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Government Contracting and Acquisitions: Opportunities Don’t Always Knock—Entering at Your Own Risk

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Tosha Wilson-Davis
April 13, 2020

It is no surprise that the United States government is the largest single procurer of goods and services in the world from aircraft parts and tanks to paper clips and IT services. As a former federal government contract specialist (1102), the rules and regulations surrounding government contracting can be overwhelming. The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), also known as the “bible” to government contracting, have over 53 parts, which showcases why government contracting can be cumbersome. However, when done correctly, contractors and the government win! This is known as the famous win-win relationship.

Buying from “the small” yields huge benefits

It is important to note that government contracts are different from commercial contracts in several ways, as they contain many provisions and clauses unique to the government. There are also unique types of contracts that are specific to small businesses. These include 8(a), HUBZone, Women-Owned and Veteran-Owned programs. This list is not all-inclusive but showcases the federal government’s ability to cater to small businesses.

In FY 2018, the small business administration reported exceeding their target goals to award to small businesses stating that, “The federal government exceeded its small business federal contracting goal for the sixth consecutive year, awarding 25.05% in federal contract dollars to small businesses totaling $120.8 billion, an increase from the previous fiscal year of nearly $15 billion.” Talk about a big number! Small businesses are considered the hub of our economy and the federal government has proved this with the overwhelming number of contracts awarded during fiscal year 2018.

Efficiency and Oversight: A Must!

There are several agencies including the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of the Army (DOA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) or the General Services Administration (GSA) that are involved heavily in government contracting and procurement. This is a major area in public administration. Procuring materials or services for federal agencies requires meeting rigorous deadlines, adhering to a strict budget and funding requirements and applying strategic methods to ensure taxpayers’ monies are spent wisely. In essence, the main emphasis is on obtaining supplies or services, of requisite quality, on time, and within budget. This sounds like a mouthful but is the epitome of effective government contracting.

Of note, “Federal agencies obligated over $430 billion through contracts for products and services in the fiscal year 2015, accounting for almost 40% of the government’s discretionary spending. Because spending on contracts consumes a large portion of the federal government’s discretionary budget, Congress and the administration have taken steps to strengthen federal contracting practices and enhance oversight of government contract spending.” Whether the acquisition is $500K or $500M, government contracting requires the highest level of oversight, integrity and quality assurance. To ensure contractors supply the government with quality goods and services agreed to under the terms and agreements outlined, the federal government must conduct proper oversight of contracts. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) are paramount in ensuring contractors are accountable for the goods and services that they provide.

Government Contracting in the New Decade

The specific nature and extent of government contract administration will vary from contract to contract; however, what will remain constant in government contracting is the constant need for supplies and services and the way these commodities and services are procured, which is ultimately by way of the FAR. This “bible” of government contracting will continue to stand even amid the most widespread economic turbulence.

Furthermore, the federal government will always be a prime purchaser of goods and services, more so now than ever before as we not only start a new decade but also work to overcome a pandemic which has locked down several countries. So, now is the time for small businesses to enter Big Brother’s procurement arena. Of course, there is always a risk, but small businesses must be vigilant in researching the market and process to understand the rules of the game. Doing so will be critical in fighting the current pandemic and any future economic pestilences.


Author: Tosha Wilson-Davis, MPA, MSCJ, CPRW is the Founder & President of Penciled IN Resume Writing & Career Services, LLC and a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW). Tosha is a former1102 contract specialist with DOD and GSA and spent six years in federal government contracting, working her way from an entry-level GS-7 position to a GS-12 position. During her six years as a contract specialist, her duties included extensive proposal writing and creation of RFIs, RFQs, and RFPs and processing pre-award and post-award actions. Tosha has extensive knowledge of government contracting and earned her Level I Government Contracting and Level I Program Management certifications through the Defense Acquisition University (DAU).

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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