B-170018, SEP. 1, 1970

B-170018: Sep 1, 1970

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OF THE ARMY TO PURCHASE A MECHANICAL ANSWERING DEVICE (CODE-A-PHONE) IN PREFERENCE TO A "LIVE" ANSWERING SERVICE IS A MATTER PRIMARILY FOR THE ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCY. ARE AMPLE BASIS FOR SELECTING THIS TYPE OF SERVICE. HENCE THERE IS NOTHING IMPROPER OR ILLEGAL IN THE PROCUREMENT. TO MAYFIELD ANSWERING SERVICE: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED JUNE 7. THIS HAD BEEN CALLED TO MY ATTENTION IN 1966 AND SINCE I WAS IN THE PROCESS OF BEGINNING A TELEPHONE ANSWERING SERVICE IN MAYFIELD. SINCE HIS RESIDENCE WAS IN THE SAME HOTEL THE WESTERN UNION OFFICE OCCUPIED. 1967 LETTER ACKNOWLEDGED THIS AND ALSO REQUESTED THE RECRUITING STATION AUTHORITIES KEEP US IN MIND IF A CHANGE IN ANSWERING SERVICE WAS ANTICIPATED.

B-170018, SEP. 1, 1970

PROCUREMENT - PROPRIETY DETERMINATION BY DEPT. OF THE ARMY TO PURCHASE A MECHANICAL ANSWERING DEVICE (CODE-A-PHONE) IN PREFERENCE TO A "LIVE" ANSWERING SERVICE IS A MATTER PRIMARILY FOR THE ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCY. SINCE THE PROCURING AGENCY HAS DETERMINED THAT THE AMORTIZATION OF THE COST OF THE DEVICE OVER A PERIOD OF 10 YEARS, AS WELL AS THE DEVICE MEETING THE MINIMUM NEEDS, ARE AMPLE BASIS FOR SELECTING THIS TYPE OF SERVICE. HENCE THERE IS NOTHING IMPROPER OR ILLEGAL IN THE PROCUREMENT.

TO MAYFIELD ANSWERING SERVICE:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED JUNE 7, 1970, WITH ENCLOSURES, CONCERNING ANSWERING SERVICE FOR THE ARMY RECRUITER STATIONED IN MAYFIELD, KENTUCKY.

YOU STATE THAT:

"THE LOCAL ARMY RECRUITER'S JOB NECESSITATES HIS BEING OUT OF HIS OFFICE MUCH OF THE TIME. THIS HAD BEEN CALLED TO MY ATTENTION IN 1966 AND SINCE I WAS IN THE PROCESS OF BEGINNING A TELEPHONE ANSWERING SERVICE IN MAYFIELD, I SOLICITED THE MAIN STATION IN NASHVILLE ABOUT SERVING MAYFIELD'S RECRUITER.

"BETWEEN THE TIME OF MY FIRST SOLICITATION AND THE TIME WE BEGAN OPERATION (FEBRUARY 1967) THE ARMY NEGOTIATED A CONTRACT FOR SOMEWHAT LIMITED SERVICE TO BE PROVIDED BY THE LOCAL WESTERN UNION OFFICE GIRL (DURING HER NORMAL WORKING HOURS ONLY, ON THE RECRUITER'S HOME PHONE ONLY, NOT HIS ADVERTISED OFFICE PHONE, SINCE HIS RESIDENCE WAS IN THE SAME HOTEL THE WESTERN UNION OFFICE OCCUPIED, FOR ABOUT THE SAME RATE WE WOULD CHARGE FOR TWENTY-FOUR HOUR SERVICE ON BOTH HIS RESIDENCE PHONE AND OFFICE PHONE). MY SEPTEMBER 10, 1967 LETTER ACKNOWLEDGED THIS AND ALSO REQUESTED THE RECRUITING STATION AUTHORITIES KEEP US IN MIND IF A CHANGE IN ANSWERING SERVICE WAS ANTICIPATED. THE STATION'S LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 12, 1967, STATED NO CHANGE WAS CONTEMPLATED AT THAT TIME BUT THAT MAYFIELD ANSWERING SERVICE WOULD BE KEPT IN MIND.

"FOR SOME REASON, THE MAIN STATION DECIDED A CHANGE IN ANSWERING SERVICE WAS ADVISABLE SOMETIME BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 1967 AND THE PRESENT TIME AND PURCHASED EXPENSIVE CODE-O-PHONE EQUIPMENT FOR THE LOCAL RECRUITER. WERE NOT ASKED TO BID AGAINST THIS EQUIPMENT, THE EQUIPMENT WILL NOT PROVIDE ANYWHERE NEAR THE SATISFACTION OUR 'LIVE' TELEPHONE ANSWERING SERVICE WILL, AND THE ARMY HAS GONE TO GREAT EXPENSE NEEDLESSLY--WE ARE MORE ECONOMICAL. *** "

YOU QUESTION THE PROPRIETY OF THE INSTALLATION OF THE "CODE-A-PHONE", AND EXPRESS THE BELIEF THAT REGULATIONS MAY HAVE BEEN VIOLATED BY A FAILURE TO ADVERTISE FOR ANSWERING SERVICE.

