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Government Contracting FAQ

  1. Are there rules to follow in doing business with the government?
  2. How do I find out which agencies buy products and/or services similar to mine?
  3. Do I have to become a registered vendor with the government to win a contract?
  4. How can I get a DUNS number?
  5. What is the FedBizOpps?
  6. What resources are available to help me learn government contracting processes?
  7. What small business certifications are recognized by the Federal government?
  8. What is the 8(a) Program?
  9. Can a business apply for participation in the 8(a) Program if it has not been in business for two full years?
  10. What is the HUBZone Program?
  11. Are there Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) and Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) programs?
  12. What is the Certificate of Competency Program?
  13. What constitutes excessive enforcement action by a federal agency?
  14. What is the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program?
  15. What is the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program?

Are there rules to follow in doing business with the government?

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is the compilation of federal contracting principles and practices. One of the many Web sites with information about the FAR is http:/farsite.hill.af.mil. State and local government agencies also typically post their purchasing policies and practices.

How do I find out which agencies buy products and/or services similar to mine?

The Federal Procurement Data Center at https://www.fpds.gov reports statistics on procurement for more than 70 federal agencies. Some federal, state and local government agencies, military installations and prime contractors publish procurement directories and procurement forecasts on their web sites.

Do I have to become a registered vendor with the government to win a contract?

The Federal government requires the completion of two mandatory registrations: the Central Contractor’s Registration (CCR) at http://www.ccr.gov and the Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA) at https://orca.bpn.gov. Both CCR and ORCA are free registrations and must be renewed annually.

How can I get a DUNS number?

DUNS stands for “Data Universal Numbering System” and is used by the government to identify contractors and their locations. The number is also required to register with the Central Contractor Register (CCR) that is used by the government’s electronic commerce/electronic data interchange (EC/EDI) system called FACNET. If you do not have a DUNS number, you can obtain one from Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) at no cost. Contact the company at 800-333-0505.

What is the FedBizOpps?

FedBizOpps.gov is the single government point-of-entry (GPE) for Federal government procurement opportunities over $25,000. Government buyers are able to publicize their business opportunities by posting information directly to FedBizOpps via the Internet. Through one portal – FedBizOpps (FBO) – commercial vendors seeking Federal markets for their products and services can search, monitor and retrieve opportunities solicited by the entire Federal contracting community.

What resources are available to help me learn government contracting processes?

Many government agencies have in-house resources to provide contracting assistance. The General Services Administration’s Office of Business Support assists businesses in determining who to market their products and services to in the federal government, and how they can get connected. The SBA provides oversight of the certification programs as well as business matchmaking programs.

The Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) are non-profit organizations created by Congress and partially funded by the Department of Defense to expand the supplier base and increase competition among government contractors, thus reducing the cost of maintaining a strong national security, as well as generating employment and enhancing the economy.

The PTACs’ role is to work with businesses to help them obtain and perform federal, state and local government contracts by educating the companies on the processes necessary for securing government contracts and by connecting businesses with government agencies seeking competitively priced products and services.

In addition, keep in mind the following resources:

  • Contracting officers (“COs”, who are involved in establishing agency requirements and will determine the proper source for the supply or service.
  • Contracting Agents/Specialists should be contacted concerning questions relating to a specific procurement opportunities.
  • Small Business Liaison Officers (SBLO) are the representatives of prime contractors (civilian businesses). They should be contacted concerning potential subcontracting opportunities and potential teaming or partnering opportunities.
  • Small Business Specialists should be contacted concerning general questions relating to contracting with the government. These specialists work for the agency and should be a good in-side resource for that buying office. They are sometimes identified or referred to as small and disadvantage business utilization specialists (SADBUS) or the office of small business development and utilization (OSDBU).

What small business certifications are recognized by the Federal government?

The Federal government has socio-economic programs offering certifications for small businesses that could provide contract-bidding preferences. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) handles two certifications for federal government procurement programs: 8(a) Business Development and HUBZone. While completing the above-mentioned ORCA registration for federal contracting, businesses can self-certify that they are any of the following: small business, women-owned business, veteran-owned business and service-disabled veteran-owned business.

On the state and local level, each government entity may offer its own certification program. Typically, state and local certifications are Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Disadvantaged Minority Business Enterprise (DMBE). Fortune 1000 business entities tend to look for DMBE and WBE certifications.

What is the 8(a) Program?

The 8(a) Business Development program is designed to provide business development assistance and technical assistance to help socially and economically disadvantaged American businesses gain access to the mainstream American economy. The program is named for the section of the Small Business Act that authorizes its policies and procedures.

Can a business apply for participation in the 8(a) Program if it has not been in business for two full years?

Yes. However, the firm must obtain a waiver of the two years in business requirement by meeting all of the following conditions:

  • The individual or individuals upon whom eligibility is based must have substantial business management experience.
  • The applicant firm must demonstrate the technical experience to carry out its business plan with a substantial likelihood for success.
  • The applicant firm must have adequate capital to sustain its operations and carry out its business plan.
  • The applicant firm must have a record of successful performance on contracts from governmental or non-governmental sources in its primary industry category.
  • The applicant firm must have, or must be able to demonstrate that it has, the ability to timely obtain the personnel, facilities, equipment, and any other requirements needed to perform on contracts if it is admitted to the 8(a) program.

What is the HUBZone Program?

