government is the largest contractor in the United States. This does not
mean that getting work from the government is an easy task. Landing a contract
with the government is not quite the same as contracting out your product or
service privately. Doing business with the government is a process that
involves considerable work up front before a contract can be signed.
This report provides consultants and contractors with
an overview of the steps involved in obtaining a contract to work for the
federal government. State and local agencies will have their own rules, of
course, but many of the steps will likely be the same.
Three characteristics set government spending apart from
private business spending. These are important to know when attempting to land
a government contract:
contracts are heavily regulated to curb misappropriation of funds and
ensure uniform policies and practices across agencies.
contract terms are the product of careful drafting by teams of government
attorneys and have often received distinct meaning through past contract
contracts follow a very different procedural path than those of private
(An Overview: Government Contracts Law Compliments of The Legal Information Institute)
The U.S General
Service Administration (GSA) is the purchasing agent for the U.S.
government. It is one of three central management agencies in the federal
government. The GSA purchases goods and services around the world for federal
and civilian agencies, the military, federal courts, and Congress. It employs
approximately 14,000 people and has an annual budget of nearly $16 billion. The
GSA also provides services to support the work of the government, negotiating
contracts that account for $40 billion in goods and services and include
everything from toothpaste to stealth bombers. It is through the GSA that
consultants and contractors apply for contracts with the federal government.
The main business of the GSA is carried out by three
services: the Federal Supply Service (FSS), the Public Buildings Service (PBS), and the Federal Telecommunications Service (FTS). When bidding for
a government contract, contractors deal with the FSS.
The FSS handles the supply and procurement
responsibilities for a variety of consumer goods. The FSS uses a schedule
program that is similar to regular commercial buying practices. It provides
commercial products and services at volume-discount prices. The government,
however, does not utilize “middle men”;— the orders
are placed directly with vendors.
Listed below are the steps that need to be taken when
beginning the process of applying for a GSA Federal Supply contract:
the FSS Web site for contractor related information.
the Federal Supply Schedule that covers your product or service.
a copy of the Federal Supply
Schedule solicitation for the product or service on the Internet.
a Dun & Bradstreet reference
all information in the solicitation.
ready to negotiate your best offer.
The FSS offers two types of contracts: Single Award Schedule
and Multiple Award Schedule. Single Award Schedule contracts are made with one
supplier for a specific product, at a stated price for delivery to a
geographical area. Multiple Award Schedule contracts are given to multiple
companies supplying comparable products and services at fluctuating prices. The
theory is that the variety of vendors allows the government to select the
lowest overall price for a valued item.
Government solicitations are distributed though the Electronic Posting System. You
can reply to a solicitation using the Standard Form 1499. Some information
required to complete the form includes:
commercial price list and catalog containing the products.
manufacturer’s price list.
to support the difference between the discount offered and the best
letter of supply from the manufacturer of the products being offered.
When deciding whether to grant a contract, the government
performs a price analysis in order to reach a fair price with a potential
contractor. Some factors that affect the price analysis are the current price
for the good or service, the government’s estimate, and recent awards. Other
pricing factors may include:
and projected value of the item or service, and the current dollar amount
of the purchase.
extent of the product’s competition.
inventory of the product or service.
difference in price offered to the government and other buyers.
most favored customer’s estimate.
concessions, terms, and conditions.
adjustment provisions for the product or service.
During negotiations, the main purpose of the government’s
contracting officer is to come to a consensual agreement with the offering
party. The government’s main objective in awarding a contract is to get the
offering party’s best price, so this becomes a key part of the negotiation
process. If the contract is awarded, a proposal revision is requested of the
contractor. This document confirms the terms and conditions agreed upon by the
two parties. The contracting officer will also present to the contractor a copy
of the contract and a copy of the catalog/price list as accepted by the
Another source for information about government contracts is
the Commerce Business Daily
(CBD). The CBD is issued by the U.S. Government Printing Office and published
daily on the Web by the Community
of Science. The publication provides information about government
procurement actions, contract awards, and sales of government property. The CBD
also features an Alert Service that allows users to create custom searches. The
CBD is updated every day, and the user is notified of new announcements by
In addition to these features, the CBD also offers:
capability for current and back issues.
links to full-text articles.
CBD Alert Service.
Business Service Center (WCA4)
Program Support Division
7th & D Streets, SW, Room 1050
Washington, DC 20407
Tel: (202) 708-5804
Fax: (202) 205-2872
Business Service Center (1AB)
T.P. O’Neill, Jr. Federal Building
10 Causeway Street, Room 290
Boston, MA 02222
Tel: (617) 565-8100
Fax: (617) 565-8101
Program Support Division (2AR)
Business Services, Room 18-130
26 Federal Plaza
New York, NY 10278
Tel: (212) 264-1234
Fax: (212) 264-2760
Program Services Division (3ADS)
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Tel: (215) 656-5525
Fax: (215) 656-6404
Office of Enterprise Development (4E)
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Tel: (404) 331-5103
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Business Service Center (5ADB)
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Fax: (816) 823-1167
Office of Enterprise Development (7CPP)
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Tel: (817) 978-3284
Fax: (817) 978-4126
Business Service Center (8PB-B)
Denver Federal Center
Building 41, Room 145
P.O. Box 25006
Denver, CO 80225
Tel: (303) 236-7408
Fax: (303) 236-74503
Office of Enterprise Development (9ADB)
450 Golden Gate Avenue, 5th Floor, Room 6514
San Francisco, CA 94102
Tel: (415) 522-2700
Fax: (415) 522-2705
Office of Enterprise Development (10AB)
400 15th Street, SW
Auburn, WA 98001-6599
Tel: (206) 931-6599
Fax: (206) 804-74887
Business Service Center (9ADB-L)
300 N. Los Angeles Street, Room 3259
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (213) 894-3210
Fax: (213) 894-3473
1941 Jefferson Davis Highway
Crystal Mall Building 4
Tel: (703) 305-6477
Central Contractor Registration: http://www.ccr.gov/
Federal Market Place: http://www.fedmarket.com/
Financing for small businesses: http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/moneymatters/
Small Business Association: www.sba.gov