I Want a Contract
Companies wishing to obtain a Federal Government contract must first have at least a basic understanding of regulations as well as the many types of contracts used by Federal customers. This discussion is not intended to teach these basics; rather, it will introduce the topics and provide further resources to be reviewed prior to considering a contract.
About Federal Procurement
Purchases made by the Federal Government must comply with Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR)
, which governs all Federal acquisitions. There are a variety of different ways that agencies can comply with these regulations and a variety of contract types to match. Agencies are bound by certain regulations based on several factors--the type of item being purchased ("item" refers to both supplies and services), the dollar value of the purchase, the expected duration of the purchase, the types and sizes of contractors expected to compete, etc. Based on the agency's expectations, they may choose to use a certain type of contract that best matches their needs. Thus, a successful contractor must have a basic understanding of the FAR and its critical elements as well as the types of contracts most often used by agencies. Basic FAR and contracting courses are widely available and may be worthwhile. An internet search should provide volumes of information on such basics.
Types of Contracts
There are many types of contracts used by Government agencies. FAR parts 12 (Acquisition of Commercial Items), 13 (Simplified Acquisition Procedures), 14 (Sealed Bidding), 15 (Contracting by Negotiation), and 16 (Types of Contracts) all contain critical information related to the commonly used contract types.
GSA has developed a series of contract vehicles for use by government agencies based on the types of contracts authorized by the FAR. These purchasing programs are listed here. Contractors wishing to obtain a contract should review these contract vehicles, their purposes, limitations, and application requirements to determine what the best match is for your organization. Viewing this link will provide more information on getting started with GSA contracts.
Multiple Award Schedule
The Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program provides access to over 12 million unique items across many different categories. The MAS program allows government agencies to find and buy commercial, marketplace items quickly, easily, and cheaply.
The MAS contract is not a traditional contract--having the contract does not automatically mean business; rather, it provides you the opportunity to sell to the government.
One way to think of the MAS contract is like being granted a "fishing license." GSA provides the "license" (or contract) while you provide the boat, the rod and reel, the expertise, the bait, etc. There are plenty of fish out there, but you need to catch them. We don't drop them in the boat for you.
Understanding the MAS Marketplace
On October 1, 2019, MAS consolidated its 24 "schedules" into a single schedule. The single MAS now divides products and services into 12 large categories and 82 subcategories.
Each category is subdivided into "Special Item Numbers" (SINs), which are smaller, more specialized categories of product or service within each category. Contractors can hold multiple SINs under the same contract. Learn the new MAS offerings structure.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you make your decision:
Should I apply for an MAS contract?
Getting on schedule can take significant time and effort. Potential bidders need to understand:
- The government marketplace for your products and services
- Whether the price and service level you can offer will be competitive
- What you have to do to make sales once the schedule is awarded
- What you have to do to maintain the contract
- Whether you have enough resources to review opportunities and prepare bids
Are you ready to apply?
You'll need to follow this process:
- Review and understand your product and service offerings and unique category requirements
- Understand and compile the information and requirements documents to send an offer
- Complete required training
- Complete and send an offer through the eOffer/eMod system.
- Get to know the GSA contracting representative whoâ€™s assigned to review and evaluate your offer
The MAS Roadmap for New Offerors explains how to do all this and more.
You've submitted a proposal: Now what?
GSA Procurement Contracting Officers (PCOs) will try to award offers efficiently and effectively. However, complete review, potential negotiations, and award may take up to 12 months. Also, just because you've submitted an offer does not guarantee you'll get a Schedule contract.
Remember the following:
- Complete, well-documented offers with competitive pricing take less time to review.
- Getting a contract does not guarantee your company will receive orders. You still need to market your business.
Many consultants offer to help bidders apply for a contract. Whether or not you use a consultant is a business decision for you to make.
However, there is nothing a consultant can do that you can't; therefore, the decision to hire a consultant should be about resources and expertise. These consultants can offer expertise and experience, which may be beneficial.
