The General Services Administration has many regulatory tools at its disposal to assist in negotiating fair and reasonable prices for Multiple Award Schedule contracts.  Both FAR and GSAM rules cover everything from contractor submission of commercial pricing information, the government’s access to contractor records to validate that information, the “goal” of obtaining Most Favored Customer pricing, and more.  Each of these rules has gone through a formal vetting process, involving the opportunity for public comment as contemplated by the Administrative Procedures Act.  Why, then, does the agency feel that it can hold contractors’ feet to the fire with the undefined, and unvetted, term “highly competitive”?  GSA’s insistence on this term is causing greater concern among Schedule contractors, the majority of which are small businesses.  Companies are denied contracts, even if they can show that the prices they’re offering meet the more established principle of fair and reasonable pricing.  This hurts small firms and, ultimately, the Schedules program.  Nowhere in the lexicon of Schedule clauses is the term “highly competitive” defined.  As such, its use is, by definition, highly subjective.  It is also wrong.  GSA officials likely do know that any standard by which contract pricing is evaluated must be defined and consistent.  This often requires following a proper regulatory process, one which allows stakeholders to both see and comment on a proposed evaluation topic before it is put into use.  GSA has not done this with “highly competitive”.  The term, therefore, should be removed immediately from the Schedule solicitation until such time as it has been properly vetted.  New offerors, who have no prior reason to know, or who should have known, about this solicitation provision, should consider a protest.  Contracting officers still have the ultimate authority to say whether or not contract-level pricing is fair and reasonable.  They do, however, have to play by the rules and not make them up as they go along.