PURSUANT TO A CONTRACT WITH THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY, ENTERED INTO IN SEPTEMBER 1952, THE THIRD UNITED STATES ARMY, ON NOVEMBER 2, 1966, AT THE REQUEST OF HEADQUARTERS, UNITED STATES ARMY THIRD RECRUITING DISTRICT, AT COLLEGE PARK, GEORGIA, ISSUED A COMMUNICATION SERVICE AUTHORIZATION TO THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY, MAYFIELD, KENTUCKY, AUTHORIZING THEM TO INSTALL AN ANSWERING SERVICE IN THE U. S. ARMY RECRUITING STATION IN MAYFIELD. ON JULY 16, 1969, THE THIRD UNITED STATES ARMY ISSUED THE NECESSARY CONFIRMATORY DIRECTIVE DISCONTINUING THIS SERVICE EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 1969.

THE ARMY REPORTS THAT THE PURCHASE OF THE CODE-A-PHONE WAS ACCOMPLISHED AFTER STUDIES WERE CONDUCTED TO DETERMINE THE ECONOMY AND EFFICIENCY OF THEIR GENERAL USAGE; THAT WITH A MINIMUM LIFE EXPECTANCY OF TEN YEARS, THIS METHOD IS MORE ECONOMICAL THAN PAYMENT OF EVER RECURRING COSTS FOR TELEPHONE ANSWERING SERVICE; AND THAT THIS METHOD HAS PROVEN HIGHLY BENEFICIAL IN THE RECRUITING EFFORT.

WE ARE IN NO POSITION TO ESTABLISH THE RELATIVE MERITS OF A "LIVE" ANSWERING SERVICE AS AGAINST A MECHANICAL ANSWERING DEVICE. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE MINIMUM NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT AND THE DETERMINATION OF WHETHER A PRODUCT OR SERVICE WOULD MEET THOSE NEEDS ARE PRIMARILY FOR DETERMINATION BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCY CONCERNED.

IN THE PRESENT MATTER, THE PROCURING AGENCY, AFTER STUDY, DETERMINED THAT A MECHANICAL DEVICE WOULD ADEQUATELY SERVE THE PURPOSE IN THE SITUATIONS WHERE IT WOULD BE USED, IN PREFERENCE TO "LIVE" ANSWERING SERVICES. THE DECISION TO USE CODE-A-PHONE WAS NOT RESTRICTED TO MAYFIELD, KENTUCKY, BUT WAS APPLICABLE TO MANY RECRUITING OFFICES LOCATED AT OTHER POINTS IN KENTUCKY AS WELL AS IN RECRUITING STATIONS IN GEORGIA, FLORIDA, TENNESSEE, SOUTH CAROLINA, NORTH CAROLINA, MISSOURI, MISSISSIPPI, PUERTO RICO, AND IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS. IN ALL, 37 UNITS WERE PURCHASED ON APRIL 28, 1969. THE CODE-A-PHONE IS AN ITEM APPEARING ON THE FEDERAL SUPPLY SCHEDULE, ADMINISTERED BY THE GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION. IN THIS CONNECTION, YOU MAY BE ADVISED THAT ITEMS IN THE FEDERAL SUPPLY SCHEDULE ARE ITEMS HAVING COMMON USE THROUGHOUT THE GOVERNMENT SERVICE AND ARE PLACED THERE AS A RESULT OF COMPETITIVE SOLICITATION AND BIDDING PROCEDURES. USE OF THE FEDERAL SUPPLY SCHEDULE IS MANDATORY ON ALL GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS WHEN PROCURING ITEMS COVERED IN THE SCHEDULE.

INSOFAR AS COST IS CONSIDERED, THE PROCURING AGENCY HAS DETERMINED THAT THE AMORTIZATION OF THE COST OF THE DEVICE OVER A PERIOD OF TEN YEARS (PROJECTED LIFE OF THE EQUIPMENT), AS WELL AS THE DEVICE MEETING THE MINIMUM NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT, ARE AMPLE BASES FOR SELECTING THIS TYPE OF ANSWERING SERVICE.

IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES WE CANNOT SUBSTITUTE OUR OPINION FOR THAT OF THE USING AGENCY, AND WE FIND NOTHING IMPROPER OR ILLEGAL IN THE PROCUREMENT.