Government Contracting FAQ

How is a small business defined and what is the certification process?

For the purpose of SBA procurement assistance, a business generally is considered small if it is a business entity organized for profit, located in the United States, and which operates primarily within the United States or which makes a significant contribution to the U.S. economy through payment of taxes or use of American products, materials or labor. The business entity must further qualify under the criteria set forth in the SBA Small Business Size Standards Regulation, Title 13, Part 121 of the Code of Federal Regulations. In making a detailed definition, the SBA may use a number of criteria, including the number of employees, annual receipts, affiliates, or other applicable factors. For information on specific industry classifications (manufacturing, construction, services, transportation, refined petroleum products and research development, development and testing) and refinements of the general definition of a small business, contact your local SBDC.

What is Federal Business Opportunities (FBO)?

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) small business/simplified acquisition threshold is $150,000. Every effort is exerted to award contracts under $150,000 to small business, as long as adequate price competition exists. All Federal government procurements over $25,000 are now required to be posted on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website, Contact the Government Contracting SBDC for more information.

How do I find out who in the government purchases my product or service?

Check the Federal Procurement Data System,, to see who has purchased your products or services in the past most often. Procurement Forecasts on each agency’s website are also helpful. The Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website,, also shows current and recent procurements for all sorts of items. The Center for Government Contracting SBDC has other databases which can also assist.

What is an IFB, RFP or RFQ and what is the difference?

Although these terms (spans) are still used, two of them now have different meanings than they did in the past. IFB now refers to Sealed Bidding and RFP now refers to Negotiated Procurement. RFQ still refers to requesting oral or written prices on small purchases.

What is a DUNS number, why do I need it, and how do I get one?

DUNS stands for Data Universal Numbering System and is used by the government to identify each contractor and their location(s). The number is also required to register with the Central Contractor Register (CCR) that is used by the government’s Electronic Commerce/Electronic Data Interchange (EC/EDI) system. If you do not have a DUNS number, the government has an arrangement with Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) to provide one at no cost. You can contact D&B at 1-800-333-0505. Employees from D&B may try to sell you products or services during your call. Under no circumstances are you obligated to buy these to get a DUNS number. Some clients have paid up to $500 for things they did not need. A DUNS number is free!

What is the 8(a) Program?

The 8(a) program name is from Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act. The Act, as amended by Congress, created the 8(a) program so that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) could help small companies owned and operated by socially and economically disadvantaged persons develop their businesses.One of the business development tools of the 8(a) program is the award of Federal contracts. Under the program, SBA acts as a prime contractor and enters into contracts with other Federal Government Departments and agencies. In its role as a prime contractor, SBA awards subcontractors for their performance by certified companies.

SBA also has another set-aside program, the HUBZONE Program, for some small businesses in high-unemployment areas.

What about abandoning a contract?

If a contractor abandons a contract or fails to perform satisfactorily, the contracting officer may terminate the contract for default and charge the contractor the excess re-procurement costs ( i.e., the difference between the original contract price and the ultimate cost to the government).

What is the SBIR program?

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a highly competitive three-phase award system which provides qualified small business concerns with opportunities to propose innovative ideas that meet the specific research and development needs of the Federal Government.

Are there special programs and preferences for women-owned businesses?

The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 establishes a 5 percent government-wide goal for contract awards to small, women-owned businesses. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is determined both to establish aggressive goals and to develop meaningful initiatives in cooperation with other SBA program areas and other agencies to ensure that these new goals are achieved.In February 2011, SBA inaugurated the Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Assistance Program (WOSB). Many NAICS codes where women are “substantially underrepresented” are eligible for set-asides and other assistance. Also visit for more information.

What is the System for Award Management (SAM)?

The System for Award Management (SAM) is combining eight federal procurement systems and the Catalog for Domestic Assistance (CFDA) into one database. SAM simplifies the the entire procurement system. Instead of registering on the old CCR website for CCR and ORCA, all will be done on SAM. For further information, visit

What are the benefits of SAM?

The overarching benefits of SAM include streamlined and integrated processes, elimination of data redundancies, and reduced costs while providing improved capability. With SAM, one user ID and password will provide access to all the capabilities associated with registering to do business with the government, representing or self-certifying as a small business, and viewing business opportunities (the last to be added later). Also, representations and certifications now on ORCA will be available on SAM.

How do I get a list of FSCs and PSCs?

These lists are available through the Government Contracting SBDC.

Why do I need so many different numbers?

Each of these numbers serves a separate purpose for DoD contracting.

The CAGE Code (Commercial And Government Entity Code) is required because it is being used by current and legacy DoD Automated Information Systems to identify contractors doing business with the Department of Defense.

The DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) is the identification number specifically selected for CCR because of it’s wide acceptance and recognition in the commercial marketplace. Both codes are used to validate CCR registration applications prior to completing the registration process.

The TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number) is required to facilitate electronic funds transfer and to comply with the Debt Collection Improvement Act, and for certain IRS 1099 income tax reporting requirements. (NOTE: Only certain finance and accounting personnel will have access to this privileged information. It will not be available to anyone else). For sole proprietorships, the TIN is either the owner’s Social Security Number, or EIN assigned to the business by IRS).

The TPIN (Trading Partner Identification Number) is similar to the personalized identification number (PIN) used to access private bank accounts. It is assigned after the CAGE and DUNS have been validated and the CCR registration is complete.

How secure is my information on the web?

The most sensitive information is bank account EFT information. This data is only releasable to the appropriate DoD finance community. Much of the information is not available for public query. For the releasability of a specific data element refer to the matrix. Vendor information that is not releasable to the public is protected and viewable only by those government users with a login and a password. Your entire vendor profile is only viewable if you provide your DUNS and TPIN.

Where to Start? How do I get started doing business with GSA?

The best way to learn more about the General Services Administration’s (GSA) many contracting activities is to visit a Small Business Development Center — GSA’s “front door” to contracting opportunities. The center serving your area will help you become acquainted with GSA’s programs and requirements and point you to the contracting offices that buy the types of products or services you provide.Business advisors at the Small Business Development Centers can help you:

  • Find out if your product or service is purchased by GSA.
  • Get on GSA’s centralized or regional bidder’s mailing lists.
  • Learn about supply and service opportunities with GSA.
  • Obtain copies of Federal standards and specifications.
  • Receive bid abstracts on contract awards.
  • Obtain publications about Government procurements.