Newsletter

What Is an Affirmative Action Plan and Why Would My Firm Have to Develop One?

One of the most common questions that we get asked by clients is whether or not they need to create an affirmative action plan in order to achieve OFCCP compliance on their government contract bids. And if so, what does that look like? Unfortunately, the answer is a fairly complicated one that we couldn't just tuck into our FAQs. Fortunately, we are going to address affirmative action plan requirements in detail, and if you ever have any questions, your Govgistics representative is only a phone call away.




Affirmative Action Plan Requirements – Do We Need a Plan for OFCCP Compliance?

First and foremost, affirmative action plan requirements only apply to federal government contractors with 50 or more employees. If your firm has 49 or fewer employees, you do not need to worry about OFCCP compliance. For ease of definition, an employee is anyone on whose behalf your firm takes out Social Security taxes. Some small businesses have avoided having to deal with affirmative action plan requirements by utilizing independent contractors to fulfill their government contracts rather than hit the "magic number" of 50, though this is rare. Though firms with fewer than 50 employees do not need to develop a written plan, other affirmative action obligations and non-discrimination rules still apply. If your firm exceeds 50 employees, the following affirmative action plan requirements apply to you:

  • Is your firm a federal government contractor with $50,000 or more in direct federal government contracts or subcontracts? If so, you need to maintain a written action plan for women and minorities in compliance with Executive Order 11246, and for persons with disabilities in compliance with Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Please note that there are some exceptions for construction companies under federal contracts. Please call your Govgistics representative to learn more about those exceptions to the affirmative action plan requirements.

The highlighted section pertains specifically to financial institutions:

  • Is your firm a federal government contractor with $100,000 or more in a single federal government contract or subcontract? If so, you need to maintain a written action plan for veterans in compliance with the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974.
  • Does your firm serve as a depository of federal funds in any amount, or issue and redeem US savings bonds for any amount? If so, you need to maintain a written plan for women and minorities in compliance with Executive Order 11246.
  • Does your firm serve as a depository of $50,000 or more in federal funds, or have a contract in excess of $50,000 for issuing and redeeming US savings bonds? If so, you need to maintain a written action plan for persons with disabilities in compliance with Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Does your firm serve as a depository of $100,000 or more in federal funds, or have a contract in excess of $100,000 for issuing and redeeming US savings bonds? If so, you need to maintain a written action plan for veterans in compliance with the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974.
  • Is your firm covered by FDIC or NCUA deposit insurance? If so, you need to maintain a written action plan for women and minorities in compliance with Executive Order 11246, and for persons with disabilities in compliance with Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and for veterans in compliance with the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974.

Do you still have questions about your status as an affirmative action employer or need guidance on next steps? If so, please contact your Govgistics representative today.

What Has Changed with the OFCCP?

(read more and discover affirmative action plan templates...)

What is the OFCCP?

The OFCCP is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. This federal agency is in charge of enforcing compliance with affirmative action legislation relevant to government contractors, most commonly, Executive Order 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. The OFCCP conducts reviews of federal government contractors' affirmative action plans. The OFCCP employs focused reviews, on-site reviews, and off-site reviews to ensure OFCCP compliance. We advise all clients to expect and prepare for OFCCP reviews when doing federal government contracting.

What has changed with the OFCCP?

While the legislation the OFCCP enforces is decades old, regulations have recently changed. The most substantive change for government contractors came in 2014, though many did not realize the significance, for several months. As a result, there is a heightened awareness of OFCCP compliance. The 2014 changes centered around two things.

First, the regulatory changes require federal government contractors to establish veteran "hiring benchmarks." Though the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, and the recent regulatory changes that have sprung up around it, do not set specific quotas, the new regulations encourage federal government contractors to develop affirmative action plans to strive for a certain percentage of veteran employees. The general rule is that federal government contractors need to develop action plans designed to have an 8% veteran work-force, though that can vary by state. According to the regulations, the "benchmark is not a rigid and inflexible quota that must be met" and failure to achieve the goal does not constitute a violation.

The second change has to do with persons with disabilities. Under the new regulations, qualifying government contractors must establish action plans to establish a 7% "workforce utilization goal" for persons with disabilities. According to the regulations, the "benchmark is not a rigid and inflexible quota that must be met" and failure to achieve the goal does not constitute a violation.

These changes have also resulted in changes to reporting and OFCCP compliance.

What are the important "take-aways" from these regulatory changes so we can achieve OFCCP compliance?

  • Update references to Equal Employment Opportunity clauses in your subcontracts
  • Establish hiring benchmarks for veterans and utilization goals for persons with disabilities
  • Update self-identification forms and data-collection to be able to track self-identified persons with disabilities, and veterans
  • Make sure your practices regarding job postings and job hiring achieve OFCCP compliance, and develop outreach strategies to these specific populations
  • Consider developing new forms to encourage self-identification for new hires or even prospective employees
  • Update IT systems and record keeping systems to be able to track OFCCP compliance
  • Document all steps to your affirmative action plans and dates these changes were enacted

Affirmative Action Plan Template and Legislation

Unfortunately, because not every firm is required to meet the same requirements, and because affirmative action plans are intended to ensure compliance with three different laws - Executive Order 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 - no single template serves all purposes.

What is Executive Order 11246?

This is commonly called the Equal Employment Opportunity Order. This Executive Order, issued in the 1960s, is the basis for most affirmative action, and is very significant to parties attempting to secure federal government contracts. It explicitly calls for non-discrimination by the government, federal contractors, and subcontractors. With a few noteworthy exceptions, those wishing to land government contracts must actively demonstrate that they are practicing non-discriminatory hiring and firing practices. A helpful way to think about it is this: In a court of law, those wishing to allege discrimination must bear the burden of proof that discrimination is taking place. For the opportunity to secure lucrative federal government contracts the opposite is true, and firms must bear the burden of proof that they are not discriminating. As such, this law is far reaching and significant. It has been reinterpreted several times over the ensuing decades, and regulations centered around Executive Order 11246 are continually evolving.

What Should a Written Action Plan Template Include in Order to Comply With This Order?

To be compliant with Executive Order 11246, affirmative action plans should have the following components:

  • An Organizational Profile
  • A Job Group Analysis
  • A Utilization Analysis
  • Placement Goals
  • Designation of Responsibility for Implementation
  • Identification of Problem Areas
  • Action-Oriented Programs
  • An Internal Audit and Reporting System
  • Support Data
For an affirmative action plan template, click here.

What is Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973?

This law is designed to help persons with disabilities and to prevent any discrimination against them. Though it is often understood in conjunction with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, it was not replaced by that Act. Section 503 is the often amended portion of the Act which specifically addresses those entities wishing to secure federal government contracts. It specifically bans any form of discrimination against persons with disabilities with a few notable exceptions. For instance, the President can override the Act if he or she deems it necessary for national security. Section 503 also empowers the Department of Labor to take "appropriate steps" against federal contractors that are shown to discriminate. It is less strict than Executive Order 11246, in requiring those firms wishing to secure federal government contracts to prove they are non-discriminatory. Section 503 has also been interpreted by the Department of Labor to allow for "workforce utilization goals" to be set (if not met) in order to secure a federal government contract.

What Should a Written Action Plan Include in Order to Comply With This Legislation?

