In April of 1967, the Comptroller General of the United States issued a report to Congress entitled “A Government-Wide Review of the Administration of Certain Statutory and Regulatory Requirements Relating to Architect/Engineering Fees.” The report criticized the federal construction agencies for paying fees in excess of the statutory limitation of 6% of the estimated construction cost; revealed that the federal government was not utilizing price competition in contracting for A/E services as required by law; and provided the motivation for the formation of one of the most durable and effective coalitions in Washington.
COFPAES, the Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services, was organized in anticipation of the results of the General Accounting Office research summarized in the 1967 report. Then, as now, the major organizations representing design professionals realized that a common effort was needed to educate Congress and the public on the design professions and the need to place the emphasis on quality and competence by procuring professional services through a qualifications-based selection process.
In 1966, four organizations, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Consulting Engineers Council, the Professional Engineers in Private Practice division of the National Society of Professional Engineers, and The American Institute of Architects formed COFPAES.
Because in the GAO report the Comptroller General asked Congress to clarify whether federal A/E selection was subject to existing procurement laws requiring price competition, the first COFPAES project was to provide Congress with an understanding of the nature of the design professions. With the combined strength of the COFPAES organizations, a recognition of the professionalism of architectural and engineering services finally was signed into law in October of 1972 (Public Law 92-582, the Brooks Act.)
But the enactment and defense of the Brooks Act is not the only reason for the continued existence of COFPAES. The goal of the coalition always has been the promotion of sound A/E procurement practices. Through the years, COFPAES has provided the stimulus for advancements such as the development of the SF254 and 255 questionnaires and their replacement, the SF330, and has served as an informal sounding board for new developments in federal procurement procedures, policies and regulations.
In addition, COFPAES has organized courses for private sector design professionals and federal, state and municipal procurement personnel, sponsored conferences on federal programs and procedures, and published guides to contracting with the federal government. COFPAES also works with federal agencies to offer information to design professionals on funding levels and new project starts, provides opportunities for design professionals to meet agency officials and share information on their common needs and problems, and serves as a forum for federal officials to exchange ideas and concerns with their peers in government service and private practice.
Since its inception in 1966, COFPAES has provided the design community with a common voice on federal procurement law and regulations. COFPAES continues to serve the American public as a well-known and respected forum for the consideration of policy and operational changes in the selection procedures of design professionals. Because of its emphasis on professionalism in the procurement process, COFPAES assists the federal government in assuring that the design of projects to satisfy the building and infrastructure needs of our Nation is conducted in an efficient and quality manner.