ComplianceFinanceOctober 06, 2020

Who can help you with government contracting?

There are a variety of special federal programs and initiatives designed to benefit small businesses in the government contracting process. In addition, help is available from a variety of public and private sources, including counseling services.

Firms, both large and small, interested in doing business with the federal government must help themselves by learning how the federal government conducts its business and by identifying and seeking out those purchasing offices that buy the products and services they can supply.

However, additional help and advice are available to you as you work through this maze called government contracting. You can get assistance directly from the government as well as from government-sponsored and commercial counseling services as you go through the contracting process.

Each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Depending on your situation and circumstances, you will have to determine which one or which combination works best for you.

Assistance is also available from federal special small business programs that are designed to encourage participation by small businesses in the government contracting process, including small businesses owned by certain minority and disadvantaged groups. You may also be able to take advantage of programs administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that are designed to help small businesses market to both large business and government procurements.

Contracting help from the government

There are several ways in which the federal government tries to assist you in finding opportunities and doing business with it. By encouraging participation in the government procurement process, the more potential suppliers there are, the better the chance the government will obtain exactly what it needs at the best possible price. For that reason, there are numerous government websites devoted to government contracting. In addition, there are specialized government personnel available to assist. Government procurement conferences and publications are also valuable resources to a business that wants to sell its products or services to the government.

Obtain contracting information from government websites and personnel

The federal government has more than 4,300 websites, according to a recent GAO report. Fortunately, if you're looking for contract opportunities, you don't have to cover all of those sites.

In order to help companies identify government opportunities and buyers, the government is making a strong effort to reduce the number of locations and to create a more uniform format to simplify the process. The government is looking to establish "gateways" (i.e., websites with multiple links) to make your search easier. There are several already in existence that are being used more and more to post and find opportunities.

Following is a list of the better ones. Remember that these sites will help you find the opportunities, but once you do, you, not the government, will have to do the work.

  • FedBizOpps (Federal Business Opportunities): All government procurement opportunities of $25,000 or more are posted here. Here, government buyers are able to publicize their business opportunities by posting information directly to FedBizOpps via the Internet, and commercial companies looking to do business with the government are able to search, monitor, and retrieve opportunities solicited by the entire federal contracting community. (
  • Small Business Administration (SBA): This site has a wide range of information pertaining to small businesses as well as SBA-Net, a gateway to resources, opportunities, and networking. Most importantly, it has a direct connect to CCR database, which is fast becoming the sole database used by government buyers to locate potential small business contractors.
  • Procurement Gateway: This is the Defense Logistics Agency site for all opportunities from its buying offices.
  • Federal Acquisition Jumpstation: Although not a place where opportunities are posted, it has most links to the federal sites that small business owners would have an interest in.
    • – The U.S. government's official website providing easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse.
    • E-Verify – An Internet-based system that allows an employer, using information reported on an employee's Form I-9, to determine the eligibility of that employee to work in the United States. For most employers, the use of E-Verify is voluntary and limited to determining the employment eligibility of new hires only. To access this site, go to and click on E-Verify.
    • – This site has lots for all, personal, business, government employees and visitors to the US. It is also a portal to other government websites that might be of assistance to you. The link for businesses provides info on how to do business with the federal government, Data and Statistics, Laws and Regulations and lots and lots more.

For more government web portals, check out:

There are tons of sites that can help you find what you are looking for, spend some time researching and you will find a wealth of information. For those who are brave, try USA Search.

Specialized government personnel are available to assist you

There are several types of government employees whose main job is to help you do business with the government.

  • Small Business Specialists (SBS): By law, every government buying location must have a Small Business Specialist to work with small businesses trying to do business with that office. Major government buying offices have a full-time staff, while smaller offices have a part-time person assigned to that task. These specialists can be a valuable resource for you on the inside. Get to know them.
  • Competition Advocate: This individual is assigned at a high management level at major buying offices and is responsible for promoting the acquisition of commercial items and for promoting full and open competition. To that end, Competition Advocates challenge barriers to the acquisition of commercial items and to full and open competition, such as unnecessarily restrictive statements of work, unnecessarily detailed specifications, and unnecessarily burdensome contract clauses. They also look at requirements for a specific item to see what can be done to expand competition for the item, challenging any requirements that are not stated in terms of required performance or essential physical characteristics.
  • SBA Procurement Center Representative (PCR): Procurement Center Representatives work for the Small Business Administration, but are often located at a major government buying office. Their job is to identify items and services that could be produced or provided by small businesses and try to get them "set aside" for small businesses (i.e., only small businesses can bid on them). If the buying office is small, the PCR may work out of an SBA District office and travel to the buying office.
  • SBA Commercial Marketing Representative (CMR): Commercial Marketing Representatives monitor the performance of large companies under their large government contracts and can help you get subcontract work from large prime contractors.