Whether or not you hire a consultant, you'll have to know the MAS program's benefits and requirements. The best way to learn about MAS is to be heavily involved in the application process.
We do not endorse any particular consultant.
Consider the costs involved in getting and maintaining a contract before deciding whether or not to apply. The costs involved will be primarily related to administrative time and effort for your staff to:
- Read material
- Negotiate with Contracting Officers
- Create and revise documents
- Review potential opportunities
- Prepare quotes
- Submit sales reports
Other tasks may require considerable time & effort.
Actual costs vary by company. Some elements of the process are free, including the requirement to register your company's Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) on SAM.gov.
Our Vendor Toolbox
may help answer many questions you might have about the process and the program. You can also access a community of GSA experts and peers through GSA Interact
, GSA's YouTube channel
or the federally-sponsored Procurement Technical Assistance Program
Other GSA contract vehicles
As the premier acquisition agency in the Federal Government, GSA offers many purchasing programs to agencies looking to maximize their procurement-related savings. As a potential contractor, you should familiarize yourself with the programs offered to ensure you provide the most appropriate contract vehicle based on the products and services you offer. Some programs may be more relevant or beneficial to your organization than others, so be sure to research the options. Keep in mind GSA occasionally offers new programs, so it's worth spending some time on the GSA.gov webpage, as well as follow our social media pages, to keep in touch with upcoming opportunities. Below are a few (but certainly not all) of the other purchasing programs your company may wish to consider. Links to all solicitations are posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website, http://www.fbo.gov
Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC)
Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) enable federal agencies to buy cost-effective, innovative solutions for information technology (IT) requirements. GWACs provide access to IT solutions such as systems design, software engineering, information assurance, and enterprise architecture solutions. GWACs are pre-competed contracts offering a full range of contract types (all types of fixed-price, cost-reimbursement, labor-hour, and time-and-materials) to make agencies' procurement planning easier. Streamlined ordering procedures saves agencies time and money and orders can be issued in considerably less time than other types of procurements. Additional information is available at www.gsa.gov/gwacs
GSA Global Supply provides easy and flexible requisition-based ordering for office supplies, tools, computer products, safety gear and cleaning products. GSA Global Supply provides approximately 400,000 products to federal civilian and military customers through a variety of ordering mechanisms (i.e., phone, fax, online, FEDSTRIP/MILSTRIP). It features:
- Global Delivery
- Product Breadth & Depth
- AbilityOne Guaranteed Products
- Easy Compliance with the FAR
- Payment using Government Purchase Card or AAC/DoDAAC
- Government to Government Transactions
- Requisition-Based Ordering with no Need for Comparison Shopping
For more information, visit www.gsa.gov/globalsupply
Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) BPAs
Under the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) Program, GSA has negotiated Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA's) to provide extra savings on supplies and services. FSSI gives users an an easy way to purchase items while ensuring that agencies leverage the government's buying power on the most commonly purchased items. FSSI customers get complete transaction level data, tiered volume discounts, compliance with the Trade Agreements Act and AbilityOne requirements, and capability to meet socio-economic and sustainability goals. A point of sale feature allows Purchase Card holders to get BPA pricing at any of the BPA holders retail locations. It's that easy. Many agencies have policies for mandatory or preferred use of the FSSI BPAs.
To learn more about this program visit www.gsa.gov/fssi.
GSA offers various solutions for all transportation, relocation ,and vehicle needs. The automotive program is the mandatory source for the purchase of federal agency vehicles and offers a large selection of vehicles. By leveraging the government's large procurement volume, GSA is able to procure more than 60,000 vehicles annually at substantial savings to the government.
More information on the Automotive program can be found here.
OASIS and OASIS SB
OASIS provides flexible and innovative solutions for complex professional service-based requirements that span these multiple disciplines: program management services, management consulting services, logistics services, engineering services, scientific services, and financial services. Visit this page
to learn more about this program.