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Get the Technical Data You Need to Create an Offer on a Government Contract

Filed under Government Contracting. Fact checked on May 24, 2012.

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Government contracting requirements are based on commercial specifications and standards. Getting the appropriate type of spec for the contract under consideration is a prerequisite for setting an appropriate price for your offer.

Once you have reviewed and understand the contents of a government contracting bid package, it's time to start gathering information needed to complete the offer, including the technical data related to a particular bid.

Technical data is comprised of the specifications and standards, such as engineering design and manufacturing documents and drawings, that describe the requirements for a material, product or service. It also includes the criteria for determining whether those requirements are met.

Under federal regulations, the specs cover only the government's actual minimum needs in a manner to encourage maximum practicable competition. The government uses a spec only when it knows exactly what it wants and needs.

With the recent changes in acquisition policy, more requirements will be based on commercial specifications and standards. Therefore, if the requirement is being purchased under Part 12 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (Acquisition of Commercial Items), then the item or service is being bought against performance criteria citing commercial specs and standards. The two related issues you have to consider are what type of government spec are you dealing, and obtain the correct specs for the contract offer that you want to create. Only with that information can you establish an appropriate amount for your offer.

Types of Government Specs

Government contract specifications can be divided into two major categories: those that relate to the civilian needs of the government, and those that relate to military procurement.

  • Federal Specifications: These cover materials, products or services used by more then two federal agencies. They are issued by the General Services Administration (GSA) and must be used by all federal agencies. Federal specifications can be obtained at or from your local PTAC.
  • Military Specifications: These cover items or services that are intrinsically military in character or commercial items modified to meet special requirements of the military. They are distributed by Naval Publications and Forms Center (NPFC), located in Philadelphia, PA. NPFC stocks and issues Department of Defense printed and digital matter without charge to federal agencies and the general public. Documents distributed by NPFC include military specifications and standards, federal specifications and standards, Qualified Product Lists (QPLs), Military Handbooks, and Departmental Documents. Here again, many PTACs offer military specifications and standards as a part of their services to their clients.

Getting the Correct Specifications for a Contract

These days, finding specs and standards can be as easy as logging onto a subscription service on the Internet. Subscription services can get you the specs quickly and easily, but at a hefty price tag. On the other hand, your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) can provide you with the specs you need and, in most cases, will either charge only a small fee or provide them for free. Either way, it ensures that you get the specs required by the solicitation. (Go to www.aptec-us.org to find your local PTAC.)

Warning

If there appears to be a conflict or question about what specs are required, get it resolved immediately. Whatever you do, don't try to second-guess the government. We can cite case after case where a contractor made a wrong assumption about a spec and it ended up costing the contractor big money.

Normally when you order the solicitation from the buying office, it will send the necessary technical data package with it unless the documents are considered common and are only referenced. If the buying office doesn't send the tech information, then you will have to contact the resource identified in the solicitation. Because of the government's shift to the Internet and e-commerce environment, the solicitation may include a website where you can download the necessary documents and the appropriate readers for the drawings.

Work Smart

You may also want to think about developing your own library of the specs and standards that you use most often, either in hard copy or electronic format. When you find a good site on the Internet for specs and standards, remember to bookmark it for later visits. Government specifications are required on a large number of items. Check out what is required on the bids that interest you and start to build your library. It will be very helpful to you in the long run.

Web Resources Are Available to Get Technical Data on Government Contracts

The federal government continues to move more and more acquisition processes to the Internet and e-business environment. To secure technical data, the government has developed a new website, Federal Technical Data Solutions (FedTeDS). It is an online dissemination solution designed to safeguard sensitive acquisition-related information for use by all federal agencies and their approved business partners. This now means that there are more controls in place to keep track of who is asking for the information.

These sites should help you locate the data you will need. The Technical Data Packages (TDPs) found on these sites have the engineering design and manufacturing drawings related to the items found in FedTeDS solicitations.

