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Government Contracting Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Acquisition?
The acquiring of supplies or services by the federal government with appropriated funds through purchase or lease.

 

Do I have to become a registered vendor with the government to win a contract?

With a few exceptions, a firm that wants to compete for federal government contracts must meet at least three requirements: 
  1. Obtain a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number, which is a unique nine-digit identification number for each physical location of a business, available at http://www.dnb.com/US/duns_update/.
  2. Register with the government’s System for Award Management (SAM database), available at http://www.sam.gov.
  3. Complete an Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA), available at https://www.sam.gov.

 

What is a DUNS Number?
A Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number identifies unique business establishments.  This nine-digit number is assigned and maintained by Dun and Bradstreet.
 

What is the System for Award Management (SAM)?
The SAM registers organizations who want to do business with the federal government.  Organizations must have a DUNS number to register with the SAM.  Organizations provide specific organizational information to enable government buyers to locate them.

 
What is a CAGE code?
The Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code is a five character ID number used extensively within the federal government and assigned by the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency.
 
What is ORCA?
ORCA is a FAR mandated web-based system that streamlines the solicitation and award process for both the vendor and the government by collecting vendor representations and certifications of business information that is required by law for contract award.
 

What is a NAICS code?
The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is an industry classification system used by the statistical agencies of the United States for classifying business establishments.

 

Where and how do government agencies publicize contracting opportunities and at what dollar threshold?
All federal agencies are required to publicize bidding opportunities on http://www.fedbizopps.gov when the purchase is expected to exceed $25,000, so anyone with Internet access can find out about these opportunities.


What is the Federal Business Opportunities Site?
Federal Business Opportunities or www.fedbizopps.gov is the single government point-of-entry for federal government acquisition opportunities over $25,000.  Government buyers are able to publicize their business opportunities by posting information directly to FedBizOpps via the Internet.  Through one portal - FedBizOpps (FBO) - commercial vendors seeking federal markets for their products and services can search, monitor, and retrieve opportunities solicited by the entire federal contracting community.

 

How do I find out which agencies buy products and/or services similar to mine?
The Federal Procurement Data Center at https://www.fpds.gov reports statistics on acquisition for more than 70 federal agencies.  Some federal, state, and local government agencies, military installations, and prime contractors publish acquisition directories and forecasts on their Web sites.

 

What is Best Value?
Best value is the expected outcome of any acquisition that ensures the customer’s needs are met in the most effective, economical, and timely manner.  Best value is the goal of sealed bidding, simplified acquisition, commercial item acquisition, negotiated acquisition, and any other specialized acquisition method or combination of methods.  Negotiated acquisition techniques used to obtain best value may span a "continuum" from low priced technically acceptable to tradeoffs between price, past performance, and the technical solution.

 

What is the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)?
The FAR is the primary source of federal procurement information and guidance regulations. The FAR, which is published as Chapter 1 of Title 48 of the Code of Federal Regulations, is prepared, issued, and maintained under the joint auspices of the Secretary of Defense, the Administrator of General Services Administration, and the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

 

Acquisition Regulation consists of Parts 1-53 of Title 48 of the Code of Federal Regulations.  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 acquisition words and terms, and, in Part 52, solicitation provisions and contract clauses.

 

Actual responsibility for maintenance and revision of the FAR is vested jointly in the Defense Acquisition Regulatory Council (DARC) and the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council (CAAC).  http://www.acquisition.gov/far.

 

What Is the General Services Administration (GSA)?
GSA is a management agency of the federal government created by Congress that provides federal agencies with the tools necessary to perform their day-to-day operations more efficiently. GSA is best likened to the landlord or housekeeper of the federal government because it provides such supplies and services as furniture; equipment and supplies (power tools, phones, computers, etc.); workspaces; security; travel and transportation services; federal motor vehicle fleet management; historic building preservation; fine art program management; and more.

 

What is a GSA Contract?
A GSA contract, also known as a GSA Schedule, Federal Supply Schedule contracts, or multiple award schedules, is an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract negotiated between GSA and commercial companies.  They are available for use by federal agencies worldwide.  GSA contracts make it easy for the government to purchase state-of-the-art, high-quality commercial products and services.  To maintain continued sources of supplies and services, schedule contract periods are as long as five years with three five-year option periods.

 

What is the Federal Supply Service (FSS)?
The Federal Supply Service (FSS) is one of three divisions managed by GSA and charged with managing and operating the Federal Supply Schedule program.  The primary responsibility of the FSS is to negotiate indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, no-guarantee-of-sale contracts with commercial business to provide goods and services at fixed prices for specific periods of time. These contracts are called GSA contracts, GSA Schedules, Federal Supply Schedule contracts, or multiple award schedules.

 

Currently, FSS negotiates schedule contracts for more than 50 different product groups, ranging from hardware to power tools, to office supplies and furniture, to information technology equipment and services, to environmental consulting services, to professional engineering services.  FSS awards these contracts under negotiated acquisition procedures, which permit offerors the opportunity to revise offers before the contract is awarded.

