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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 is one of the premier contract vehicles across the Federal Government. It provides access to over 12 million items across a variety of "schedules," or categories of supply/service. The MAS program allows the government to procure commercial items from the marketplace through an expedited and simplified procedure, at a significant cost savings. 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 under the program. 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.

Should I apply for an MAS contract?
Getting on schedule can take significant time and effort to complete. It is recommended that potential bidders understand the government marketplace for their products and services, and consider whether the price and service level they can offer will be competitive. Additionally, the bidder should understand what will be required to make sales once the schedule is awarded, what will be required to maintain the contract, and whether they are prepared to expend resources reviewing opportunities and preparing bids.

Prior to being awarded a contract, a representative of your organization must complete the Pathway to Success and Vendor Toolbox training. Both of these webinars are intended to help bidders understand the MAS contract process before applying for a contract.

Understanding the MAS Marketplace
The Federal Government buys a wide variety of products and services. These are divided into broad categories called "Schedules." Contractors are awarded a contract under an individual schedule. Each schedule is subdivided into "Special Item Numbers" (SINs), which represent categories of product or service within each schedule. Contractors can hold multiple SINs under the same contract, as long as the SINs all fall under the same schedule. In other words, if you are awarded a contract under the IT schedule, you can request as many IT-related SINs as you would like; however, you cannot add furniture-related SINs, as those apply only to the furniture schedule. You can review the available schedules and SINs at GSA eLibrary. Contractors are required to post a catalog of their products and services to GSA Advantage! which is then available for agencies to view and purchase from. Additionally, contractors are granted access to eBuy, an electronic Request for Quotes tool also used by customer agencies. Note: One contractor may also hold multiple MAS contracts as long as they fit the within the schedule definition.

What to Expect After Submitting a Proposal
GSA's offer review process usually takes at least 30 to 120 days; however, that time frame varies considerably based on several factors. The process will not take less than that time, but may take longer. A complete and accurate offer will help speed the process - a majority of offers are returned to the vendor for correction or clarification. The review is handled by a GSA Procurement Contracting Officer (PCO), who evaluates the offer based on several criteria. Once the PCO completes a review of the offer, if necessary, a meeting will be scheduled to discuss terms and negotiate pricing. If additional information is needed prior to awarding a contract, the PCO will explain what is needed. After negotiations, you must prepare a final version of your offer, including discounts or concessions agreed upon at the meeting. If the offer is accepted, you will receive a Schedules contract and will be eligible to start doing business with the government through the Schedules program.

Additional Considerations

Consultants
There are a number of consultants offering their services to assist bidders apply for a contract. Whether or not you use a consultant is a business decision for each company to make. These consultants can offer expertise and experience, which may be beneficial. 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. Regardless of whether or not you hire a consultant, managing the contract requires knowledge of the benefits and requirements of the MAS program, and the best way to learn about your new procurement vehicle is to be heavily involved in the application process. Please note that GSA does not endorse the use of any particular consultant.

Costs Involved
Potential offerors should consider the costs involved in getting and maintaining a contract before making the final decision on 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, etc. There are many tasks involved that, while free, can occupy considerable time. Actual monetary costs are minimal depending on the contractor's situation; for example, if you do not already have a digital certificate, you will be required to purchase one to submit your offer. Some contractors opt to use consultants to prepare and submit offers on their behalf, which would result in additional fees to those private companies. Finally, your company will be required to apply for a DUNS number and must register on www.sam.gov; however, it should be noted that both are free. Beware of scams that claim a fee for registering for either resource.

How to apply

The first step in applying for a MAS contract is to submit a Readiness Assessment. This process will help you ensure you are making a decision that is best for you and your company.

Potential vendors who are ready to submit a proposal for a MAS contract should take the Readiness Assessment through the Vendor Education Center. You will be redirected to a ".com" website and asked to register. (There is no cost for the Readiness Assessment)

Potential vendors who wish to browse without registering, can review the information in the Vendor Toolbox and Readiness Assessment here. This information is provided for reference and education, however to submit a proposal potential vendors should use the Readiness Assessment link in the previous paragraph.

Where to go for help
The Vendor Toolbox, linked above, will help answer many questions you might have about the process and the program. However, if you find that you need additional help in responding to your solicitation, you can 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.

Global Supply
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.

Automotive
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 and 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.