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Federal Contract Vehicles

Federal Contract Vehicles

Let’s start with a brief description of what a Federal Contract Vehicle is so we can then go into why they are important and how they affect your ability to sell to the federal government.

Congress has a goal of not wanting unfairness or even the appearance of unfairness in the federal procurement process. This makes sense for many reasons, if as a business owner you think you are not going to get a fair shot at winning a federal contract why would you even bother to bid. Additionally, unfairness would result in the American taxpayer spending more tax dollars on a given product or service than would be necessary which would limit the governments effectiveness.

As a result of this fairness issue Congress created FAR (Federal Acquisitions Regulations). These regulations must be followed by federal buyers in their procurement process. Over time federal buyers reported back to congress that putting everything out for bid every time was not a very good use of their time resource. So, Congress devised additional ways for federal buyers to purchase that would make it less cumbersome. One of these workarounds to make the process more efficient was creating Federal Contracting Vehicles. These Contracting Vehicles took several forms, IDIQ Contracts (indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity), MAS or GSA (Multiple Award Schedules), BPAs or (Blanket Purchase Agreements), MATOC (Multiple Award Task Order Contract), GWACs and (Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts.

The idea with the Federal Contract Vehicles was to create a system where quality, performance and pricing gets vetted at one point in time and then either the entirety of the government can use that contract or a specific agency or group of agencies depending upon the objective of the contact. This is an extremely important concept for small businesses to understand because obtaining a position on the right Federal Contracting Vehicle can result in hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of dollars in business that without it the small business would not have access to!

Federal Contract Vehicles

GSA Schedule

A GSA Schedule is the most well known of all the Federal Contracting Vehicles. A firm applies to get on schedule and if they meet the requirements, they are awarded a GSA Schedule Contract. This process usually takes six months and there is back and forth with the schedule administrators at the GSA. Having a schedule does not guarantee any amount of sales volume but does give you a FAR compliant way to sell to any agency within the federal government.

Federal Contract Vehicles


A BPA is used when the government has repetitive needs of an agency. For example, the Department of Homeland Security established a BPA for routine medical supplies it might need. They do this because the agency anticipates using a large number of given supplies and would like to obtain additional discounts on what they could be getting by simply purchasing off supply schedules. This also streamlines the offerings so that federal users don’t have to “re-think” their decision on which item to purchase each time. Even though the BPA is still and IDIQ contract meaning there is no guarantee the vendor will get sales, the odds and quantities are much greater when your firm has a position on a BPA. Therefore, having a position on a BPA can be highly desirable for a firm.

Federal Contract Vehicles


A MATOC (Multiple Task Order Contract) is a type of Federal Contract Vehicle / IDIQ Contract that are project focused. An example of how a MATOC would be used is with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They require Geotechnical Engineering for services related to analysis of rock, soils, and other materials to assist with the planning and design of building structures and non-building structures. They create a MATOC to that end and companies would bid to obtain a position on the contract. As needed throughout the year firms might be called for geotechnical engineering of a future road structure, or soil sampling for knowing the engineering work required to build a building or interpreting the results of those investigations and creating a report.

Federal Contract Vehicles


Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts have many similarities to IDIQ, BPAs and MATOCs and a GSA Schedule is a GWAC. However, there are more GWACs than just the GSA Schedule System. 8(a) STARS III is a GWAC that facilitates SBA 8(a) Certified firms to sell IT Services to federal agencies. NASA SEWP is an IT contract that is considered best in class for purchasing commercially available technology such as desktops, servers, and video conferencing. Polaris is a Federal Contracting Vehicle that allows small businesses many with a special designation such as HUBZone, WOSB, and SDVOSB to provide IT services-based solutions to federal agencies. Alliant 3 helps government agencies procure a variety of IT solutions including cloud, cybersecurity, and software development among others. Here is a more complete list of GWAC contracts. As you can see the majority of GWACs focus on IT Services.

  • Alliant 3 (IT Services)
  • Oasis (Ine Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services)
  • SEWP (Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement)
  • ITES (Information Technology Enterprise Solutions)
  • CIO-SP4 (Chief Information Office-Solutions and Partners 4)
  • VETS 2 (Veteran Technology Services 2)
  • STARS II (Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resources for Services III)
  • CIO-SC (Chief Information Officer-Commodities and Solutions)
  • Polaris – (IT GWAC for small businesses)
  • ITES-3S (Information Technology Enterprise Solutions-3 Services)
  • NITAAC CIO-SP3 (National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center Chief Information Officer- Solutions and Partners 3)

Hopefully this has helped you understand how Federal Contracting Vehicles work and why they are an important piece of the equation for growing your small businesses’ federal footprint. Please feel free to call us if you would like to find out more information or be put on our list of people to contact when Federal Contracting Vehicles become available.