To be compliant with Section 503, affirmative action plans should have the following components:

  • A Policy Statement on Equal Employment Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities
  • A Review of Personnel Processes
  • A Review of Physical and Mental Job Qualification Standards
  • An Analysis of Reasonable Accommodations
  • Anti-Harassment Procedures
  • External Dissemination of Policy
  • Outreach and Positive Recruitment
  • Internal Dissemination of Policy
  • Audit and Reporting
  • Support Data
  • Responsibility for Implementation
  • Affirmative Action and EEO Training
  • Hiring Data
  • Utilization Analysis
For an affirmative action plan template, click here.

What is the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974?

The poorly named Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (or VEVRAA) applies to veterans, regardless of the era or theater in which they served, if they meet the following criteria – disabled veterans, recently separated veterans, active duty wartime or campaign veterans, campaign badge veterans, and armed forces service medal veterans. This law is often understood in conjunction with the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and the two work in conjunction with one another. Specifically, these laws are intended to provide protection for veterans against discrimination. VEVRAA is the act which particularly targets employment discrimination by those seeking federal government contracts. The regulation of 2014 have interpreted VEVRAA and USERRA to allow for the creation of action plans to hit "hiring benchmark" goals

What Should a Written Action Plan Include in Order to Comply With This Law?

At first glance, the format for this affirmative action template appears to be very similar to (though not quite identical to) the template for Section 503. The content, however, is vastly different. To be compliant with VEVRAA, affirmative action plans should have the following components:

  • A Policy Statement on Equal Employment Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities
  • A Review of Personnel Processes
  • A Review of Physical and Mental Job Qualification Standards
  • An Analysis of Reasonable Accommodations
  • Anti-Harassment Procedures
  • External Dissemination of Policy
  • Outreach and Positive Recruitment
  • Internal Dissemination of Policy
  • Audit and Reporting
  • Support Data
  • Responsibility for Implementation
  • Affirmative Action and EEO Training
  • Hiring Data
  • Hiring Benchmarks
For an affirmative action plan template, click here

Conclusion – Federal Government Contracts and Affirmative Action Plans

Hopefully, the OFCCP compliance rules we have spelled out for you will help you to determine which action plans you need to develop. Ideally the affirmative action plan templates will be extremely helpful to you. The reality, however, is that Executive Order 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 are complicated, and the ever-evolving regulations surrounding them can be daunting. If you need help understanding affirmative action plan requirements in order to land a government contract, please let our knowledgeable team walk you through it.

FedBizOpps FAQs - How to Manage FBO.GOV



Illustration 1: What does FBO stand for? The tricky gateway to FedBizOpps government contracts.

General Questions about FedBizOpps


What does FBO stand for?

What does FBO stand for?

What is fbo.gov?

Fbo.gov is a website operated under the auspices of the GSA to connect federal procurement agents (Buyers) with Engineers and suppliers (Vendors) in order to fulfill government contracts. Fbo.gov is not the only website or source of government contracting, but it is the primary vehicle used by the GSA and contains all of their contracts over $25,000.

What is my designation within FBO?

Your role in FedBizOpps is defined by how you use FBO.
  • Buyers are procurement agents for a federal government agency and have the ability to post, manage, and award opportunities.
  • Engineers also work for a federal government agency, but do not manage and award government contracts. They do have the ability to create and manage sensitive but unclassified documents in support of a solicitation.
  • Vendors represent a business attempting to sell goods and services to the federal government. Those registered for Vendor FBO accounts may search, monitor and retrieve opportunities.
  • You are a Citizen if you do not represent a company wishing to do business with the government, but need access to the advanced functionality available to registered users, like search agents and watch-lists.

What if I make a mistake in completing my FedBizOpps registration?

Fix it right away. FedBizOpps has a strict "Anti-Spamming" policy which you may be in violation of. The information provided in your FBO account profile is monitored. Providing inaccurate information in a user profile (e.g. misrepresenting the company name or first and last name fields and / or including superfluous marketing material in the company information) may result in having your FBO account suspended.

The FBO site is very complicated. How can I get help?

Understand that fbo.gov was set up by the government for Buyers, first and foremost. It was not built around the needs of Vendors. The Govgistics FBO module, on the other hand, was built around Vendors. That is why Govgistics provides the ability to stack search results to quickly narrow down your opportunities to the best possible fit, and allows you to export your search results. That is why only Govgistics provides meaningful email updates that fit your ideal search parameters. The Govgistics FBO module does everything you can do in your FBO account, and so much more. Unfortunately, there is no FedBizOpps "help desk" you can call for assistance. Fortunately, your Govgistics rep can be reached at any time to help with any problems you may encounter... including on the FedBizOpps website.

What is a "special notice" from FedBizOpps?

An FBO special notice is used to announce procurement matters, such as business fairs, long-range procurement estimates, pre-bid/pre-proposal conferences, meetings, and the availability of draft solicitations or draft specifications for review. We strongly recommend our clients engage in conferences, business fairs, etc. as a means of cultivating relationships with procurement agents, and exploring new business opportunities. If you need help finding these on the Fed Biz Opps site, or on the Govgistics site, please contact your Govgistics rep.

What is a Small Business Central Event Listing in FedBizOpps?

This is an attempt by Fed Biz Opps to make it easier and less burdensome for small businesses to learn about and transact business with the federal government. Small Business Central Event Listing Outreach and Training allowing small business users to search for business development, matchmaking, and training opportunities. If you need help sorting by, for instance, date, location, or small business category, please contact your Govgistics rep.

What is "Vendor collaboration" and why is it included in Central Event Listings?

From time to time, federal agencies seek vendor input to improve federal acquisitions. Vendor collaboration is the vehicle to offer suggestions and meet with federal officials. You can find information on vendor collaboration and engagement opportunities in Central Event Listings, as it is most closely tied to training and conferences.

What is a "sources sought" notice in FedBizOpps?

This notice is a synopsis posted on FBO by a Buyer that states they are seeking possible sources for a project. It is not a solicitation for work, nor is it a request for proposal.

Can I post classified information to fbo.gov?

No. As a Vendor, do not upload any classified materials to FBO under any circumstances. Doing so would jeopardize your FBO account.

Why can't I download information marked "Export-Controlled" from FedBizOpps?

Your company must be certified by the Joint Certification Program (JCP) administered by the Defense Logistic Information Service (DLIS) to be eligible to download documents marked "Export Controlled" from fbo.gov.

Tips and tricks for using fbo.gov

My solicitation number in FBO is invalid. What did I do wrong?

The odds are you included a space. Within fbo.gov, solicitation numbers can only contain alphanumeric characters, not spaces. This is a common error that can cause a great deal of frustration. As you work with the fbo.gov website, you will likely encounter a number of minor glitches and sometimes serious frustration points. Unfortunately, there is no "help desk" at the FedBizOpps office to call when things go awry. Fortunately, the Govgistics site does everything fbo.gov does and more, and your Govgistics rep is only a phone call away if you run into any problems. Please don't hesitate to call us when you get stuck with minor annoyances like this.

Why do I keep getting bumped out of the FedBizOpps system?

Once a user is logged onto the FBO system, it monitors your activity. If you are "inactive" for 60 minutes, you will automatically be logged off the system. The Govgistics system does not have this limitation. This is a huge advantage. You can walk away from an extended search and return to have your search preserved exactly as you left it hours or even days later. More importantly, unlike fbo.gov, the Govgistics system allows you to export your searches and store what you need on your own computer to work on when and where you want. The truth is that Vendors typically waste a great deal of time conducting the same searches on fbo.gov over and over again.

Can I get FedBizOpps to update me with new opportunities via email?

