Common elements of the Federal
Government Contracting process and eligibility requirements for Businesses wanting to
contract with the
A company that wants to compete for federal government
contracts must start with these requirements:
Although not a requirement, certification as, for example, a
small disadvantaged business (SDB) may be advantageous and requires
certification by the Small Business Administration (SBA). See the SBA’s
website, available at
information about Small Disadvantage Business, HUBZone, and
programs, eligibility criteria, and certification.
The Federal Government Contracting Procurement Process:
Essentially, the federal acquisition process begins when a
government agency determines
its requirements and how to purchase them. If the agency’s contracting officer
determines that the appropriate method for procuring the goods or services is a
contract, and the contract amount is greater than $25,000, then the agency posts
a solicitation on the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website,
Agencies also may post solicitations on Dibbs, ASFI site
or their own websites.
Following the deadline for companies to submit their offers,
government agency personnel
evaluate vendors’ submissions, using the source selection method and criteria
described in the solicitation. Unless multiple suppliers or firms are needed,
such as for a supply schedule, the agency awards a contract to one firm.
Interested vendors / companies prepare their offers in response to the
government solicitation, and, in accordance with applicable provisions of the
Federal Acquisition Regulation
(FAR), agency personnel evaluate the offers.
Although this process is simple in theory, any given Request for Quote or
Procurement Contract can be complex, involving a multitude of decisions and
actions. A contracting officer may need to determine, for example,
whether to use a federal supply schedule, what type of contract to
use, whether simplified acquisition procedures may be used, or whether the
procurement should be set aside for small businesses.
Examples of procurement methods that do not involve establishing a new
contract include using a government purchase card (a credit
card); placing a task order (or a delivery order) against an existing contract
or ordering from a GSA schedule . The government wide commercial purchase card
is, in effect, a credit card government employees may use to make certain types
of purchases. It is known for being used to make micro-purchases, which are
items that do not exceed the micro-purchase threshold of $3000.
Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)
The primary source of Federal Procurement Information and Guidance is the
Federal Acquisition Regulations which consists of Parts 1-53 of Title 48 of the
Code of Federal Regulations. Available at , the
FAR covers, for example, contractor qualifications, types of contracts, small
business programs, and federal supply schedule contracting. The FAR also
includes, in Part 2, definitions of procurement words and terms, and, in Part
52, solicitation provisions and contract clauses. 2
Resources for Businesses
Congressional Research first Service
has a website, which provides links to resources for businesses.
General Services Administration (GSA).
The General Services Administration is perhaps best known, in terms of
contracting opportunities and resources, as the agency that maintains numerous
supply schedules. A schedule is a list of goods and/or services provided by
GSA-selected multiple vendors at varying prices. (Hence, these schedules are
known as multiple award schedules (MAS).) Information about schedules, including
guidance for how to get on a schedule, and about online and on-site training
opportunities is available at
Essentially, the process for getting on a schedule is similar to that for
obtaining a government contract. GSA issues a solicitation for particular goods
or services, companies submit offers in response, and then GSA evaluates the
offers and awards contracts to multiple vendors for the same goods or services.
Schedule solicitations are posted on FedBizOpps, and GSA also posts them on its
website. The GSA solicitation page may be accessed by going to
http://www.gsa.gov, clicking on “Getting on
Schedule,” and then clicking on “GSASchedule solicitations.
Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).
The Minority Business Development Agency,
which is part of the Department of Commerce promotes the growth and competitiveness” of minority
business enterprises, regardless of their size.
The agency’s network of business development centers provides a variety of
management and technical assistance services, and its Opportunity Contract
Matching System is designed to match entrepreneurs with federal government and
private sector contracting opportunities.
Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP).
Although the Procurement Technical Assistance Program is administered
by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), it is available to assist companies that
market products and services to all federal agencies, and state and local
Services are provided through 93
Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs),
which have over 250 local offices. The centers provide assistance through classes, seminars, one
counseling sessions, and networking events on such topics as identifying
procurement opportunities, preparing proposals, and researching agency
Small Business Administration (SBA).
The Small Business Administration
offers a variety of services and assistance to current and would-be
government contractors. which includes a
“BusinessOpportunities” link on the main page, which leads to a website with
information on contracting basics, regulations and policies, business
opportunities, size standards for small businesses, marketing, contract
proposals, small business programs, and special interest topics. The
offers training and counseling services through its Office of
Entrepreneurial Development which includes, for example, information about Small Business Development
Centers, which provide management and technical assistance to small businesses.
Free online courses,
on topics such as government contracting and marketing and advertising,
also are available on the SBA website.
Other resources that firms may find useful in identifying procurement
opportunities, navigating the government’s procurement process, and marketing
their goods or services include professional, trade, and industry organizations,
publications, and events; local chambers of commerce; and consultants. For
example, the book Elements of Government Contracting, by Richard D. Lieberman
and Karen R. O’Brien, provides information about the federal procurement
process. Magazines such as Government Executive and Homeland Defense Journal
include articles with information about government procurements and industry
workshops or conferences. Industry and trade organizations, such as the
Professional Services Council, may be another source of useful information.
Selected Government Contracting Topics
Research and Development Procurement Part 35 of the FAR provides guidance on
research and development (R&D) contracting. Interested companies, organizations,
and other entities may use FedBizOpps to identify R&D opportunities, which may
be posted as solicitations or Broad Agency Announcements (BAA).
