THE FEDERAL PROCUREMENT PROCESS
The U.S. Federal Government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. Its military and civilian agencies spend nearly $200 billion a year on purchases and award over 61,000 contracts annually to businesses and institutions, which in turn subcontract work to thousands of other entities. Purchases range from complex military weapons systems to typewriter ribbons, maintenance and repair services to commercial physical and biological research.
Doing business with the government has contributed enormously to the growth and development of any number of small businesses. However, it remains a market which is not fully understood by many and which intimidates others who mistakenly view federal procurement as an obstacle much too difficult and tedious to negotiate. Further, there is a misconception among some that the government is interested in doing business with large companies only. These entrepreneurs are unaware that the government makes a special effort to do business with small businesses, particularly those certified as small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, through established programs and laws. Consequently, thousands of contracts worth billions of dollars are overlooked each year by small firms because of their unfamiliarity with government buying and reluctance to pursue this market.
Anyone interested in learning about government purchasing and being apprised of procurement opportunities should have access to or invest in the following:
Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)
The FAR is an excellent reference source for understanding federal purchasing. It sets forth the policies, procedures, and administrative requirements for procurement by all federal agencies. The FAR provides procedures for every step in the procurement process, from the time someone in the government identifies a need for a product or service to the time the purchase is complete.
U.S. Government Purchasing and Sales Directory
This directory is published by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and lists products and services purchased by major military and civilian agencies and specifies the government purchasing offices that buy them. It can serve as a useful tool to assist small business owners, to identify the agencies they would like to market. The directory contains other information which will be of interest to prospective contractors to the government. This includes information about local purchasing, research and development, government specifications, property sales, applicable forms and a listing of government offices from which procurement assistance may be obtained.
Commerce Business Daily (CBD)
The CBD is published by the U.S. Department of Commerce and is the government's official means of informing the public of procurements that are valued at $25,000 or more. It is published in five or six editions weekly and provides basic information about a solicitation so that a business can decide if it is interested in submitting an offer for the particular procurement. In addition to the solicitation announcements for upcoming business opportunities, the CBD lists information about future research and development (R & D) requirements, surplus property, recent contact awards, and subcontracting opportunities offered by prime contractors.
EACH OF THE ABOVE DOCUMENTS CAN BE PURCHASED THROUGH THE GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE (GPO). CALL (202) 512-1800. ALSO, THE FAR AND THE CBD CAN BE ACCESSED THROUGH ANY LOCAL LIBRARY THAT IS DESIGNATED AS A "GOVERNMENT DEPOSITORY" AND AT MANY PROCUREMENT OFFICES OF FEDERAL AGENCIES.
Solicitation Mailing List (SML)
Every federal procurement office maintains an SML, commonly referred to as a "bidder's list." The list includes the names and addresses of firms capable of supplying products and/or services purchased by the particular agency. Generally, once included on an agency's SML, solicitations are mailed directly to those firms that deal in the needed product or service.
In order to be included on an agency's list, an SML Application (Standard Form 129) must be completed and submitted to each procurement office of the federal agency with which a concern desires to do business. The application requires the company to provide certain background data on its operation and information on the equipment, supplies and/or services on which it wishes to make an offer. The application can be obtained from any federal agency and is also included in the U.S. Government Purchasing and Sales Directory mentioned above.
Procurement Automated Service System(PASS)
The SBA maintains the PASS. This database contains information on small businesses and their area(s) of expertise. It is accessed by federal govemment agencies and prime contractors to identify S/SDB sources capable of performing particular requirements. The PASS contains information on company size, capabilities, nature of ownership, location, as well as other pertinent information. There is no cost for getting a company listed on PASS. The PASS applicati on form can be obtained at your local SBA office or by calling 1-800-231-PASS.
Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Specialist(SADBUS)
Every federal agency has a SADBUS who is responsible for locating and assisting S/SDBs to participate in current and future government acquisitions. Contact your local SBA office to identify the local SADBUS for your target market area.
KNOWLEDGE AND USE OF THE ABOVE SOURCES WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH A GREATER UNDERSTANDING OF THE FEDERAL PROCUREMENT PROCESS AND INCREASE YOUR CHANCES FOR PARTICIPATION IN FEDERAL CONTRACT WORK.
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