The bidding process for government contracts in the United States

All the questions

The bidding process

I notice

Part 5 of the FAR provides a core set of “policies and procedures for posting contract opportunities and award information.”29 For contract actions that are expected to exceed $25,000, federal agencies must post a contract action summary to a government-wide entry point (GPE). As of 2019, the primary GPE used for federal procurement is the Award Management System (SAM) website available at The The site is also used by the US government as a repository for awarded contracts. Agencies are generally required to post notice of proposed contractual action at least 15 days before posting a solicitation for proposals or tenders and must allow for a minimum response time of 30 to 45 days.30 For contracts using procedures other than full and open competition, a summary of the Sole Source Decision must be displayed based on the type of contract.31

ii Procedures

Government agencies should use full and open competitive bidding procedures for contracts whenever possible. Parameters of competition are defined in the Competition in Procurement Act (ICCA)32 and FAR Part 6. The two main types of competitive procedures are sealed bids and competitive proposals.33

For sealed bidding procedures under Part 14 of the FARs, bidders must submit a bid in response to a solicitation issued by the agency. Offers are publicly opened by the agency and evaluated without discussion. The award is made on the basis of the price and “price related factors” included in the RFP and is made to the lowest priced bidder deemed compliant based on the criteria set out in the RFP.34

Negotiated procedures under Part 15 of the FARs are more commonly used in competitive bidding. Under these procedures, offerors must submit proposals that meet the specific instructions and evaluation criteria provided in the solicitation.35 Once Offerors have submitted proposals, Agencies have the opportunity to engage in discussions with Offerors to clarify points in their proposals or to identify significant weaknesses or gaps.36

Different procedures govern more limited situations where full and open competition is not used. For example, federal procurement schedule contracts with the General Services Administration are governed by specific procedures in FAR Part 8.4. Task and delivery orders issued under IDIQ contracts are governed by Part 16 of the FAR. Small business contracts are governed by specific procedures set forth in Part 19 of the FAR.

iii Modification of offers

Bids submitted under sealed bidding procedures may be modified or withdrawn if notice is provided before the time set for the opening of bids.37 Similarly, under negotiated procedures, revisions or amendments to proposals must be received no later than the date fixed for the submission of proposals.38 Proposals submitted under negotiated procedures may also be revised after submission in response to discussions with the agency.39

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