The federal government also uses several nontraditional procurement methods
to acquire the technologies and products it needs. Recognizing that not all new
and innovative ideas may be captured by established procurement programs and
procedures, the federal government provides for the submission of unsolicited
That is, a firm may submit a proposal for which there is no solicitation.
Guidance and requirements for the preparation and submission of unsolicited
proposals, including the criteria for a valid unsolicited proposal, may be found
at Subpart 15.6 of the FAR. Some agencies may also provide information on their
websites about unsolicited proposals, such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does.
As the central R&D organization for the Department of Defense, the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is charged with “sponsoring
revolutionary, high-payoff research that bridges the gap between fundamental
discoveries and their military use.” The DARPA
website, includes links to
solicitations and BAAs, and a publication, Doing Business with DARPA, that
provides information on the agency’s procurement process. The Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) has an organization, the Homeland Security Advanced
Research Projects Agency (HSARPA), that performs a similar function for DHS.
Information about HSARPA, including solicitations, BAAs, and workshops, is
available at . The Technical Support Working Group (TSWG)
is an interagency effort that “identifies, prioritizes, and coordinates
interagency and international research and development (R&D) requirements for
combating terrorism.”15 The working group uses the BAA Information Delivery
Systems (BIDS), to post BAAs and
Other nontraditional opportunities for firms, research institutions, and
organizations are government-sponsored contests and venture capital funds
established by agencies for the purpose of helping to fund technologies the
agencies could use. Two agencies that sponsor prize contests are the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and DARPA. Information about NASA’s Centennial Challenges and
DARPA’s Grand Challenge
are available. Three agencies that have established venture capital
funds are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), NASA, and the
Department of the Army. Information about the nonprofit corporation that
was established to manage the
CIA’sventure capital fund In-Q-Tel is available
at The venture fund affiliated with NASA is Red
Information about On Point Technologies,
the Army’s venture capital fund.
Another way to become involved in federal government
contracting, albeit indirectly, is to serve as a subcontractor for a company
(known as the “prime contractor”) that has been awarded a government
contract. Agencies may provide information on their websites about firms to
which they have awarded contracts. For example,
GSA maintains a small business subcontracting
DHS provides a list of prime
Other potentially useful sources of information include trade and business
publications, FedBizOpps, company websites, and the
Federal Procurement Data
System (FPDS). Information gleaned from these sources might indicate which
companies have received, or expect to receive, government contracts.
The SBA provides guidance on subcontracting
1: Information about these topics may be found
in Parts 38 (federal supply schedules), 16 (types of contracts), 13 (simplified
acquisition procedures), and 19 (small business programs) of the Federal
Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which is discussed in the next section.
2: Another source of information about
procurement terms is the Federal
Acquisition Institute’s glossary Congressional
Research Service - The Library of Congress CRS Report for Congress Received
through the CRS Web Order Code RS22536 November 20, 2006
4: Examples of procurement methods that do not involve
establishing a new contract include using a government purchase card (a credit
card), placing a task order (or a delivery order) against an existing contract,
or ordering from a GSA schedule (schedules are described in the next section of
the report). The government wide commercial purchase card is, in effect, a
credit card government employees may use to make certain types of purchases. It
is known for being used to make micro-purchases, which are items that do not
exceed the micro-purchase threshold of $3000. For additional information, see
FAR 2.101 and FAR Subpart 13.2.
A delivery order or task order contract, which also may be known as an
indefinite-delivery contract, is “a contract for supplies or services that does
not procure or specify a firm quantity of supplies or services (other than a
minimum or maximum quantity) and provides for the issuance of orders for the
delivery of supplies or the issuance of orders for the performance of tasks
during the period of the contract.” (FAR 16.501-1.)
5: An “offer” is a response to a solicitation. A company or individual
who submits an offer is known as an “offeror.”
7: The two primary categories of source selection are
sealed bidding (FAR Part 14) and negotiated contracting (FAR Part 15).
8: A detailed description of the process involved in
getting on a schedule may be found in GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules Program
and Marketing Strategies Training Guide for Small Business, follow the links to About
GSA>Organization>Office of Small Business Utilization>Obtain a GSA Schedules
Contract - Training Guide.
Another resource for businesses is GSA’s forecast of contracting
opportunities, which is available at
http://www.gsa.gov/forecastcontractingopportunities. To find GSA’s training
opportunities, go to the GSA website and follow these links: About GSA >Training
Programs from GSA>How to Get on Schedule >GSA Schedules Contract Training (SBU).
10: Defense Logistics Agency, “Department of Defense, Procurement
Technical AssistanceCenters,” available at [http://www.dla.mil/db/procurem.htm].
11: Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers,
“Government Contracting Assistance,” available at
12: The mention of these particular publications and this group
is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, an endorsement.
13: A broad agency announcement is used “for the acquisition of
basic and applied research andthat part of the development not related to the
development of a specific system or hardware procurement. BAA’s may be used by
agencies to fulfill their requirements for scientific study and experimentation
directed toward advancing the state-of-the-art or increasing knowledge or
understanding rather than focusing on a specific system or hardware solution.”
14; Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,
“Mission and Overview.
15: Technical Support Working Group, “About TSWG,
16: The Federal Procurement Data System, which is available at. https://www.fpds.gov
information about government contract actions over $3,000. (FAR 4.602.)