The federal procurement process is governed by two primary laws, The Armed Services Procurement Act and The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act. A byproduct of these rules is The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). The FAR contains 53 parts and includes definitions, procedures, and contract clauses. Agencies have their own FAR supplement with the same 53 parts containing additional agency-specific procedures.
Federal contracts aren’t born overnight. Extensive research is necessary to identify a requirement, estimate its cost, and request budgetary funds to contract for it. Depending on the urgency and the dollar value of the requirement, this process can take years for the Government to complete.
Once the background work is done, the contracting officer (CO) and the contracting officer’s technical representative (COTR or COR) determine the appropriate acquisition strategy. If the requirement is for a supply or service under $150,000, simplified acquisition procedures (SAP) may be used. SAP contracts have fewer procedures and can be executed quicker.
If SAP is not appropriate, the CO and COTR could prepare an invitation for bids (IFB) or request for proposals (RFP). An IFB can be used when the requirement is not complex; negotiation between the Government and the contractor is not necessary before contract award. A bid opening date is outlined in the IFB, and award is made quickly. A RFP is prepared for more complex requirements when negotiation between the Government and contractor is necessary before contract award.
Another procurement vehicle that the CO and COTR may consider is the GSA schedule. The GSA schedule is a multiple award contract where contractors are essentially prequalified through an extensive paperwork and negotiation process to perform certain types of work. When the Government has a similar requirement, a task order can be issued against the GSA contract in a more expeditious manner.