FAA Reauthorization Bolsters QBS Standards
The recent reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration includes an NSPE-backed provision that expands the use of qualifications-based selection on federally funded airport development construction projects.
On October 5, President Trump signed the legislation that extends FAA policy for the next five years, the longest reauthorization period for the FAA since 1982.
In April, NSPE and several other engineering and construction associations sent a letter to Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, urging the incorporation of a bipartisan amendment offered by Rep. Bruce Westerman, P.E., (R-AR) and Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) that applies QBS standards to airport projects.
The provision requires airports to comply with the Brooks Act, which established QBS as the method of procuring design services on federal projects, if any portion of a project uses Airport Improvement Program funds. This amendment was designed to prevent agencies from segmenting state or local funds for A/E services in order to avoid federal QBS rules.
NSPE supports using a QBS procedure for the procurement of all engineering services. NSPE Position Statement No. 08-131 notes: “With QBS, the interests of all professional services users are best served by a selection procedure for all engineering services on the basis of qualifications, including technical competence and staff consistent with the requirement of the project. The selection procedure should address specialized knowledge and skill, experience in the type of project involved, assignment of qualified personnel, ability of the engineers to perform on a timely basis, recognition of the importance of total cost of the project within budgetary limitations, and such other areas of expertise as may be identified by the owner for prime consultant services, or the prime consultant for the subconsultant services.”
In the QBS process, professionally qualified engineers or firms are ranked on the basis of ability to provide the service. After the ranking is completed, negotiations with the best qualified engineer or firm are conducted to determine a mutually satisfactory agreement for the scope of services agreed upon.
The $97 billion reauthorization creates discretionary grants of more than $1 billion for small or medium-sized airports located outside of metropolitan areas, and sets new conditions for recreational drone users, among other provisions.