Not in any meaningful way. You can set up a recurring email through FBO, but the email basically just links you back to fbo.gov. Govgistics allows you to set up recurring email updates every morning which allow you to make decisions directly through the email itself. The email contains 100% of the relevant data points to determine if this is an appropriate opportunity for you. You have everything you need to evaluate and complete the bid right there in the email, without having to visit each opportunity individually in fbo.gov and keep backing out of individual opportunities. See information on searches below to find out how to create the best opportunity filters, or call your Govgistics rep to learn more.

Why can't I open the files I want to open within FedBizOpps?

There are two common reasons you might encounter this problem in Fed Biz Opps. The first is that you are not authorized to view the files. If that is the case, it is best to contact the procurement rep to resolve any authorization discrepancies. On the other hand, many times clients have proper authorization but are unable to view the documents on Fed Biz Opps due to software incompatibility. When trying to open attachments, if you receive an "open" error or are asked to convert the attachment files, it is most likely a software compatibility problem. You may need to install a document viewer such as Acrobat (.pdf files) or WinZip (.zip files) to view these documents.

How do I find the drawings I am looking for?

Finding drawings in c-folders can be very difficult. You must have the exact drawing number in order to find your drawing in Fed Biz Opps. Govgistics has a much faster and easier solution. All you need to do is enter the part number into our search tool and we can pull up the drawing for you automatically. This can save anywhere from 20-90% of the time you would otherwise spend searching for drawings. If you need any assistance doing this, please contact your Govgistics rep today.

When I cut and paste text, I see odd characters or formatting in fbo.gov. What is going on?

This is most likely a formatting problem. Formatting problems can be caused when word processor formatted text is put into a browser format. The form is WYSIWYG, so any odd formatting you see in the field is going to be carried over when you submit the form. While not fool-proof, Notepad provides the easiest tool to strip formatting out of a document before entering it in the FedBizOpps system

Can I use FBO to pull a list of PR Numbers (for secure document packages) and their status (released/not released/attached)?

No. If you require this information, access it by logging into the FBO system and viewing the document packages tab.

How do I find an appropriate solicitation on FBO?

  1. Login as vendor on fbo.gov. You can search but can't save your results if you are not logged in, so we recommend logging in at the start of any search.
  2. Click on "opportunities" in the upper menu of FedBizOpps.
  3. Click on the "advanced search" sub-tab of FedBizOpps.
  4. Enter the terms of your search in the appropriate fields. If presented on a filter, you can use the "+" tool to select all of the values of the list, such as "all procurement types". Uncheck any choices you wish to exclude. Once you have selected your filters, click "search"
  5. You can find what you are looking for on the "search results" tab.
  6. You can save your search results by clicking "save this search as a search agent" and labeling the search so that you can reference it later. Please note that you CANNOT stack searches on top of each other to filter opportunities meeting criteria from different tabs. Nor can you export this information. You can, however, accomplish these things using the FBO module within the Govgistics system.

I am looking for government contract opportunities that match my business product or service. How can I find appropriate opportunities?

Use NAICS Codes within Fed Biz Opps. Here is how:
  1. Login as vendor on fbo.gov. You can search but can't save your results if you are not logged in, so we recommend logging in at the start of any search.
  2. Click on "opportunities" in the upper menu of FedBizOpps.
  3. Click on the "advanced search" sub-tab of FedBizOpps.
  4. Use the "NAICS Code:" field to filter your search by individually selecting appropriate NAICS codes. Hold down the Control Key (CTRL) with menu open to select more than one line at a time. The NAICS list is hierarchical. You can select both the three digit codes, the six digit codes, and any combination of the two. Once you have selected the appropriate filters, click "search."
  5. You can find what you are looking for on the "search results" tab.
  6. You can save your search results by clicking "save this search as a search agent" and labeling the search so that you can reference it later. Please note that you CANNOT stack searches on top of each other to filter opportunities meeting criteria from different tabs. Nor can you export this information. You can, however, accomplish these things using the FBO module within the Govgistics system.

How can I find business opportunities for a specific set-aside designation?

  1. Login as vendor on fbo.gov. You can search but cannot save your results if you are not logged in, so we recommend logging in at the start of any search.
  2. Click on "opportunities" in the upper menu of FedBizOpps.
  3. Click on the "advanced search" sub-tab of FedBizOpps.
  4. Use the "Set-Aside Code:" field to filter your search.
  5. You can find what you are looking for on the "search results" tab.
  6. You can save your search results by clicking "save this search as a search agent" and labeling the search so that you can reference it later. Please note that you CANNOT stack searches on top of each other to filter opportunities meeting criteria from different tabs. Nor can you export this information. You can, however, accomplish these things using the FBO module within the Govgistics system.

Can I submit an electronic response to an opportunity?

That depends on how the Fed Biz Opps procurement agent set up the notice. If electronic response submissions are enabled for a particular notice, a note will be visible within the "Notice Details" sub-tab indicating that the opportunity allows for electronic responses. You must be logged in to the system to be able to submit an electronic response.

We have had staff changes. I need to remove a current Vendor FBO account holder from accessing FBO on behalf of my company. How can I delete an FBO account associated with my firm?

Submit a request to the FBO "Federal Service Desk" identifying the current FBO account holder (by name, account affiliated e-mail address or system username) that you want to delete.

Submit a request to the FBO "Federal Service Desk" identifying the current FBO account holder (by name, account affiliated e-mail address or system username) that you want to delete.

You either are not registered in SAM, or FBO does not recognize that you have been registered in SAM. With the rise of terrorist activity and the heightened need to safeguard national security, the government has become more sensitive to documents that might provide information to terrorist organizations (such as maps, floor plans, buildings, places, systems, etc.) As such, FedBizOpps attempts to monitor and track who has access to particular files. For this reason, suppliers must register in SAM. In the event something happens to any portion of the facilities, people in those facilities, information, or information inside the technology, the government has a list of potential companies or individuals at those companies, who were provided the full RFP. While no document contained in FedBizOpps is classified, many are secured for viewing only by select individuals and firms. FedBizOpps security measures simply reflect the fact a member of the source selection team believes a document's contents are sensitive. Therefore, it is posted on the secure side to allow the government to provide minimal details of who was given the procurement documents in the event of an investigation. As long as your company is registered in SAM, you should have access to any files on the secure side of FedBizOpps. Entering your 9 digit DUNS number during registration will enable the system to retrieve your company information from the System for Award Management (SAM.gov) database. This sets the stage for you to access controlled, unclassified documents.

What is a subcontract?

A contract between a prime contractor and a subcontractor to supply goods or services for the fulfillment of a prime contract.

Fed Biz Opps codes and classifications – a quick guide to FBO

What are FBO procurement service codes?

In the FedBizOpps system, procurements are classified by Federal Supply Codes/Product Services Codes. The following is a listing of the service codes:

A -- Research & Development
B -- Special studies and analysis - not R&D
C -- Architect and engineering services
D -- Information technology services, including telecommunications services
E -- Purchase of structures & facilities
F -- Natural resources & conservation services
G -- Social services
H -- Quality control, testing & inspection services
J -- Maintenance, repair & rebuilding of equipment
K -- Modification of equipment
L -- Technical representative services
M -- Operation of Government-owned facilities
N -- Installation of equipment
P -- Salvage services
Q -- Medical services
R -- Professional, administrative, and management support services
S -- Utilities and housekeeping services
T -- Photographic, mapping, printing, & publication services
U -- Education & training services
V -- Transportation, travel, & relocation services
W -- Lease or Rental of equipment
X -- Lease or rental of facilities
Y -- Construction of structures and facilities
Z -- Maintenance, repair, and alteration of real property

What are FBO procurement product codes?