  • Automated Bidsets Interface Web Server — The ABIWeb Server is a system that allows Engineering Data Lists (EDLs) and digitized drawings for open procurements to be electronically retrieved by the public. The ABIWeb Server allows the identification and retrieval of drawing lists and digitized drawings for solicitations currently open at DLA Supply Centers. Drawings that are not in electronic format, are classified, or have restrictions on dissemination will not be available from ABIWeb
  • Naval Logistics Library Virtual Bidroom — This site offers engineering drawings for the Naval Supply Systems Command bid-sets only. Instructions for using this site are available at the site.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers Electronic Bid Solicitation (EBS) has been replaced with the Central Contractor Registration and FEDTEDS. This is actually FedBizOpps which is becoming the one-stop shop for finding bid opportunities, technical data and additional data for bidding. Go to the Vendor Registration link. You will need a DUNS number to register with FBO.
  • Defense Standardization Program (DSP) — Customers now have immediate and free access to Defense specifications and standards through this greatly improved site. Users simply click on 'SPECS and STDS', and they are led to a DTIC document search screen, on which they enter the document information (e.g., number or title). The results are then displayed, and the user selects the desired document. If it's a Defense Spec or Std, the ASSIST-Enterprise screen is then displayed, allowing the user to click on the selected document's icon. The user then views a full text version of the document in Adobe PDF, which can be downloaded and printed.
  • Government Industry Data Mart (GIDM) — Through this site you have access to the following:
    • CCR system, which is a repository of all companies and agencies registered to do business with the federal government
    • Universal Directory of Commercial Items (UDCI), which is a global catalog of items based on Commercial bar code (Universal Product Code (UPC) or European Article Number (EAN)
    • The U.S./Canada Joint Certification Program System, which assists in the identification of companies that have been assigned a Certification Number under the Joint Certification Program
    • The Business Identification Number Cross-reference System (BINCS), which identifies foreign and domestic government/commercial contractors, manufacturers and suppliers
    • Government Industry Reference Data Edit and Review (GIRDER) program, which works with government manufacturers and suppliers to maintain the correct relationship between the CAGE code, manufacturer part number and National Stock Number (NSN)

Web Tools

The following tools and links can assist you in viewing solicitations and technical drawings:

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader: The free Adobe Acrobat Reader allows you to view the solicitations that are offered by the many sources contributing to DoDBusOpps.com.
  • CALS Raster Format Viewer: The CALS Raster Format Viewer is required to view technical drawings. DoDBusOpps is aware of two viewers that support this format:
    • ImageR is an image viewer for viewing and manipulating various types of raster and vector files. You must register with the JEDMICS website to download ImageR.
    • SwiftView's Plug-In is a free trial download. After a several week trial, there is a 30-second time delay before each document is viewed. Information on licensing is available from this site.

Have you ever looked, for example, at those codes for MIL-STD-2073 and wondered what they were? Well, here's a Packaging Code Lookup website that might just be the best way to decipher those codes.

If you really want to get into learning about military packaging and marking standards, try the SAIC website. It covers just about everything you need to know about this spec.

FBO list of viewers. The following are viewers you can use:

  • WinZip — Use to unzip compressed technical data files (.zip)
  • Adobe Acrobat — Use to view technical data files saved as PDFs (portable document format)
  • Microsoft Office Viewers and Converters — Use to view Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, Project, Access, Outlook (.doc, .docx, .xls, .ppt, etc.) documents
  • Lucas MIDAS Viewer — Use to view technical data from OC-ALC
  • Irfanview — Use to view TIFF files (.tif, .bmp, .jpg, .gif, .png)
  • ArNoNa CADViewer — Use to view AutoCad Drawing Web Format files ( .dwf)
  • Autodesk DWF Viewer — Use to view AutoCad Drawing Web Format files (.dwf)
  • Autodesk Composer — Use to view design web format files (dwg, dwf)
  • Autodesk Volo View — Use to view design web format files (dwg, dwf)
  • Bentley View — Use to view drawings in.dwg and .dxf (Flatout) formats
  • Maxview — Use to view .maxfr, .svd, .cal, .tiff, Jedmics .C4, .jpeg, .bmp files
  • PageView — Use to view Print and Postscript Files (.prn, .pcl, .ps)
  • Trix DrawingCenter — use to view DWG, DXF, DWG, DGN, Jedmics C4, TIF, CALS, PDF files

When you are trying to open attachments, assuming you are authorized to view them, if you receive an "open" error or are asked to convert the attachment files, it may mean the document type is one that you do not have the software to view. You may need to install a document viewer, such as Acrobat (.pdf files) or WinZip (to decompress.zip files) on your system.

If the file type is not on this list, please contact the solicitation Primary Point of Contact for assistance. This is located at the FBO website. There is a direct link at the Winning Government Contract website under Info Link.


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