 

What is a Product Service Code (PSC)?
PSCs are categorizations of what the U.S. government buys.  They consist of Federal Supply Classification Codes (FSC) for commodities, which are numbered 10-99, and Research and Development codes cover all aspects of research, development, and evaluation including management and support, which are lettered a-z.  PSC provides codes to describe products, services, and research and development (R&D) purchased by the federal government.  These codes indicate what was bought for each contract action reported in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS).

 

To pick the correct product or service code: Product and Service Code Manual 

 

What is a Best and Final Offer?
For negotiated acquisitions, it is a contractor's final offer following the conclusion of discussions.

 

What is a Contracting Officer (CO)?
A CO is a person with the authority to enter into, administer, and/or terminate contracts and make related determinations and findings.

 

What is a Contractor Team Arrangement?
It is an arrangement in which (a) two or more companies form a partnership or joint venture to act as potential prime contractor; or (b) an agreement by a potential prime contractor with one or more other companies to have them act as its subcontractors under a specified government contract or acquisition program.

 

What is a Negotiation?
A negotiation is a method of contracting that uses either competitive or other-than-competitive procedures that permits bargaining with the offerors after receipt of proposals.  Any contract awarded without using sealed bidding procedures is a negotiated contract.

 

What is a Prime Contract?
It is a contract awarded directly by the federal government.

 

What is a Request for Proposal (RFP)?
An RFP is a solicitation document used in negotiated acquisitions to communicate government requirements to prospective contractors and to solicit proposals from them.  An RFP is intended to result in a contracting action.

 

Other than formal contracts, what methods does the government procure goods and services?
FAR Part 16 provides detailed information on contract types used by the Federal government.  Please refer to http://www.acquisition.gov/far/current/html/FARTOCP16.html.

 

What resources are available to help me learn government contracting processes?
Many government agencies have in-house resources to provide contracting assistance.  The General Services Administration's Office of Business Support assists businesses in determining who to market their products and services to in the federal government, and how they can get connected.  The SBA provides oversight of the certification programs as well as business matchmaking programs. Visit: https://sba.gov.

 

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) are non-profit organizations created by Congress and partially funded by the Department of Defense to expand the supplier base and increase competition among government contractors, thus reducing the cost of maintaining a strong national security, as well as generating employment and enhancing the economy.


The PTAC’s role is to work with businesses to help them obtain and perform federal, state, and local government contracts by educating the companies on the processes necessary for securing government contracts and by connecting businesses with government agencies seeking competitively priced products and services.  For additional information visit:  http://www.aptac-us.org/.

 

What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?
The FOIA enables an individual or an organization to have access to the Federal agency records, unless the records or portions of them are protected from public disclosure by one of nine FOIA exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusion.  It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.  Under the FOIA, Federal agencies are required to respond to a perfected request within 20 working days of receipt-excluding Saturday, Sunday and legal holidays.
 

How do I get information under the FOIA?

To get information under the FOIA, you must make a FOIA request.  Under the FOIA, federal agencies are not required to answer questions that are posed as a FOIA request, to conduct research, analyze data, or to create records in order to respond to a request. Your FOIA request must:

 

  1. Be in writing and signed;
  2. State that it is made pursuant to the FOIA;
  3. Contain a statement that enables the processing office to determine your fee category (i.e. commercial requesters, educational institutions, non-commercial scientific institutions, news media, or all other requesters).
  4. Describe the nature of the record(s) being sought in sufficient detail to enable personnel to locate the records. Include subject matter, location, dates or timeframes if possible. If the scope is too broad, you may incur large fees for search, review, and/or duplication;
  5. Provide an address where the determination letter may be sent;
  6. Contain a statement agreeing to pay fees for search, duplication, and/or review, if appropriate.
  7. State whether you wish to inspect the records or have a copy made without first inspecting them; and
  8. State whether you desire expedited processing due to a compelling need, if appropriate.

 

The FOIA requires that federal agencies release certain information automatically, without the need for you to make a request.  Before you send in a FOIA request, it’s a good idea to look at an agency’s Web site first to see what’s already available.  For more information visit: http://www.foia.gov/index.html


What is the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 (FASA)?

The FASA is a United States law that was enacted in 1994 with the goal of reducing procurement barriers.  A key provision in FASA is the strongly stated preference for buying commercial "off-the-shelf' items, rather than purchasing through the detailed bidding process for government-unique items.

 

The comprehensive acquisition reform legislation streamlines the federal government's $200 billion-a-year acquisition system and dramatically changes the way the government performs its contracting functions.  Generally, the statute seeks to: (1) increase the government's reliance on commercial goods and services; (2) streamline the procurement process for high-volume, low-value acquisitions; (3) improve access by small businesses to government contracting opportunities; (4) improve the bid protest process; and (5) extend the Truth in Negotiations Act to civilian agencies and raise to $500,000 the threshold for submitting certified cost or pricing data under that Act.