IN REPLACEMENT PROCUREMENTS. ONE OF YOUR LETTER ATTACHMENTS, EXHIBIT "C," EXPRESSES THE OPINION THAT IN OVER 90 PERCENT OF THE PRESENT APPLICATIONS INTERCHANGEABILITY OF GRADES IS POSSIBLE AND THAT THE POLICY OF REPLACING THE ORIGINAL BUY WITH THE SAME MANUFACTURER'S PRODUCT IS NOT NECESSARILY THE BEST TO FOLLOW. THE BEST GRADE OF CARBON, YOU ASSERT, MAY NOT NECESSARILY BE SELECTED FIRST, AS ITS SELECTION INITIALLY MAY BE BASED ON ONE OF MANY FACTORS INCLUDING BRUSH WEAR, THE ELECTRICAL OUTPUT, THE HEAT GENERATED, THE COMMUTATOR WEAR, THE AVAILABILITY AND PRICE. FURTHERMORE, YOU CONTEND EVEN IF THE GRADE OF THE MATERIAL IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN THE INITIAL SELECTION NO GUARANTEE CAN BE MADE THIS SAME GRADE CAN SUBSEQUENTLY BE REPRODUCED.

THE DRAFTING OF SPECIFICATIONS TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT IS PRIMARILY THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CONTRACTING AGENCY. THE SPECIFICATIONS SHOULD SET FORTH THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT NOT THE MAXIMUM DESIRED. WHETHER SPECIFICATIONS CAN BE WRITTEN SO AS TO DELINEATE CERTAIN SPECIFIC SALIENT FEATURES OF THE BRAND NAMED CARBON BRUSHES TO ALLOW FOR THE PROCUREMENT OF EQUAL PRODUCTS WE ARE UNABLE TO SAY. YOU ASSERT THEY CAN, WHEREAS, DSA STATES THEY CANNOT WHICH VIEW IS SUPPORTED BY THE NEMA LETTER MENTIONED ABOVE. IN SUCH A CASE, DUE TO THE LACK OF TECHNICAL PERSONNEL AND FACILITIES, THIS OFFICE MUST OF NECESSITY ADOPT THE VIEW OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCY AND, THEREFORE, WE CONCLUDE ADEQUATE SPECIFICATIONS CANNOT BE WRITTEN TO PROVIDE FOR EQUAL PRODUCTS.

THE LIMITING OF THE PROCUREMENT OF REPLACEMENT CARBON BRUSHES TO THE ORIGINAL BRAND NAME SUPPLIER IS AN UNFORTUNATE SITUATION. EVERY EFFORT SHOULD BE MADE BOTH BY DSA AND INTERESTED CARBON MANUFACTURERS TO DETERMINE SALIENT FEATURES WHICH WILL ALLOW THE PROCUREMENT OF EQUAL PRODUCTS. IT IS HOPED THAT YOUR COMPANY MAY BE ABLE TO CONTRIBUTE INFORMATION TOWARDS THIS GOAL. WHILE YOUR STATEMENTS TO THE EFFECT THAT THE BEST GRADE OF CARBON MAY NOT NECESSARILY BE SELECTED FIRST AND EVEN IF THE BEST IS SELECTED THERE IS NO GUARANTEE IT CAN BE REPRODUCED MAY BE VALID, THIS OFFICE KNOWS OF NO ALTERNATIVE TO THE PROCEDURES NOW FOLLOWED EXCEPT TO PROVIDE FOR MORE TESTING OF CARBON BRUSHES INITIALLY FOR THE MOTORS OR GENERATORS. WHETHER THE GOVERNMENT WOULD BE JUSTIFIED IN EXPENDING THE MONEY INVOLVED WOULD APPEAR TO DEPEND ON THE PARTICULAR PROCUREMENT AND THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT. FROM THE INFORMATION AVAILABLE TO US IT APPEARS THAT IN THE MAJORITY OF CASES TESTING BY THE GOVERNMENT MAY NOT BE ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE.

AS A POINT OF INFORMATION, DSA HAS INFORMED THIS OFFICE THAT IN THE FUTURE PERIODIC ANNOUNCEMENTS OF FORECASTED REQUIREMENTS WILL BE MADE WELL IN ADVANCE TO ALLOW MANUFACTURERS TO QUALIFY THEIR BRUSHES IF THEY BELIEVE IT WOULD BE ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE. DSA HAS ALSO INDICATED THAT THEY WILL WORK CLOSELY WITH PRIVATE INDUSTRY TO TRY TO DEVELOP INTERCHANGEABILITY INFORMATION AND ADDITIONAL QUALIFIED SOURCES FOR CARBON BRUSHES. IT IS HOPED THAT SUCH PROCEDURE WILL PROVIDE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM.