Government Contracting Glossary

This is meant to be a no-nonsense glossary of some of the terms used on this site and in the government contracting world. Acronyms can be brutal, but nowhere is that worse than in the government contracting space.

  • 8(a): Designation given by the SBA
  • BPA: Blank Purchase Agreement. A type of contract vehicle, or a giant pile of cash (blank check?) that can be spent of task orders by the specific issuing government agency.
  • CAGE: Commercial and Government Entity┬ácode. Government issued code that references your company and location. You get it through the SAM registration process.
  • CO: Contracting Officer. Sometimes called KO, this is the person who decides if you get to do work for the government or not. They also are the person who you have to keep happy during delivery!
  • COR: Contracting Officer’s Representative. The person you actually have to keep happy during delivery because they will tell the CO everything that goes on! They are usually program oriented and should be your best friend, because they’re the ones who will push for things on your behalf.
  • CPFF: Cost Plus Fixed Fee. A cost reimbursable contract type. Read fee as profit. Sometimes shortened to “cost plus”. You say to the government, I spent $1M and have a 8% fee so please pay me $1.08M. This means that DCAA/DCMA will be all over you to ensure that you ACTUALLY did spend that money you said. This does, however, guarantee profit, so that’s cool!
  • DCAA: Defense Contract Audit Agency. The watchdog government agency that has the task of ensuring that contractors spend money the way they say they will. They can be scary and have the ability to make things difficult for a company and you want to be ahead of them at all times. Know what you’re doing and why or risk get seriously screwed by these guys later!
  • DCMA: Defense Contract Management Agency. DoD focused (usually) version of DCAA. Same things apply, but the government customer gets to choose who they want to watch you.
  • Delivery Order: See Task Order. They’re the same thing.
  • DUNS: Data Universal Numbering System aka Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) ID number. Number that D&B assigns that you can use as an identifier that is not your FEIN. This will be moved to a SAM ID number later.
  • DFARS: Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement. Extra FAR clauses that come with working for the DoD or similar agencies.
  • FAR: Federal Acquisition Regulation. All the rules that you have to follow and that protect you in the course of working for the government. You HAVE to be familiar with these and the ones that are in your contract. the CO gets to decide what FAR clauses are in your contract, pay close attention before you sign on!
  • FEIN: Federal Employment Identification Number. A Social Security number for your company. Sometimes just referenced as EIN.
  • FP: Fixed Price. A contract type that means you’re bidding on the total cost of doing the work, and it’s a fixed price. Can be risky without diligence, but profit is usually higher to cover risks.
  • GSA: Government Services Agency. They are the gatekeepers to many of the government acquisitions. They also own almost everything that the government has, it’s kind of crazy!
  • GWAC: Governmentwide Acquisition Contract. A type of contract vehicle, usually very large and usually specific to types of companies (like 8(a)) or specific types of services. Issued by a specific agency, but often used by many others. Sometimes labeled as “best in class” which is usually code for “tough to get on, but worth it because everyone wants to use it.”
  • HUBZone: Historically Underutilized Business Zone. SBA certification that your company is located in a HUBZone and verified. This is valuable, but honestly a terribly burdensome process for a small business with some hard rules to follow. Seriously. Think twice before going through this. This was meant to drive business to places where there isn’t much going on.
  • IDIQ: Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity. A type of contract vehicle, or a giant pile of cash (indefinite?) that can be spent on task orders by various government agencies.
  • Indirect rates: literal cost of running your business that gets wrapped into your labor costs so you can run your business. This is what DCAA/DCMA are most interested in examining because there are LOTS of rules.
  • KO: Contracting Officer. See CO definition.
  • MAS: Mass Aquisition Schedule. The remaining GSA Schedule after consolidation of others, like IT70, MOBIS, PSS. I’m not going to define those because they’re deprecated. Everything is in the MAS now!
  • SAM: System for Award Management. Sam.gov website where you manage your record. It’s complicated, but critical. One note, your account has to be refreshed at least once a year!
  • SBA: Small Business Administration. The most helpful place to go to get a chance to compete against large companies. Their programs are meant to be “low burden” but they really are high burden in the end. They’re usually overloaded and slow to do things, but I’d say they’re getting better and they are a must-appease to stay competitive. Some of the typical programs are 8(a), HUBZone, SDVOB, WOSB and being in these programs will really help find work through set asides.
  • SDVOB: Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business. SBA certification that a veteran, who was injured during the course of service, owns the business. This is tough to get (obviously) and even tougher to compete against.
  • Set aside: a vehicle or task order that is only for the specified types of businesses to offer on. For example, an 8(a) set aside means only SBA certified 8(a) companies can bid on it.
  • SINs: Special Item Numbers. Categories of work that you can do.
  • Sole Source: a set aside for a specific company. Various SBA certifications enable the government to issue a sole source contract WITHOUT competition. This is gold, but still requires proposals and usually requires the CO to know who your company is first!
  • SubK: Subcontract. Don’t ask where the K comes from. Same with KO, makes no sense, but you need to know it.
  • T&M: Time and Materials. Another contract type, rates usually need to be based on your current or projected indirect rates.
  • Task Order: Specific request for work that the government is going to pay for.
  • WOSB: Woman Owned Small Business. SBA certification that a woman owns the company. Fun fact, SBA people pronounce it as “wah-s-bee”.

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