The federal contracting process is made up of six key phases and begins with planning and forecasting acquisition needs and ends with administering the awarded contract. These phases are described below.
Timely and reliable planning and forecasting ensures successful and legal acquisition of CDC’s services, supplies, materials, equipment, and construction. Quality acquisition requires teamwork and collaboration among CDC programs, contracting specialists, and budget analysts. This phase occurs internal to the funding agency; potential contractors are not involved in this phase.
For successful planning, CDC’s centers, institute, and offices (CIOs), commonly referred to as “program offices,” must project the technical requirements (supplies and services) and associated funding needs for both the upcoming fiscal year and those that may extend beyond the next fiscal year. Coordination between the CIOs and the Office of Financial Resources (OFR) assists the CIOs to develop accurate budget forecasts prior to the start of the next fiscal year. From a perspective of technical requirements, the program office will begin with a description of the government’s needs stated in terms sufficient to allow conduct of market research.
The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR)External and the Health and Human Services Acquisition Regulations (HHSAR)External provide detailed acquisition planning guidance at FAR Part 7.1 Acquisition Planning, and HSSAR Part 307.1.
After planning and forecasting, the contracts initiation phase begins with the development of a complete acquisition plan (AP) package. Program offices have the primary responsibility for developing the AP package with OFR providing guidance and assistance as needed. The quality of the information developed during this phase has a significant impact on the success of all subsequent phases of the acquisition process. This phase occurs internal to the funding agency; potential contractors are not involved in this phase.
The acquisition process begins with identifying the technical requirement and funding needed, as identified in Phase I. The acquisition cycle time begins from the time OFR receives and accepts an AP package to the time of contract award. A high-quality AP package is critical to ensuring contracts are awarded in the shortest time possible with minimum re-work. In addition to supporting the development of AP packages, OFR in coordination with the program office also performs market research and vendor outreach throughout this phase. The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR)External provides descriptive information about market research at FAR Part 10, Market Research.
This phase begins when OFR accepts the AP package as complete and final. The package is assigned to an OFR contract specialist, who will prepare a detailed solicitation document to facilitate the submission of responsive proposals from qualified offerors. During this phase of the acquisition process, OFR has the primary responsibility. The Program Office is responsible for prompt and clear responses to any questions the Contract Specialist may have regarding the requirement, and for providing any additional documentation.
When the solicitation is prepared and approved in accordance with OFR policy, it is often issued through FedBizOppsExternal, the federal government’s electronic advertising window for federal acquisitions.
Solicitations are developed and issued in accordance with FAR Parts 12, 13, 14, or 15, along with corresponding parts of the HHSAR and OFR Standard Operating Procedures.
The evaluation phase begins when OFR receives the offerors’ proposals to the solicitation. In order to determine which proposal will provide the government with the best quality product or service at a fair and reasonable price/cost, OFR reviews both the offerors’ technical and business proposals. Determinations are based on a full and fair assessment of each proposal. As the technical experts, the Program Office reviews and evaluates the technical proposal. Then, along with OFR’s guidance and assistance, the Program Office reviews the business proposals.
If necessary, negotiations are held between offerors found to be in the competitive range once the reviews are completed. OFR is the primary facilitator throughout this process, and ensures all offers are evaluated in accordance with the instructions in the solicitations that include the pre-determined evaluation criteria.
Proposal evaluations are conducted in accordance with Parts 12, 13, 14, or 15 of the FAR, corresponding parts of the HHSAR and OFR Standard Operating Procedures.
This phase begins after all offers have been evaluated, any negotiations required have been concluded, and the government has determined a successful offeror. The Contract Specialist prepares a final award determination which is approved by the Contracting Officer. All other offerors are formally notified of the award decision and debriefing sessions are conducted by OFR, if requested by an offeror. The responsibility of notifying unsuccessful offerors and processing formal award documents rests with OFR but the program office usually participates in, or provides input to, the debriefings.
Contract awards are made in accordance with Parts 12, 13, 14, or 15 of the FAR, corresponding parts of the HHSAR and OFR Standard Operating Procedures.
The administration phase begins with the award of the contract. During this phase, it is critical that work is conducted in accordance with the statement of work (SOW) and is monitored by the contracting officer’s representative (COR) for technical compliance. The COR does not have the authority to make any material changes to the contract. Only the OFR contracting officer may approve changes to the contract, to include extending periods of performance. All correspondence or actions relating to the contract are maintained in the OFR contract file, to include final close out or termination documents.
Contract administration is conducted in accordance with Part 42 of the FAR, Part 342.1 of the HHSAR and OFR Standard Operating Procedures.