Publications procurement conferences and counseling services provide government contracting assistance

The government issues a large number of publications to assist small businesses, but we're only going to mention the most useful ones. You can order these from the Government Printing Office for a fee or you can go to a government website and read or print it. If you go to a web site, try looking under "publications" or "help" to see what they have to offer.

  • Selling to the Military: This publication covers general information about items purchased by the military. It also gives locations of the buying offices and a phone number for the Small Business Office.
  • Small Business Specialists for DoD: Here is a listing of names, addresses, and phone numbers for all the resources you need to do business with the Department of Defense.
  • The General Services Administration has eliminated its printed publication about doing business with the GSA in favor of web-based information.
  • Participating in VA Acquisition Program: Here is a fact sheet that covers general information about how and what the Veterans Administration buys.

Procurement conferences

The government, as well as other non-government sponsors, hold conferences to help you in your quest. Procurement conferences are a good way to meet and speak with government buyers and large prime contractors. Some areas of the country have several conferences per year; other parts have only a few.

Usually you won't get a contract at one, but you can make valuable contacts. The "FedBizOpps News" area of the BidNet site will often announce these events and tell you whom to contact. Other government websites post these conferences on their calendars as well. You also can learn about upcoming conferences and events from your local PTAC.

Help from counseling services

If you need more personalized, ongoing assistance and advice, you can get it through government-sponsored or commercial counseling services. You can also get answers to questions and problems your business may be facing by joining a professional association.

Valuable resources available to a small business include Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs), which may be found all over the country. They are frequently associated with educational institutions. Commercial counseling services can also provide, but be sure you understand the economics of using one. There is also a government-backed membership organization called the National Contracts Management Association.

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. The Procurement Technical Assistance Program started in 1985 to help the Department of Defense place contracts in areas of the country that needed an influx of federal dollars. Although it has never been called an economic development program, it works like one to some extent.

Through cooperative agreements, the federal government enters into a cost-sharing arrangement with a state or local government or not-for-profit organization to provide general counseling services to businesses seeking government contracts. Its original purpose was only to help with military contracting and with areas of high unemployment, but over the years it has expanded to provide assistance to businesses wanting to do or doing business at the federal, state or local level.

It is a well-run and very cost-effective program with counselors with a high level of expertise.

The Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) will help you identify contractual opportunities with the government; help locate potential marketing opportunities; help prepare proposals, financial, and contractual forms; and provide guidance with regard to quality assurance, production, and/or the resolution of engineering, financial, quality or production problems. It will also provide you with assistance on e-commerce issues.

While most services are free, some PTACs may charge a nominal fee for certain services such as electronic bid matching or for getting copies of specifications and standards. You can contact one of the regional directors at Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, and the director will put you in contact with the appropriate local center.

In addition, the website could help you to locate a PTAC near you.

Commercial counseling services. Hiring a private commercial counseling service is another way to get help in doing business with the government. The good ones can offer great personalized assistance, but will cost you some kind of money, flat fee, percentage of contract, retainer plus costs, or some combination.

If you decide to use this method, try to find a service that is accustomed to working with small companies. And remember: Buyer beware. If a service tells you that it can guarantee you contracts, keep looking. Check references and talk to some of the government people that the service has worked with.

You can find a commercial counseling service through word of mouth or by searching on the Internet. Sometimes a Small Business Specialist will be able to recommend a good one.

National Contracts Management Association. The National Contracts Management Association (NCMA) is a government-supported organization that was started years ago (1959) because of the lack of good help for companies doing business with the federal government.

Over the years, it has grown in numbers and effectiveness. It is recognized for its member certification program, educational seminars, and monthly magazine, "Contract Management," which alone is worth the price of membership. The new membership fee is about $120; the annual renewal fee thereafter is about $100.

Membership also entitles you access to its members-only site on the Internet, where you can get answers and advice on contract-related questions and problems, read and download "Contract Management" magazine articles all the way back to January 1980, and get a list of websites that are helpful to contractors.

In addition to the national organization, there are local chapters in many parts of the country.

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