How Government Contracting Works

How the government buys

Definitive Contracts:  The classic method, the government puts out a solicitation for 100 trucks or two years worth of IT services and vendors bid

Full-and-open contracts: This is a flavor of either of the above that means that anyone can bid on it (code that means that large primes can bid on it)

Sole-source:  A type of Definitive contract that is awarded directly to a company without having to go through the full acquisition process

Auctions: The government can buy products and services through a reverse auction format (e.g.) FebBid

Indefinite Contracts (e.g. IDIQs, GWACs, BPAs or GSA Schedules): A frame work contract that lays out the contours of the kinds of trucks or IT services that the government wants to buy over the next X years. The actual purchases come later in the form of POs (purchase orders) or DOs (delivery orders)

Set-aside contracts: Another flavor that means that only small business, or companies that have a particular designation (e.g. woman owned) can bid on it

Simplified acquisition:  A type of Definitive contract that because of its small size (<$150K) doesn’t have to go through the full acquisition process

Other Transaction Authority (OTA): A simplified acquisition process used to buy hightech prototype to pilot in the government

The key players in the process

Concerned with WHAT the government is buying
• Janitorial:
  • What will be cleaned
  • What standards it is cleaned to
  • How it is cleaned
• Fighter jets:
  • How high
  • How fast
Concerned with HOW the government is buying, and WHO the government is buying from
• Process and regulatory compliance
• Meeting small business targets
• Small business only
• Woman or Veteran owned businesses only
• Full and open
• Pricing and evaluation strategy
• Low Price Technically acceptable
• Best value






1. Need Identification

The government identifies a need that they have and then decides that they would like a contractor to address it (maybe a new award or a re-compete)

  • -Collect information from internal stakeholders
  • -Informally engage industry
  • -Interview end-users
  • -Read up on whitepapers and other thought leadership pieces
  • -Early conversations with the contracting officer about how the bid would be structured
  • -Reviewing agency-wide contracting goals
  • -Look at any previous versions of the contract

2. RFI Released (sources sought)

The government polls industry to get input on how to address the need and to understand the composition of the interested vendor community

  • -Release an RFI that describes the needs that the government is trying to address
  • -Share any thinking about how the government wants the need addressed
  • -Review responses to the RFI (from a substantive perspective)

-Review responses to the RFI (from a process perspective)

  • -Set-aside
  • -Evaluation processes

3. RFP Released (on the street)

The government’s need is formalized in a document that specifies exactly what they want to buy and how the bids will be evaluated

Provide input to the RFP that lays out

  • -Exactly what the government wants
  • -Release the RFP

Provide input to the RFP that lays out

  • -How the government wants to buy it
  • -Who can bid
  • -How bids will be evaluated

4. Proposals Written and Submitted

The interested vendor community forms teams to respond to the need and begins writing up how they would address the need.

Answer questions about the RFP

Answer questions about the RFP

5. A Winner Is Selected

Based on the evaluation criteria the government chooses a winner.

  • -Contribute to proposal review committee on technical merit issues
  • -Debrief
  • -Contribute to proposal review committee on procedural issues
  • -Debrief
  • -Inform winners
  • -Ensure administrative compliance

6. Bid Protests Resolved

  • -Any losing company can protest the award decision made
  • -Becoming more and more frequent practice, but at a price

-Try to ensure that a protest is not filed

-Defend decision if a protest is made

-Try to ensure that a protest is not filed

-Defend decision if a protest is made

7. Work Begins

The winning bid team begins work

On-board winner and help stand-up the work

Ensure administrative processes are met