... How to Win U.S. Military and FEMA Contracts

FEMA Contracts Explained

Acquisition Procedures

Like all other Federal purchasing offices, FEMA buys supplies or services in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) by either sealed bidding or negotiation. For your information and easy reference, these methods have been summarized below. When responding to the Agency's stated requirements, careful attention should be paid to references to the FAR and specific solicitation instructions provided.

Procurement by Sealed Bidding

When an award exceeding $25,000 is expected, a procurement office will publish a synopsis of the requirement in the Commerce Business Daily (CBD). The requirement may also by publicized through trade associations, posting of the solicitation in other Federal agencies, etc.

An Invitation for Bids (IFB) will include either a copy of the specifications for the needed item or will tell how a copy may be obtained. It will also include instructions for the preparation of bids and will state the conditions of purchase, delivery and payment. Bids submitted on a proposed purchase are publicly opened in the procurement office at the time specified in the solicitation. A Federal employee presiding over the bid opening will read aloud pertinent facts about each bid (including price, terms, free on board (FOB) point, etc.). When filling requirement by this method, a purchasing office may also send an IFB to firms included on its "bidder's List" for the particular item/services desired. After subsequent analysis and evaluation, a contract will be awarded to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder.

Procurement by Negotiations

Under many circumstances, Government agencies are authorized to make purchases by direct negotiation with qualified suppliers and without formally advertising bids. For example, a purchase may be made by negotiation if for any reason it is not possible to draft adequate specifications. In those cases, the procurement office will synopsize the requirement in the Commerce Business Daily and will issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to all interested suppliers. Proposals submitted in response to the RFP will be evaluated in accordance with criteria set forth in the solicitation.

Initially, the technical aspects of the proposals will be evaluated for technical merit using the rating categories and relative weights indicated in the RFP. Secondly, the proposal price and/or costs will be considered independently of the technical criteria. The contracting officer will evaluate these facts and a contract will be awarded to a responsible contractor whose proposal conforms to the solicitation and is most advantageous to the government, price and other factors considered.

Simplified Acquisition Procedures

Of the greatest interest to many small business firms is the procurement procedure that simplifies and expedites the procurement of low dollar value, high demand items. Under this provision, known as "Simplified Acquisition Procedures," procurement of supplies and services amounting to $100,000 or less may be acquired by obtaining informal quotations from vendors and implementing the transaction by simplified acquisition procedures.

This procedure, while expediting the procurement, does not eliminate the necessity for competitive bidding. Purchases of more that $2,500 require the solicitation of three suppliers, and the sources are generally restricted to the local trade area. Purchases not exceeding $2,500 may be made without the need for competitive quotations, if the prices are considered reasonable. Quotations under $2,500 are generally solicited orally. Written solicitation are used when (1) the suppliers are outside the local area, (2) special specifications are involved, (3) a large number of line items are included in a single proposed procurement, (4) obtaining oral quotations is not considered economical or possible. Solicitations issued under these procedures are normally identified as a Request for Quotation (RFQ).

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Unsolicited Proposals

FEMA accepts unsolicited proposals for products and services, which contribute, to the objectives of the Agency. Unsolicited proposals are written offers to perform a proposed task or effort, initiated by a prospective contractor and submitted to FEMA with the objective of obtaining a contract.

A valid unsolicited proposal must be innovative and unique, be independently originated and developed by the offeror, without Government supervision and include sufficient detail to determine if it is a worthwhile effort that could benefit the agency.

The following information should be included in an unsolicited proposal:
1. Name, address, type of business
2. Name of business and technical individuals to be contacted for negotiation
3. Identify proprietary data
4. List other Federal, State and local governments receiving proposal
5. Date and representative's signature authorized to enter into a contract

Technical information should include:
1. A concise abstract limited to 200 words
2. Stated objectives, method of approach, anticipated results, and how the work will help support the Agency in its mission
3. Names of key personnel and alternatives

Supporting Information should include:
1. Estimated costs in sufficient detail to allow for evaluation
2. Period of time proposal is valid (usually six months)
3. Type of contract preferred
4. Proposed duration of the effort
5. Description of organization, previous experience, and facilities available
6. Information concerning conflicts of interest, security clearances, and environmental impacts, if applicable

Unsolicited proposals shall, after performing an initial review, be circulated for evaluation. Once the evaluation is complete the point of contact shall be notified of their conclusions and recommendations.

Additional information regarding the preparation of unsolicited proposals may be obtained by writing to:
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Acquisition Support Division
500 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20472

The Commerce Business Daily (CBD) is a daily publication which lists all major Federal government solicitations, contract awards, subcontracting lead, surplus-property sales and foreign business opportunities. In this publication, FEMA and the other Federal government agencies announce their need for goods and services expected to cost more than $25,000. Persons who want to do business with the government should subscribe to this publication and review it daily. It is the only way to keep fully informed of Federal contracting opportunities.

To subscribe, contact:
The Superintendent of Documents
Government Printing Office
PO Box 371954
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954

The CBD is also available at most public and Federal libraries. Each CBD announcement provides general information on the type of services or supplies sought, the name and telephone number of a contact person, and invites qualified businesses and organization to request a copy of the detailed solicitation for a bid or proposal.

The announcement will also explain if a particular contract has been set aside exclusively for small business or local area business. When requesting a copy of a solicitation, be sure to refer to the solicitation number published in the CBD announcement. The CBD also includes announcements of all Federal contract awards over $25,000 that are likely to result in subcontract opportunities.

The Bidders' Mailing List

FEMA does not maintain an active solicitation mailing list. Instead, we locate qualified small businesses through the Small Business Administration's Pro-Net, which is an electronic gateway of procurement information about small businesses. It is a search engine for contracting officers, a marketing tool for small firms and a "link" to procurement opportunities and important information. If you are seeking to do business with FEMA you should register with the Small Business Administration's PRO-NET located on SBA's web site www.sba.gov or you may contact your local SBA office or local library to register. Registration is free.

FEMA also seeks small businesses through the General Services Administrations Federal Supply Schedule program. The schedules allow agencies to buy commonly used supplies and services in varying quantities at lower prices while obtaining discounts associated with volume buying. After a competitive solicitation, GSA awards these contracts committing firms to provide supplies and services at stated prices for given periods of time, but without specifying quantities or delivery schedules. GSA publishes the information needed for placing orders against the schedule contracts. You can find additional information from your local GSA office.

Marketing Tips For Small Business

1. Read the Commerce Business Daily (CBD), published by the U.S. Department of Commerce which lists all Federal contracting activities including FEMA procurements. The Commerce Business Daily is also an excellent source for possible subcontracting leads since all major contract awards are published in the as well.

2. Be alert to announcements of business opportunity conferences, trade fairs, and other federal attended or sponsored industrial liaison meetings in your area. Make it a point to participate whenever possible.