In the FedBizOpps system, procurements are classified by Federal Supply Codes/Product Services Codes. The following is a listing of the product codes: 10 -- Weapons
11 -- Nuclear ordnance
12 -- Fire control equipment
13 -- Ammunition & explosives
14 -- Guided missiles
15 -- Aircraft & airframe structural components
16 -- Aircraft components & accessories
17 -- Aircraft launching, landing & ground handling equipment
18 -- Space vehicles
19 -- Ships, small craft, pontoons & floating docks
20 -- Ship and marine equipment
22 -- Railway equipment
23 -- Ground effects vehicles, motor vehicles, trailers & cycles
24 -- Tractors
25 -- Vehicular equipment components
26 -- Tires and tubes
28 -- Engines, turbines & components
29 -- Engine accessories
30 -- Mechanical power transmission equipment
31 -- Bearings
32 -- Woodworking machinery and equipment
34 -- Metalworking machinery
35 -- Service and trade equipment
36 -- Special industry machinery
37 -- Agricultural machinery & equipment
38 -- Construction, mining, excavating & highway maintenance equipment
39 -- Materials handling equipment
40 -- Rope, cable, chain & fittings
41 -- Refrigeration, air-conditioning & air circulating equipment
42 -- Fire fighting, rescue & safety equipment
43 -- Pumps & compressors
44 -- Furnace, steam plant & drying equipment; & nuclear reactors
45 -- Plumbing, heating, & sanitation equipment
46 -- Water purification & sewage treatment equipment
47 -- Pipe, tubing, hose & fittings
48 -- Valves
49 -- Maintenance & repair shop equipment
51 -- Hand tools
52 -- Measuring tools
53 -- Hardware & abrasives
54 -- Prefabricated structures and scaffolding
55 -- Lumber, millwork, plywood & veneer
56 -- Construction & building materials
58 -- Communication, detection, & coherent radiation equipment
59 -- Electrical and electronic equipment components
60 -- Fiber optics materials, components, assemblies & accessories
61 -- Electric wire & power & distribution equipment
62 -- Lighting fixtures & lamps
63 -- Alarm, signal & security detection equipment
65 -- Medical, dental & veterinary equipment & supplies
66 -- Instruments & laboratory equipment
67 -- Photographic equipment
68 -- Chemicals & chemical products
69 -- Training aids & devices
70 -- General purpose information technology equipment
71 -- Furniture
72 -- Household & commercial furnishings & appliances
73 -- Food preparation and serving equipment
74 -- Office machines, text processing systems & visible record equipment
75 -- Office supplies and devices
76 -- Books, maps & other publications
77 -- Musical instruments, phonographs & home-type radios
78 -- Recreational & athletic equipment
79 -- Cleaning equipment and supplies
80 -- Brushes, paints, sealers & adhesives
81 -- Containers, packaging, & packing supplies
83 -- Textiles, leather, furs, apparel & shoe findings, tents & flags
84 -- Clothing, individual equipment & insignia
85 -- Toiletries
87 -- Agricultural supplies
88 -- Live animals
89 -- Subsistence
91 -- Fuels, lubricants, oils & waxes
93 -- Nonmetallic fabricated materials
94 -- Nonmetallic crude materials
95 -- Metal bars, sheets & shapes
96 -- Ores, minerals & their primary products
99 – Miscellaneous

In fbo.gov, Fed Biz Opps has created a complicated interface. Fortunately, Govgistics FBO module can do all that fbo.gov can do and so much more. We are here to help you with any difficulties you have with either website. Please contact your Govgistics rep any time to help you make the best use of your time when dealing with FedBizOpps and capture as many opportunities as possible.

FAQs on Government Contract Awards – Everything You Wanted to Know About Landing Military Contracts but Were Afraid to Ask


Collectively, our Govgistics team has decades of experience helping clients win military contracts, NASA contracts, DOT contracts, HUD contracts, DOE contracts and other government contracts. During that time, we have answered a lot of questions. Here are some of the most common, from the basic requirements to win government contract awards to CAGE code lookups, from finding the drawings you need to "set asides."
Figure 1 FAQs about Military Contracts

The Questions We Get Every Month About Military Contracts


I can’t find the drawing I am looking for. How can I find it

First of all, we occasionally have clients who are looking for drawings that aren’t yet published. The norm is for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to maintain exclusive rights to drawings for 10 years, though there are exceptions to that rule. Once these exclusive rights are terminated, ownership transfers to the government.

Government agencies then publish these drawings in c-folders (collaboration folders). In order to access the right drawings, you must have the drawing number. This is where most clients struggle, because they do not have the drawing number they need. Using the Govgistics database, you can look up the much more easily accessible national stock number. Our system will then take you to the drawings you need. Many clients note that this can save anywhere from 20-90% of the time they would otherwise spend looking up drawing numbers.

I have heard government contractors have to wait forever to get paid for military contracts. How can I speed that up?

That information is outdated. Legislation passed in the last few years requires all military contracts to be paid net 30 and small business government contracts to be paid net 15. That means all businesses must be paid within 30 days (and small businesses within 15 days) of delivering the agreed upon goods and services, AND properly billing the agency of record.

How do I properly bill the government for completed military contracts?

All Department of Defense bills need to be submitted through WAWF (the Wide Area Workflow system). WAWF is designed to streamline communication (including reports and invoices) between your company and government agencies. You must register in WAWF. With WAWF, your business can correct and/or resubmit rejected documents, receive e-mail notifications of awaiting actions, bill the government, and view your status history with each federal agency with which you have conducted business. Perhaps the most common reason for delayed payment is an incomplete WAWF submission. Make sure all of the required information is complete. If you are having other issues with WAWF, please contact your Govgistics rep today.

How can my company become a "set aside" company?

You can’t. That actually works to your benefit. There is a little confusion around "set asides" that stem from a misunderstanding of the jargon. Companies cannot achieve "set aside" status. Only categories of companies can receive designation as "set asides." Companies can be certified to fit within these categories by the Small Business Administration (SBA). There are a number of these special designations, including:

  • HUB-Zone Status
  • Small Business Status
  • Service Disabled Veteran Owned Status
  • Veteran Owned Status
  • Woman Owned Status
  • Small Business with 8(a) Certified Small Disadvantaged Business Status

Small disadvantaged business status is certified by the SBA to make them eligible for special bidding benefits. For purposes of the 8(a) Business Development program, the following groups are presumed socially disadvantaged:

  • Black Americans
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Native Americans
  • Asian Pacific Americans
  • Subcontinent Asian Americans

To be certified an 8(a) Certified Small Disadvantaged Business your firm must be unconditionally owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who are of good character and citizens of the United States, and must demonstrate potential for success.

Why are these broader categories advantageous to your firm. You can actually become certified by the SBA for multiple special status categories, and the government can set multiple categories to compete for "set aside" government contract awards. This means by seizing on every possible certification for which your firm is eligible, you increase the number of military contracts for which you can compete. These certifications through the SBA are sometimes the most challenging step for our clients. If you have any difficulty achieving the specially designated status with the SBA, please contact your Govgistics rep. We have helped others through this before, and would be happy to assist.

How Can My Company Be Certified for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Status?

