The government acquisition process is usually separated into four steps: pre-solicitation, solicitation and evaluation, award, and contract administration. The pre-solicitation stage lays the foundation for soliciting proposals and awarding the contract.
Now, who makes the determination of who wins, or even to buy a product or service for the government in the first place? It depends on a few things, but it helps to understand what the Contract Officer (CO or KO) is thinking.
Watch the full length video cast with DoD Contracting Officer guru, Kevin Jans.
CONTRACTING OFFICERS AND THE THREE DECIDERS
You’ve seen the acronym in Request for Proposals, and it is familiar to you if you are a part of the business development or proposal capture teams. A Contracting Officer is the individual who can bind the government to an agreement which is greater in value than the federal micro-purchase threshold (of $10,000).
Not to be confused with the Contracting Officer Representative (COR), the Contracting Officer has a very important role per the (Federal Acquisition Regulations) FAR/DFAR.
Contracting officers manage performance of all necessary actions in a contract, ensure compliance with the terms or fine print between the government and contractor, and guarantee that the best interest of the U.S. is met as a part of these contractual relationships. The FAR authorizes the Contracting Officer to delegate certain tasks to the COR, but only a Contracting Officer has the overall authority to enter, direct, or terminate contracts.
Who are the three main “deciders” in the acquisition process? Money, needs, and the authority to make a transaction. At separate points through the acquisition phases, different entities have the power and it is important for both government and industry stakeholders to acknowledge how and when the power shifts.
STAFFING AND THE ACQUISITION PROCESS
Recruitment teams may feel removed from this piece of the government contracting process, but the staffing function should also be informed on the Contracting Officer’s role. There are variables that impact a defense contractor’s ability to provide resources and the people to meet the government’s needs in the contract. There are issues that impact contracts – an instance that a company needs to hire employees – that can ultimately leave vacant billets open, mission unfulfilled, and ruin your reputation with the government customer you are supporting.
However, government and industry often both contribute to the challenges surrounding hiring and retaining a cleared workforce throughout the execution of a contract. For a good portion of the time, communication between these two entities is the key to recognizing when staffing problems may be avoided during the proposal process, acquisition and contract award phases.
THE CONTRACTING OFFICER PODCAST
Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks. Even though the podcast’s name sounds limiting in the audience it serves, it is certainly not just for contracting officers or even just for those in the contracting profession. All individuals serving in the DoD with an interest in the acquisition world can benefit from the insight and explanations of a complicated and convoluted, but necessary part of our government running.