SBA’s HUBZone program is in line with the efforts of both the Administration and Congress to promote economic development and employment growth in distressed areas by providing access to more Federal contracting opportunities. To be eligible for the program, a concern must meet all of the following criteria:

  • It must be a small business by SBA standards
  • It must be located in a “historically underutilized business zone” (HUBZone),
  • It must be wholly owned and controlled by person(s) who are U.S. Citizens,
  • At least 35% of its employees must reside in a HUBZone.

Are there Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) and Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) programs?

Yes, procurement provisions contained in Section 8127 of Title 38, U.S.Code, as amended by Public Law 109-461, provide veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs and SDVOSBs) an option when registering their businesses. To review the Verification Guidelines, please click here: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-10489.pdf.

What is the Certificate of Competency Program?

The Certificate of Competency (COC) program allows a small business to appeal a contracting officer’s determination that it is unable to fulfill the requirements of a specific government contract on which it is the apparent low bidder. When the small business applies for a COC, SBA industrial and financial specialists conduct a detailed review of the firm’s capabilities to perform on the contract. If the business demonstrates the ability to perform, the SBA issues a COC to the contracting officer requiring the award of that specific contract to the small business.

What constitutes excessive enforcement action by a federal agency?

Excessive federal regulatory enforcement may include, but is not limited to, repetitive audits or investigations, punitive fines, penalties, threats, retaliation or other unfair enforcement action taken by a Federal agency.

What is the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program?

SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages small business to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the nation’s R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated and the United States gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets its specific research and development needs.

SBIR targets the entrepreneurial sector because that is where most innovation and innovators thrive. However, the risk and expense of conducting serious R&D efforts are often beyond the means of many small businesses. By reserving a specific percentage of federal R&D funds for small business, SBIR protects the small business and enables it to compete on the same level as larger businesses. SBIR funds the critical startup and development stages and it encourages the commercialization of the technology, product, or service, which, in turn, stimulates the U.S. economy.

SBIR Qualifications:

Small businesses must meet certain eligibility criteria to participate in the SBIR program.

  • American-owned and independently operated
  • For-profit
  • Principal researcher employed by business
  • Company size limited to 500 employees

The SBIR System:

Each year, eleven federal departments and agencies are required by SBIR to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for award to small business.

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Transportation
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • National Science Foundation

These agencies designate R&D topics and accept proposals.

Three-Phase Program:

Following submission of proposals, agencies make SBIR awards based on small business qualification, degree of innovation, technical merit, and future market potential. Small businesses that receive awards then begin a three-phase program.

  • Phase I is the startup phase. Awards of up to $100,000 for approximately 6 months support exploration of the technical merit or feasibility of an idea or technology.
  • Phase II awards of up to $750,000, for as many as 2 years, expand Phase I results. During this time, the R&D work is performed and the developer evaluates commercialization potential. Only Phase I award winners are considered for Phase II.
  • Phase III is the period during which Phase II innovation moves from the laboratory into the marketplace. No SBIR funds support this phase. The small business must find funding in the private sector or other non-SBIR federal agency funding.

SBA Role:

The US Small Business Administration plays an important role as the coordinating agency for the SBIR program. It directs the 11 agencies’ implementation of SBIR, reviews their progress, and reports annually to Congress on its operation. SBA is also the information link to SBIR. SBA collects solicitation information from all participating agencies and publishes it quarterly in a Pre-Solicitation Announcement (PSA). The PSA is a single source for the topics and anticipated release and closing dates for each agency’s solicitations.

For more information on the SBIR Program, please contact: US Small Business Administration Office of Technology 409 Third Street, SW Washington, DC 20416 (202) 205-6450

What is the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program?

STTR is an important small business program that expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation research and development arena. Central to the program is expansion of the public/private sector partnership to include the joint venture opportunities for small business and the nation’s premier nonprofit research institutions. STTR’s most important role is to foster the innovation necessary to meet the nation’s scientific and technological challenges in the 21st century.

Competitive Opportunity for Small Business:

STTR is a highly competitive program that reserves a specific percentage of federal R&D funding for award to small business and nonprofit research institution partners. Small business has long been where innovation and innovators thrive. But the risk and expense of conducting serious R&D efforts can be beyond the means of many small businesses.

Conversely, nonprofit research laboratories are instrumental in developing high-tech innovations. But frequently, innovation is confined to the theoretical, not the practical. STTR combines the strengths of both entities by introducing entrepreneurial skills to high-tech research efforts. The technologies and products are transferred from the laboratory to the marketplace. The small business profits from the commercialization, which, in turn, stimulates the U.S. economy.

STTR Qualifications:

Small businesses must meet certain eligibility criteria to participate in the STTR Program.

  • American-owned and independently operated
  • For-profit
  • Principal researcher need not be employed by small business
  • Company size limited to 500 employees

(No size limit for nonprofit research institution)

The nonprofit research institution must also meet certain eligibility criteria.

  • Located in the US
  • Meet one of three definitions
  • Nonprofit college or university
  • Domestic nonprofit research organization
  • Federally funded R&D center (FFRDC)

The STTR System:

Each year, five federal departments and agencies are required by STTR to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for award to small business/nonprofit research institution partnerships.

  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • National Science Foundation

These agencies designate R&D topics and accept proposals.

Three-Phase Program:

Following submission of proposals, agencies make STTR awards based on small business/nonprofit research institution qualification, degree of innovation, and future market potential. Small businesses that receive awards then begin a three-phase program.

Last Modified: December 5th, 2009