Your business may be considered for service disabled veteran owned status for military contracts if it meets the following criteria:

  • Meets the criteria for a small business
  • Is 51% unconditionally owned and controlled by one or more person(s) who served in the active Military, Naval, or Air Service,
  • The owner(s) were discharged or released (under conditions other than dishonorable) and whose disability was incurred or aggravated in line of duty in the active Military, Naval, or Air Service.
  • In the case of permanent or severe disability, the spouse or permanent care-giver of a veteran who meets these criteria may be eligible for service disabled veteran owned status

How Can My Company Be Certified as a HUB-Zone Business?

Your business may be considered for HUB-Zone certification for government contract awards if it meets the following criteria:

  • Your company meets the criteria for a small business
  • Your small business and must be located in a "historically underutilized business zone" or HUBZone.
  • Your firm must be owned and controlled by one or more US Citizens,
  • At least 35% of your employees must reside in a HUBZone.

The Basics of Winning Government Contract Awards

What do we need to do to become a registered vendor to win government contract awards?

With a few exceptions, a firm that wants to compete for federal government contracts must meet these 5 requirements:

  1. Obtain a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number. A DUNS number is a unique nine-digit number assigned by Dun and Bradstreet to identify unique business establishments. In other words, any branch or facility involved in the fulfillment of your government contract award should have its own unique DUNS number.
  2. Register on the government’s Central Contractor Registry (CCR) database. The CCR registers organizations who want to win government contract awards through NASA or military contract awards through the DOD. Your firm must have a DUNS number to register with the CCR.
  3. Complete an Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA). ORCA replaces most of the paper based Representations and Certifications (Reps and Certs) in Section K of government contract bidding.
  4. Know your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. NAICS classifies business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. economy. NAICS codes are also used for administrative, contracting, and tax purposes. In addition, the SBA uses NAICS codes as a basis for its size standards, so NAICS codes are vital when applying for a specially designated status.
  5. Your Federal Tax Identification Number (TIN or EIN)
  6. You must register in SAM

What is SAM?

SAM is the System for Awards Management. This system was designed to incorporate the CCR, ORCA, and the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) into a single consolidated contractor database. Those firms wishing to win government contract awards must renew their SAM registration annually. We recommend that you renew your SAM registration two months in advance of its expiration date, as even the threat of an interruption can both interfere with winning contracts and delay prompt payment.

What is a PSC?

A Product Service Code (PSC) is a categorization of what the U.S. Government buys. The PSC consist of two separate elements, one for commodities and one for research, development, and evaluation services. Federal Supply Classification Codes (FSC) covers commodities, which are numbered 10-99. All aspects of research, development, and evaluation including management and support, which are lettered A-Z. You can find relevant PSC codes here:

How can I find military contracts to bid on?

Any time military contracts, NASA contracts, or HUD contracts are expected to exceed $25,000, the government is legally bound to publish the contract on http://www.fedbizopps.gov. However, those looking to provide specific goods to services often find the website to be very difficult to manage and sort. Govgistics.com provides a much faster, more streamlined way to find appropriate space and military contacts. If you would like to know a few tricks of the trade to speed your searches, please don’t hesitate to contact your Govgistics rep.

What is the GSA?

The General Services Administration (GSA) is the agency through which the most government-wide contracts are procured.

What is a GSA schedule?

A GSA schedule is a way for government procurement officers to purchase commonly used goods and services without issuing an RFQ or RFP. Your business can list goods and services available for sale on these schedules. Procurement agents can then make purchases directly from your company without the usual bidding process. It might be helpful to think of the GSA Schedule as "Amazon shopping" for procurement officers, who can order for goods and services up to a certain value based on the lowest price they find online.

Should my company participate in the GSA schedule?

Probably. GSA schedules are a great way for businesses to get their foot in the door and to establish long-term connections with procurement agents. It is not ideal for every type of good or service, but GSA schedules certainly have their place. GSA schedules make it easy to network with federal procurement agents, reduce lead time between projects, and increase your bottom line.

CAGE Code and CAGE Code Lookup

What is a CAGE code?

The Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code is a five digit alpha-numeric ID number used extensively within the Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA for government procurement processes?

What is the difference between a CAGE code and an NCAGE code?

A CAGE code is for any companies located in the US and its territories wishing to win government contract awards. An NCAGE code is for any companies located outside of the US and its territories wishing to win government contract awards.

Why would I need to do a CAGE code lookup?

Often your firm will have a list of CAGE codes and need to discover which companies those CAGE codes correspond to. Alternately, you may have a list of companies involved (or potentially involved) in a project and may need to look up their CAGE codes in order to submit proper paperwork.

How do I do a CAGE code lookup?

Our tool allows you free CAGE code lookup As always, if you are having issues with CAGE code look up, or trouble finding any other information you need, contact your Govgistics rep today.

Federal Regulations Concerning Government and Military Contracts

What is FAR?

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is the primary source of federal procurement regulations. The FAR, is 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. The regulations can be found here.

What are military standards?

Because of the extraordinary demands placed on military equipment, military contracts often reference specific military standards (MIL-STD), colloquially known as "mil-specs." There are over 50,000 military standards used for space and military contracts that relate to everything from the packaging and labeling used for certain components, to the requirements for nuclear reactors. It is vital to be able to understand and fulfill all military specifications for any NASA or military contracts.

Military Contract Negotiations

What is an IFB, RFP or RFQ and what is the difference?

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is the primary source of federal procurement regulations. The FAR, is 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. The regulations can be found here.

What are military standards?

Because of the extraordinary demands placed on military equipment, military contracts often reference specific military standards (MIL-STD), colloquially known as "mil-specs." There are over 50,000 military standards used for space and military contracts that relate to everything from the packaging and labeling used for certain components, to the requirements for nuclear reactors. It is vital to be able to understand and fulfill all military specifications for any NASA or military contracts.

Military Contract Negotiations

What is an IFB, RFP or RFQ and what is the difference?

Although all of these terms are still commonly used almost interchangeable, officially, the definition of them has evolved to indicate important differences. An Invitation for Bid (IFB) now refers to sealed bidding. A Request for Proposal (RFP) now refers to negotiated procurement. A Request for Quote (RFQ) still refers to requesting unsealed oral or written prices on small purchases. These distinctions are important when trying to win government contract awards.

What is a negotiated procurement?

Negotiated procurement is contracting through the use of either competitive, or other-than-competitive proposals, and discussions. Specifically, it is advantageous when there are important factors in play besides cost alone. For instance new technologies, new approaches to problems, components where durability is a primary concern because parts wear out so quickly, the precision or accuracy of a smachine, etc. may all lead to RFPs and negotiated procurement. As a rule of thumb, any contract awarded without using sealed bidding procedures is a negotiated contract, and any contract where cost is not the prime focus could well be a negotiated contract.

What is a best and final offer?

A best and final offer is a contractor's final bid following all negotiations that stem from their RFP.

What is a prime contract?

A contract awarded directly by the government to a contractors, who becomes the prime contractors.

What is a subcontract?

A contract between a prime contractor and a subcontractor to supply goods or services for the fulfillment of a prime contract.

What is a contractor team arrangement?

An arrangement in which (a) a prime potential contractor agrees with one or more companies to have them serve as a subcontractor to fulfill military contracts; or (b) two or more companies form a partnership or joint venture to act as a single potential prime contractor

What is past performance?

Your company’s past performance includes information about recently completed or ongoing contracts. NASA, DOE, HUD, and military contracts will typically require past performance information to be included with your bid.

Perhaps the most common question of all – How do I navigate a specific government website, such as FBO, GSA, NASA SEWP, etc.?

