Basic Government Contracting Terms That You Need To Know

Dec 15, 2022

Also Read: Top 6 Contract Vehicles to Pursue in 2023


If you are here and reading this, you are probably looking into Government Contracting. As you dive deeper into the subject, the list of government contracting terms, acronyms, and abbreviations you come across becomes longer. There is no need to worry; this blog will walk you through the terms federal government contractors must know to understand the government marketplace better. We have listed and defined some of the most commonly used acronyms you will see and hear as you explore the world of federal contracting.

Some Commonly Used Government Contracting Terms

Commercial And Government Entity (CAGE) : A CAGE code is a five-character alpha-numeric identifier assigned to entities located in the United States and its territories. CAGE codes provide a standard method of identifying a specific facility at a particular location. The Defense and Logistics Agency (DLA) CAGE Program Office is the only activity authorized for the assignment or update of a CAGE code.

Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS ): DUNS is a unique site-specific nine-digit identification number provided by Dun & Bradstreet (D&B). The federal government stopped using the DUNS Number to identify entities uniquely. Now, entities doing business with the federal government use the Unique Entity ID (UEI) created in

Unique Entity Identifier (UEI): Entities registered on are identified by a 12-character UEI code, which replaced DUNS Number as a unique identifier for organizations starting April 4, 2022. The UEI does not need third-party validation and is created in for entities transacting with the federal government. By streamlining the entity identification and validation procedure, the government can make it simpler and less demanding for entities to conduct business with the federal government.

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS): NAICS is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments to collect, analyze, and publish statistical data related to the U.S. business economy. It was developed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and adopted in 1997 to replace the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system.

Contract Vehicle: A contract vehicle is a streamlined method the government uses to buy goods and services from qualified government contractors. It allows the government to enter into contracts with solution providers that have already been shortlisted and evaluated by a federally-approved procurement sourcing agency that “manages” the contract vehicle. This reduces the government’s administrative burden, making it easy to identify qualified vendors, especially for large-scale projects. Some famous examples of contract vehicles include Polaris, OASIS+, and Evolve.

Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ): IDIQs are contracts that allow an agency to purchase an undefined quantity/delivery over a set period of time with restricted use within the awarding agency or sister agencies. IDIQs are usually released for on-call service contracts, A-E services, and job order contracting. DoD, DHS, HHS, and VA are the agencies frequently releasing IDIQs.

Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC): GWACs are multiple-award IDIQs for technology products and services managed by a single agency but open to all government agencies. Multiple government agencies align their needs and purchase a contract for goods and services through a GWAC. GWACs were mainly used for IT services but are now used for everything. Each GWAC is operated by an Executive Agent designated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) – NASA, GSA, and the National Institute of Health. Some examples include Polaris (replacement for the $15B Alliant 2 SB (A2SB)), CIO-SP4, 8(a) STARS III, VETS 2, GSA BIC MAC (Demystifying OASIS replacement), OASIS+.

Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) or Multiple Award Schedule (MAS): FSS, also known as the GSA Schedule or MAS, is a government-wide contract providing fair and reasonable prices for commercial goods and services to the government. The GSA Schedule or MAS is a long-term government-wide contract with commercial companies that provides the government with access to millions of commercial products and services at fair and reasonable prices. MAS makes buying easy and efficient using modern technology to connect government buyers and industry.

Special Item Number (SIN): SIN lists the category of products and services a GSA contractor offers to government buyers through their GSA Schedule.

Multiple Award Contract (MAC): MAC is a multiple-award IDIQ contracting vehicle that another agency can use by attestation from Contracting Officer, which is based on best interest as the products and/or services they are seeking cannot be obtained conveniently or economically elsewhere. Popular MACs: SeaPort-NxG, EAGLE II, GSA Schedule

Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA): A BPA is a simplified acquisition method that government agencies use to buy recurring products and services from a set of contractors to meet anticipated repetitive needs for supplies and services. Government buyers often set up BPA by establishing a finite budget for an anticipated good or service. In such cases, government agencies know what they will need, but maybe not the exact quantity or when they will need it. BPAs are like “charge accounts” set up with trusted suppliers. They are negotiated on an individual agency level; generally, only a small number of agency offices can place orders on them. BPA orders cannot exceed the simplified acquisition threshold of $250,000. BPAs sometimes are not considered contracts but agreements.

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR): FAR is the primary regulation for use by all executive agencies in their acquisition of supplies and services with appropriated funds. The Department of Defense (DoD), GSA, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) jointly issue the FAR. The FAR contains standard solicitation provisions, contract clauses, and various agency FAR supplements.

System for Award Management (SAM): SAM is the U.S. government’s official website for releasing, receiving, and managing federal opportunities. Vendors use it for signing up to do business with the federal government, listing contract opportunities, capturing contractor performance, viewing contract data, searching assistance listings, reporting subcontracts, and more.

Standard Forms (SFs): Standard Forms (SF) are a set of forms used government-wide for various purposes, employment, and benefits programs. The forms are listed on the United States Office of Personnel Management website.

Best and Final Offer (BAFO): It is a multi-stage procurement procedure where bids are subjected to clarification and/or negotiation before the bidder(s) are invited to submit their final offer, which is not put to further discussion.

Contractor Teaming Arrangement (CTA): FAR 9.6 defines teaming arrangement as a collaboration between business entities allowing them to join forces to submit a bid on major government contracts.

Debrief: A debriefing (or a debrief) is a meeting between the government agency or buyer and the contractor who submitted bids for a proposal. The goal is to provide contractors with comments on their strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement in their future proposals. Debriefing can be Pre-Award or Post Award based on the contractor’s request. Offerors who are eliminated from the competition before the award or who are otherwise eliminated from the competition may ask the government for a debriefing. FAR 15.506 requires the government to provide feedback to the responders on their proposal officially.

Protest: A contractor can file a bid protest with the Government Accounting Office (GAO) or Court of Federal Claims Litigation Lawyers against the contract award for goods and services or solicitation terms proposed by the agency to ensure that contracts are awarded fairly. The timeline for a bid protest is described below:

Bid Protest Timeline


Government Accountability Office (GAO): The United States Congress receives auditing, appraisal, and investigation services from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Contractors can file a bid protest with GAO.

General Services Administration (GSA): The General Services Administration manages the federal property and is an acquisition arm linking government agencies to the commercial sector to procure goods and supplies.

GSA Advantage: GSA Advantage is the federal government’s online purchasing website run by the General Services Administration (GSA).

Government contracting is a complex domain. Our dedicated and experienced team here at iQuasar has an in-depth knowledge of federal terminology and will guide you through the complex process of proposal development that you need to succeed in the federal marketplace. Please feel free to reach out to us, and we can set up a call to discuss your company’s specific needs.

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