Solicitation packages usually range anywhere from 10 to 50 or more pages, depending on dollar value, the Statement of Work and other requirements. They will include clauses and instructions and other information that will tell you the who, what, where and how of the contract.
The first six positions of a solicitation number (e.g., DAA123-00-R-1234) identify the department or agency issuing the document, the next two positions (e.g., 00) are the last two digits of the fiscal year issued, and the single alpha character (e.g., R) identifies the type of solicitation. For example, B = Invitation for Bid, P = Purchase Order, C = Contract, Q = Request for Quote, R = Request for Proposal, etc. The last four positions identify the sequential order for a particular solicitation.
Bids with an alpha of Q or T are for requirements under $100,000. Usually T bids do not have technical data packages included with them, so if you want to bid on them you are looking at reverse engineering a product or trying to go to the original manufacturer and getting the technical data from them . . . lot's of luck!
Note: There is a new character, Z, which is used by at least two agencies for special evaluation and approval. You must first receive approval from and, in most cases, the local DCMO which will visit you and see if you are a "regular" dealer/manufacturer in the goods you are trying to sell to the government. These types of contracts will most likely result in using Electronic Data Interchange as a condition of the contract. So if you see a "Z" bid, be aware that it is a special contract where you will be expected to have your EDI up and running.
The bid package you receive will most likely come in one of three forms:
- Invitation for Bid (IFB): An IFB is an advertised contract, also referred to as a "Sealed bid." There are no discussions, and the bid package is considered complete for bidding purposes. The price is a major consideration, and the signing of the solicitation form, Standard Form 33 (SF 33), by the bidder and by the government creates a binding document. The solicitation number will look something like DAAE20-00-B-1234, with the "B" in the number indicating it is a sealed bid. It is competitive and the low bid will get it. Also, it is probably worth more than $100,000 in value.
- Request for Proposal (RFP): An RFP is a negotiated contract. There will be discussions, and the bidder may get the opportunity to change bid pricing, technical requirements, etc. As with the IFB, above, the SF 33 is the form that will be used and, again, becomes a binding contract when both the bidder and the government sign. The solicitation number will look something like N00023-00-R-1234, with the "R" in the number indicating it is a negotiated solicitation. Price and other factors will determine the winner. Here again the value is probably more than $100,000.
- Request for Quote (RFQ): An RFQ is a request for information that may include price, but is not a binding contract or document. This is also considered a negotiated bid because the government will want to talk over the information obtained. The number will look something like F62509-00-Q-1234, with the "Q" indicating the solicitation is for information and prices. It is negotiated and may be valued at greater than $100,000. If a contract is made, the government will use a Standard Form 26, Award/Contract.
Common Government Forms
Here are some of the more common forms that you may encounter in bidding on government work.
DD Form 1707, Information to Offerors or Quoters, is a form used by the Defense Department along with the SF 33. It is used by bidders to indicate no response to the solicitation and provides the buying office with various pieces of information such as why you are not bidding.
Standard Form 33, Solicitation, Offer and Award, is a solicitation/contract form used by the federal government not only to solicit offers but also to award a contract since it is a bi-lateral (i.e., two-signature) document. This means that the bidder signs the document and submits it to the government and, upon acceptance of the bid, the government signs the same document and a binding contract is established. This form is used for either sealed bids or negotiated contracts valued at $100,000 or more.
Standard Form 26, Award/Contract, is a form used by the federal government to award a contract, usually as the result of a Request for Quotation. Both parties sign, but it requires references to the basic solicitation and/or other documents. In general, the SF 26 and SF 33 ask for similar information to be filled in, but the SF 26 requires some certification information that is not required on the SF 33.
Standard Form 30, Amendment of Solicitation/Modification of Contract, is a form used to do what its title implies: amend a solicitation before it closes or modify a contract that has been awarded. Normally this form is filled out by the government and is then sent to the bidder or contractor for signature.
Standard Form 18, Request for Quotation, is used to obtain information and quotations, but the responses are not considered offers. A SF 26 is sometimes used to award a contract resulting from the use of a SF 18.
Standard Form 1449, Solicitation /Contract/Order for Commercial Items, is used to buy commercial items when the simplified acquisition procedures are used. It can also be used to ship and receive product.