Our Acquisition Process
Step 1: Market Research & Planning
A typical federal acquisition project starts with the development of strategies that will manage the full acquisition process, from planning, soliciting and evaluating offers, to awarding and administering contracts, through closeout. Market research & acquisition planning are key components to ensure that the government’s needs are met in the most effective, economical, and timely manner.
The acquisition planning step determines the fundamental character and defines strategies to be executed during the entire acquisition process. The planning step combines efforts of all staff members responsible for essential aspects of the acquisition. Market research is conducted to collect and analyze information about the capabilities available in the market and to identify the most suitable approach to acquiring, distributing, and supporting products and services. This research is a combined effort by the program manager and the acquisition team.
- The acquisition process starts with the determination of the need.
- Planning the acquisition includes preparation of documentation to support the determined need, and all required approvals.
- Market research is conducted.
- Acquisition method is determined.
- Requirements are defined.
- Funding is identified, reserved and approved by a certifying official in a written document.
- An Independent Government Cost Estimate (IGCE) is developed.
- The contract specialist analyses requirements to determine if the package received to proceed with the acquisition complies with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).
- Evaluation factors – price and non-price related – are identified.
- Acquisition planning step is completed and project is ready to advance to the solicitation step.
Step 2: Solicitation
After market research & acquisition planning are completed and all required documentation is available and approved, the contract specialist will develop the solicitation document. Once the solicitation is released, bids or proposals from prospective offerors are collected and evaluated for award.
A solicitation is any request to submit offers or quotes to the government for the purpose of acquiring products and services. Contracting officials prepare a solicitation that fully describes and specifies what it wants to purchase, the terms and conditions of the purchase, delivery schedules, and support needed for the product or service. All acquisitions are competed to the maximum extent practicable. However, it is generally during this preparation time that the government determines if a sole source acquisition will be necessary.
- The contract specialist begins to develop the solicitation document once market research & acquisition planning are completed.
- The contract specialist determines which type of solicitation is best suited for the requirement and includes any corresponding small business considerations.
- Once the solicitation has been thoroughly reviewed and approved, it is released.
- After the solicitation is released, prospective offerors may provide feedback or ask questions through an assigned contracting office point of contact.
- Answers to offeror questions, and clarification or changes/additions to the solicitation are publicized through amendments.
- Once bids/proposals have been received, they are evaluated.
- Technical aspects of each bid/proposal are evaluated to ensure best value to the government is provided.
Step 3: Negotiation & Award
Every action in the earlier stages of the acquisition process share one underlying goal – to award a contract representing the best value to the government with other factors considered, such as price. During this discussion/negotiation/award stage, this goal becomes clear.
The purpose in negotiations of every contracting officer (CO) is to get a “good deal” within the boundaries of the applicable laws and regulations. The contracting officer must also see to it that all parties arrive at a common understanding of the requirements document and at a fair and reasonable price and all contract terms. Once proposal submissions are evaluated – by the contracting officer and/or the source selection committee – and an offeror is deemed the strongest, the contracting officer signs the contract, which becomes the award.
- Negotiations are conducted with each offeror in the competitive range.
- Each offeror is given the opportunity to revise or clarify its proposal.
- The contracting officer closes negotiations.
- An internal legal review may be conducted.
- The contracting officer awards the contract representing the best value to the government.
- Debriefings are held upon request in an effort to minimize potential protests.
- The contract is now ready to move on to the administration step of the acquisition process.
Step 4: Administration & Closeout
The fourth step in the acquisition process is administration & closeout. Once a contract is awarded and a post-award orientation meeting takes place, the day-to-day oversight begins. During this period, any contract modifications are administered by the contract specialist. Closeout is the last stage of contract administration, and it occurs when the period of performance has ended, and the final bills are being agreed upon between the government and the contractor.
Contract administration begins as soon as a contract is awarded. A post-award orientation meeting (by teleconference, in-person or some other form of communication) should kick off the actual process of contract administration. The collaboration between the program manager, the contracting officer’s technical representative (COTR) and the contracting officer (CO) is one of partnership. Since COTRs will be in constant dialog with the contractor, they must read the contract thoroughly to know the details of what the government is buying, whether it is a service or product or both. COTRs cannot give direction outside the scope of the contract. Any contract changes will require the input and agreement by the contracting officer, which will then be issued as a contract modification. The official closeout process only begins when the contract is complete.
- As soon as a contract is awarded, contract administration starts.
- A Post-award orientation kicks off the actual administration process.
- Before work is initiated, a work plan is established.
- Systematic quality assurance methods are defined to monitor the contract and to evaluate contractor’s performance.
- A quality assurance surveillance plan is put in place by the government’s representative.
- Monitoring contractor performance is an on-going task performed during contract administration.
- Performance problems should be verified and documented.
- The contracting officer should be involved to seek resolution or corrective actions for poor performance.
- Contractors generally bill the government on a monthly basis.
- Invoices should be reviewed carefully and timely and submitted for payment according to the agreed schedule.
- When the contract is complete, the official contract closeout begins.
- Closeout is only considered complete when all administrative actions are finalized, all disputes settled, and final payment is made.