These are great questions, with intricate, detailed answers. Each of these websites will be discussed in future emails. For now, if you have specific questions about specific sites or government/military contracts, please contact your Govgisitics rep. We will work hard to help your firm win all the government contract awards possible to grow your business.

How to Lose Government Contracts: Key Mistakes to Avoid in Federal Government Contracting



Figure 1 Don't make the mistakes that cost you government contracts

In last month’s newsletter we offered up seven of the most important tips on . This month, we are taking the opposite perspective on government contracts, and looking at some of most significant and common mistakes companies make when trying to secure federal business opportunities. Fortunately, there has been a great deal of research on government contracting to draw from. With decades of collective experience, our team can help you win government bids, and just as importantly, keep them. Here are some of the major pitfalls identified by our team and by industry researchers. Avoid making these mistakes on your government bids:

1. Failure to properly fulfill existing government contracts

The greatest threat to tomorrow’s government contracting is to mess up today’s government contracting. A failure to fully, accurately, and promptly fulfill your existing contract jeopardizes future federal business opportunities. As most government contractors are acutely aware, firms are evaluated by their performance on past contracts. Not only do federal procurement agents carefully consider these score cards before awarding contracts, but they also share information with one another. They are extremely hesitant to award government contracts to firms that have made them look bad or held up projects in the past. It is best not to win government bids unless you can successfully fulfill them on time. Here are some of the biggest failures we see:

The paperwork of existing government contracts

Without a doubt, the paperwork involved in federal business opportunities can be long, complicated, and detailed. It is no wonder that administrative or paperwork errors, then, are the most common mistake in securing federal business opportunities. According to The 100 Worst Mistakes in Government Contracting, by far the largest number of mistakes in attempting to retain a government contract happen under what it calls "contract administration." Fully 35% of the mistakes in government bids they found to be "contract administration," more than twice as many as any other category.

Perhaps the most common error in contact administration is to simply over look one part of the government contract requirements. Many firms have no problem providing the required documentation, but simply are not cognizant of the requirement and end up having to try and "back-fill" overlooked steps as their shipment is ready to roll out the door. Some of the other most common mistakes in government contracting are the failure to correctly identify and submit a claim for constructive change, or defective specification.

Another example of predicaments clients sometimes share with us is following verbal directions that deviate from the government contract language. Government bids are landed with set expectations and specific contract clauses. As a general rule, those clauses supersede any directions, promises, or changes that a government official may verbally initiate. Nonetheless, government agents sometimes try to change or redirect things after the government bids have been finalized and the contract signed. Feeling pressured to act quickly, firms may follow directions from an unauthorized official in defiance of the government contract, and unwittingly setting themselves up for failure. The official in question may or may not be authorized to provide directions and institute these changes. It is vital to get any such changes in writing and, as much as possible, to vet the official’s authority.

Each firm needs to develop their own government contract management system and best practices to make sure that no steps are overlooked and everything is documented. The key take-aways are to get everything in writing, and effectively store documentation in order to avoid the most common mistakes made in government contracting. This is the area where the typical firm that has landed government contracts is most likely to stumble, so it deserves extra attention.

Getting the appropriate drawings

Failure to quickly find the right drawings can delay a bid, stall the completion of a project, or in extreme cases, even lead to manufacturing the wrong component in error. As most businesses submitting government bids are aware, the original equipment manufacturer typically has exclusive rights to the drawings they have created for government contracts for ten years, after which they become the property of the federal government. In truth, the time does vary under certain circumstances and arrangements. These government-owned drawings are then published in collaboration folders, or c-folders for any parties interested in submitting government bids to access. However, there are only two ways to find the drawings your firm is looking for on government websites – peruse thousands and thousands of c-folders or have the drawing number. Govgistics has a better solution. Using the Govgistics database, simply entering the national stock number can take you into the drawing, saving untold hours of work. The Govgistics site makes it so much easier to find the right drawings, that many of our clients report that they save 20-90% of time on this step, compared to the way the used to do things before discovering Govgistics. If you are having trouble finding the drawings you need, please contact your Govgistics rep, so that we can streamline this step of the government contracting process with you.

Not accounting for specific materials or components needed to fulfill your government bids

Surprisingly, one of the most common problems our Govgistics reps encounter (far more than the national averages would indicate) are clients who have won government bids, and run into problems getting the specific materials or components required to fulfill the government contract. We suspect we may encounter this problem more frequently than "normal" because our clients realize that we can help often help them solve it.

Make no mistake. We strongly advise all clients to have a complete picture of the entire supply chain -- from acquiring raw materials through shipping -- before submitting government bids. That said, many clients have won government contracts only to discover that a particular material or component that they thought would be easy to find is either back-ordered or very difficult to obtain. This could be anything from a particular type of metal required to meet military specs, to an odd sized bushing or spacer, to a vital electrical switch or generator that for some reason is in short supply. It may also include those items that are often forgotten until very late in the process. For instance, many government contracts for the DOD require labels that meet specific military standards, or call for shipments to be made in government-approved packaging. Fortunately, Govgistics can be a huge help in many of these instances. We have relationships with thousands of vendors, and know who has experience manufacturing what. We regularly work with distributors who have warehouses full of parts needed on government contracts. We also have great relationships with many brokers who can further extend our reach for hard to find materials or components. Govgistics is one of the nation’s top resources for connecting businesses engaged in government contracting.

Failing your government contracting audit

Even though audits only account for about 6% of the most common mistakes when trying to secure federal business opportunities, they are very serious. (Read more…) No matter your business, no one likes to get audited. The full scope of federal audits for government contractors will vary from case to case, and may involve quality control, accounting and financials, security and ITAR compliance, and more. While we lack the time here to fully explore the ramifications of each type of audit, here are a few tips to get through the audit in the best possible way:

  • Cooperate with the audit. Be fast and friendly and make the auditor want you to succeed.
  • Get a letter or entrance briefing explicitly stating the scope and purpose of the audit. It is OK to gently remind them of this if you feel the audit is veering from its stated scope and purpose.
  • The contracting officer should provide you with a written request to access your records.
  • Provide a single point of contact from your firm to serve as liaison, spokesperson, and coordinate everyone from your team.
  • Ask the auditors for an exit briefing to report their findings, and get as much of this on record as possible.

Overestimating your capabilities to meet federal business opportunities.

We hate to say it, but one of the things our reps occasionally run into is a client who overestimates their production capabilities. They simply find themselves unable to manufacturer product quickly enough, or unable to meet stringent government requirements. Once again, our network of OEMs, brokers and distributors may be able to help, but we strongly encourage all of our clients to have a realistic understanding of their processes, from start to finish, before making any government bids. It is better to lose a government contract than to be unable to fulfill it.

2. Misunderstanding the RFQs when submitting your government bids

Research indicates that 11% of the mistakes in government contracting happen before government contracts are even signed. Non-conforming bids, non-compliant proposals and a misunderstanding of government standards are the primary culprits. These errors can prevent you from starting a relationship with government agencies, or jeopardize the one you have. Whether it is a failure to understand the difference between an IFB, an RFP and an RFQ, or realize how unilateral offers eventually lapse, or grasp how a specific military standard applies to your project, misunderstandings at the beginning of the process are the second most common mistakes in securing federal business opportunities. Once again, Govgistics can help. We can direct you to the specific regulations being referenced so that you can access them yourself. Our team has worked with them so often that we can sometimes share helpful insights. Most of all, we have a small network of select firms who specialize in helping businesses trying to land federal contracts to come into complete regulatory compliance. We would be happy to refer you to an expert in government contracting regulations.

