Obtaining government contract work is a complicated process. Over the years, lawmakers have passed a suite of regulations that unify the bidding process for all departments and government organizations requiring contract work. Prioritizing fairness, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) helps the bidding process adhere to obligations like affirmative action, minimum wages and other non-discriminatory policies.

As a way to fairly choose a contractor for government work, federal agencies use an anonymous sealed bidding method. Contractors who understand the government’s expectations for these bids may have greater success in securing them.

Soliciting sealed bids

When a federal agency needs contract work, it will assemble an Invitation for Bids (IFB). The IFB is a comprehensive outline of the expectations of the job. The agency will display the IFB in various places including newspapers, trade journals, the government’s Commerce Business Daily, and to the agency’s solicitation mailing list.

Interested contractors will then assemble their bids and submit them. The agency’s Contracting Officer (CO) reads the proposals aloud publicly. The bids pass through some administrative and evaluative processes that clear them of mistakes and ensure their accuracy. After this, the CO awards the contract to the lowest responsive bid that meets the terms of the IFB. The FAR then reevaluates the bid, ensuring prospective awardees:

  • Have the necessary finances to fulfill the expectations of the job
  • Can stick to the schedule
  • Have a satisfactory performance record
  • Demonstrably practice integrity and business ethics
  • Have the necessary administrative infrastructure
  • Have the needed construction materials and equipment
  • Qualify to receive a government award under applicable regulations

After evaluating the added costs for transportation and taxes, the CO will award the contract to whichever bid is most advantageous — generally the one with the lowest total price. The successful bidder receives their award document and can commence the work.

Legal consultation can help

Contractors delving into the world of government contracts for the first time may have questions about the bidding process or other ways to secure government work. An attorney familiar with construction law can provide answers and help navigate dense government forms. A lawyer will also help build a secure bid with adequate protections and in adherence to social program obligations.