3. Developing "tunnel vision" when it comes to federal business opportunities

One of the most common and under-reported mistake that businesses make when trying to when government bids is to develop "tunnel vision." They tend to focus on one government agency, one government website, and sometimes even one government project. Meanwhile scores of federal business opportunities that would be perfect for them slip by unnoticed. Adept and frequent use of the Govgistics website is the perfect antidote to this problem. By consolidating the information from multiple government websites and agencies into a single, more user-friendly database, we have opened up a wealth of federal business opportunities to our clients they would have otherwise missed. Moreover, because of the searchability of the site, clients save an enormous amount of time and energy, as opposed to scrubbing government websites. Don’t underestimate the power of an efficient, extra-wide net in government contracting.

4. Blowing the opportunity for the face to face interaction with government contracting agents

While submitting government bids is a paperwork-heavy process, good government contracting is about building trust. That often means personally meeting federal procurement agents and building relationships. There are many opportunities to meet with federal procurement agents, including:

These are fantastic federal business opportunities, so we advise clients to take them very seriously. Dress well. Be prepared. Know your corporate strengths, certifications, and differentiators. Don’t go in with the mindset of selling, but rather building long-term relationships. Please note that federal procurement agents can not personally accept gifts of any significance, but agencies can sometimes accept free samples of your work as proof of craftsmanship.

5. Not having your credentials up to date for federal business opportunities

Your firm must be registered with SAM (the System for Award Management) to even submit government bids. In addition, it wise to make sure the following codes are current, complete:

In addition, as we discussed last month, there are very significant advantages in claiming membership in a specially designated category, when pursuing federal business opportunities. There are some government contracts that are "set-asides" for businesses that meet one of more of these specially designated categories. In addition, many government procurement agents try to give preferential treatment to businesses that fit into these categories on government contracts that are not "set asides," as well, in order to hit government procurement goals. As such, when pursuing federal business opportunities, if there is any way for your business to claim one or more of the following designations, it is imperative that you have the documentation complete and ready to go:

  • Small business status
  • Veteran-owned or service disabled veteran-owned status
  • Owner qualifies as disabled American
  • Women-owned status
  • Black Americans-owned status
  • Hispanic Americans-owned status
  • Native Americans-owned status
  • Asian Pacific Americans-owned status
  • Subcontinent Asian American-owned status
  • Personal experiences of substantial and chronic social disadvantage in American society, not in other countries
  • Negative impact on the individual’s entrance into the business world or advancement in the business world because of the stated disadvantage(s) status
  • Business located in a Hub-Zone

6. Having delinquent tax liability

There is not a lot of data on this particular pitfall just yet, because the law was formally changed in late 2016. We do want to make sure that our clients are aware of it. The DOD, the GSA and NASA, formalized an interim regulation that prohibits the federal government from awarding government contracts to corporations that have a delinquent federal tax liability or felony conviction, unless a suspension or debarment official concludes that such an action is not in the best interest of the federal government. Pass-through businesses, like S-corps and partnerships, which engage in government bids may need to be extra cautious about ensuring individual executives and shareholders pay outstanding tax liabilities. In essence, the federal government has finalized rules barring those with outstanding tax debts and felons convicted of federal crimes within the last 12 months of being rewarded government contracts. Under the new regulations, government contractors responding to federal solicitations are required to disclose any delinquent federal tax debt and any federal convictions in the last year. The government contracting office is prohibited from granting an award to the company unless the suspending official determines that denying the contract is unnecessary to protect the government’s interests. The bottom line is that if your firm or any principles in it have any tax liability, it would be smart to resolve those before pursuing federal business opportunities.

7. Not getting the help you need to land government contracts

As you can see, there is do much more to government contracting than submitting the lowest government bids. This is a complicated process with many ways to misstep. Nobody does it alone. Getting help can make a huge difference in your bottom line. To find the best federal business opportunities and land them, you need to avoid these common mistakes and leverage every advantage that you can. Our staff has decades of experience in the industry, and is waiting to help you overcome each of these hurdles and land the government contracts best suited for your business. Please give us a call.

How to Sell to the Government – 7 Helpful Tips to Landing a Government Contract



This year roughly 4 trillion dollars in federal government contracts are projected to be awarded to private contractors. What's more, with new leadership in Washington D.C., additional spending on new programs appears quite likely. Even now, there are over 30,000 federal government contracts up for bid on government websites. The DLA (the Defense Logistics Agency) reports that they make between 9,000 and 10,000 individual contract actions on a typical day. There are thousands and thousands of firms across the nation trying to figure out how to sell to the government and get their slice of that enormous pie. The competition can be fierce. The public procurement process is often difficult and complicated. Many would-be contractors, especially smaller firms, give up in frustration. This seven step guide is designed to help you best determine how to sell to the government.

1. Understand the mindset of the employees involved in the public procurement process

Start by putting yourself in the shoes of a public procurement specialist attempting to fill a significant number of procurement assignments in a given day. There are actually fewer public procurement specialists now than in years past, due to the downsizing of those positions. The amount of funds flowing through your offices, however, continues to increase. You are busy. You're trying to move through each bid as quickly as possible. Most of the federal government contracts are competitive, meaning that there are a significant number of companies placing bids. Essentially, what you are trying to do is to find reasons to disqualify companies in order to narrow down the possible options.

It is vital that you understand this mindset. By and large, purchasing agents are looking for a reason to remove your company from consideration in order to make their job quicker and easier. Moreover, public procurement specialists need to protect their positions by making sure that the firm they choose to fulfill a given government contract is reliable, meets the required standards, and fulfills the order in a timely manner. As such, public procurement agents tend to rely on trusted firms with proven track records.

As a vendor attempting to secure a government contract, it helps to view your application and paperwork through this paradigm. Is all of the data complete? Have you included any documentation or certifications that you may need to substantiate? Is there anything that would disqualify you without sufficient explanation? If so, have you included that explanation? Are there things you can do to reinforce the fact that you are a reliable, trusted provider? It is helpful to be brief and straightforward with public procurement agents. Nonetheless, it is even more helpful to over-qualify yourself. It is better to provide documentation that is not required (or not required at this time) than it is to leave a public procurement agent looking for documentation they cannot find. This is especially true if you qualify for special considerations. (Please see Tip #3, below.) Include clearly labeled documentation so public procurement specialists can view what they want when they want it, and not have to ask for follow up documentation.

Perhaps the most helpful way for the average firm to develop this mindset is to think about a time you have had a large number of applicants for a particular job opening. The goal of the hiring manager typically was to weed through resumes as quickly as possible in order to qualify a handful of candidates for an interview. It doesn’t matter whether a particular candidate possessed the skillset, certifications or qualifications that the hiring manager was looking for. If that candidate did not include that information in their resume or cover letter, they were simply not considered. In the same way, when applying for government contracts, your firm must actively demonstrate that you meet all of the requirements, possess the necessary certifications, and have the relevant skills and experience in order to fulfill the order.

2. How to bid federal government contracts

In theory, the bids on any government contract are supposed to be the decisive factor in determining which firm is awarded the contract. All things being equal, agencies are directed to choose the lowest bidder. Military standards, certifications, and other requirements are designed to ensure that anything purchased by the government should meet their standards and needs. In the real world, a number of factors, including turnaround times, track records, and personal relationships all can impact which vendor is chosen to fulfill a government contract. In principal, however, the lowest bid should be awarded the contract. Hence, a common approach when trying to settle on an appropriate bid is to simply look at the last time a particular order was placed, and to undercut that price per unit by a small margin. Our database is an incredibly useful tool in helping to track successful bids on similar products, and help you to determine what is likely to be a successful bid. However, there is more to it than simply looking at the last successful bid.

Here are a few important things to consider when evaluating your bid on a particular federal government contract. How long has it been since a similar order was fulfilled? If it has only been several weeks, then the last bid is likely to provide a very good indicator as to what competitors are likely to bid on the contract in question. If, however, it has been several months or even years since the order was fulfilled, the older data is likely to be less relevant. What is the trend for this particular component? Are the successful bid prices going up or down? Is there any seasonality involved in the pricing of this component? Our database provides exhaustive data to help you in your research. We have historical data that can help you to identify trends. If you are having difficulty accessing this data or figuring out the fastest way to use the database, please feel free to call your representative and allow us to help you get the data you need to make a successful bid. Have materials for the component seen significant price swings? If a component is composed largely of copper, and copper prices have shot up or down significantly since the last bid was fulfilled, it is safe to say the bids will be affected by these changes. Adjust your bids accordingly.

3. Learn how to better sell to the government using your status in a specially designated category.

Federal government contracts are awarded with the intention of promoting small businesses, veteran-owned businesses, firms located in specific localities, and businesses owned by populations that have historically faced special economic challenges. If your firm can qualify for one of more of these advantageous categories, it can provide you with a substantial advantage in the public procurement process.

Small Business Status

Initiatives have been in place for years to give small businesses a fighting chance to land a government contract, and goals are in place to make sure small businesses get their slice of the pie. Approximately 23% of all federal government contracts are awarded to small businesses each year. Public procurement specialists will often favor small businesses in order to achieve these goals. As such, if your firm is a small business, it is vital that you claim it and document your status as an advantaged group. To see if your firm qualifies as a small business, review this table.

Government Contract and Development Hub Zones

The government has identified several geographic areas across the US where it is trying to promote economic development. In accordance with those goals, some of these areas have been declared Hub Zones. Firms that operate in these Hub Zones get an advantageous status for landing government contracts. To see if you qualify for this advantageous status, review this map.

Veteran-Owned Businesses

Businesses owned or co-owned by veterans also qualify for advantageous status in landing a government contract. Not only do public procurement specialists award government contracts to veteran-owned firms because they are attempting to meet certain goals, but these agents also tend to view veterans as particularly trustworthy and reliable. The government particularly wants to reward firms owned by service-disabled veterans. The goal is that 3% of all federal government contracts would go to this very small group of businesses. There have been significant initiatives in Washington D.C. to make it easier for wounded veterans to figure out how to sell to the government. If you have the opportunity to claim veteran status, or service-disabled veteran status, it is essential that you do so.

Groups that Have Historically Faced Economic Challenges

The government tries to promote diversity and empower the disadvantaged by ensuring that a portion of all federal government contracts are awarded to those in groups that face economic challenges. This is commonly defined as ownership having "at least one objective distinguishing feature such as race, ethnic origin, gender, or physical handicap, long-term residence in an environment isolated from the mainstream of American society, or other similar causes not common to individuals who are not socially disadvantaged." Such groups include the following:

  • Women
  • Black Americans
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Native Americans
  • Asian Pacific Americans
  • Subcontinent Asian American
  • Persons with Disabilities
  • Personal experiences of substantial and chronic social disadvantage in American society, not in other countries.
  • Negative impact on the individual’s entrance into the business world or advancement in the business world because of the stated disadvantage(s).

The most recent data suggests that women-owned businesses account for only 4% of all federal government contracts. This, in particular, has received a lot of attention in Washington D.C. Hispanic-owned companies receive about 8.4% of all contracts and black-owned companies receive about 7.2% of all contracts. There have been significant initiatives in Washington D.C. to help these groups better determine how to sell to the government. If your firm qualifies for this special status, it is a very good idea to claim and document your status.

If you are having trouble finding the proper forms to document your specials status, or have specific questions about the forms themselves, please call your Govgistics representative. We would be happy to help.

4. Think long term when trying to figure out how to sell to the government

As we have already indicated, each public procurement specialist’s job performance is based, in part, on how successfully vendors fulfill contracts. As such, trust and reliability are valuable currency. Providing free samples, or lending out a product to prove the quality of your workmanship and to build trust has worked for some firms. Don’t send in your pushiest salespeople. What works in the public arena does not necessarily work to land a government contract. Focus on earning a public procurement agent’s trust and respect first. Build relationships with these decision makers. If at all possible, meet decision makers face to face at events, their offices, etc. You should expect to spend considerable time, and even money, to win government contracts. One 2014 study found that small businesses submitted five prime contract bids and three subcontract bids for every contract won. Obviously, following these tips and consulting with our expert staff is intended to improve those odds for you and your firm.

Remember to stay focused on the long term value of the client. Once won, some contracts are simply renewed, without having to go through the bid process again. Once a firm has established itself as reliable with a public procurement specialist and with a government agency, the potential for growth is enormous. Remain focused on the lifetime value of the contract, and don’t get discouraged.

5. Don’t limit yourself to the main bids on federal government contracts

Certainly, most vendors would love to land the most lucrative prime government contracts. There are, however, many other opportunities. First, we strongly encourage our vendors to consider subcontracting on federal government contracts, especially if they are relatively new and trying to earn the trust of purchasing procurement agents. There are several advantages to this approach. First and foremost, fewer of the largest firms compete for subcontracted projects, which means the competition is typically less intense. Second, it is often easier to convince decision makers to give you a chance to prove yourself as a subcontractor rather than a prime contractor. Check out the subcontracting directory to explore the many options available to you. If you are having trouble navigating the directory, please contact your Govgistics representative, and we would be happy to help you out.

Also you should consider applying for a state or municipal government contract. In many ways, this is a very different animal than federal government contracts. Obviously, there is no central database and there are many more players to have to deal with. State and municipal governments often have rules unique to them. You will find, however, that the Govgistics database can still be a useful tool. Small businesses that engage in both federal and state/municipal contracting report that roughly 17% of their revenue comes from federal government contracts, while roughly 12% come from state and municipal governments. Those businesses that do engage at both levels find diversification expands revenue streams and offers a buffer against budget cuts at the federal level.

6. Make sure you provide all the necessary documentation

It almost goes without saying, but you need to make sure that you have all of the necessary documentation in order to land a government contract, and that this information is up to date and complete. Don’t let something like an old address or expired document derail your bid. Make sure your registration is current and the following is included in your documentation:

  • NAICS codes
  • Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS)
  • Federal Tax Identification Number (TIN or EIN)
  • Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes
  • Product Service codes
  • Federal Supply Classification codes
  • Persons with Disabilities
  • Personal experiences of substantial and chronic social disadvantage in American society, not in other countries.
  • Negative impact on the individual’s entrance into the business world or advancement in the business world because of the stated disadvantage(s).

7. Get help with a government contract when you need it

These first six tips can go a long way towards helping you better learn how to sell to the government. The truth is, however, this process can be grueling and confusing. Fortunately, you have access to experts who have navigated these systems for years. Please don’t hesitate to give your Govgistics representative a call to help answer any questions and to aid in the research that will land you federal government contracts. If you want to better learn how to sell to the government, the answer is only a phone call away.