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The ABCs of Government Contracting:
Understanding the Acronyms

By Bill Gormley
Sometimes it seems like the government speaks another language. There are thousands of government acronyms, from agency names to company designations to personnel titles.

In today's post, I provide a short glossary of government-contracting acronyms.

Phase 1 Acronyms

This is probably the most basic government-contracting acronym you'll come across. It stands for the General Services Administration - the government agency that connects government buyers with commercial sellers. If you want to sell to the government, securing a contract with GSA is the most effective way to start. Securing a contract with the GSA is also called, "getting onto the GSA Schedule", which means you've been approved to do business with the government. You can get more information on the GSA website.

DUNS Number: As part of the process of getting onto the GSA Schedule, you'll need to obtain a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number. This is an identification method administered by Dun & Bradstreet. You can request a DUNS Number here.

CCR: This is the Central Contracting Registry, the central database of contractors into which you must register your business if you want to do business with the government - and if you want to get paid. Enter your company into the CCR here.

Phase 2 Acronyms

As a small business, part of the process of becoming a government contractor is to figure out if you truly qualify as a small business under the Small Business Administration's guidelines. There are a range of acronyms to know here.

If you are, in fact, a small business, you may qualify under several socioeconomic programs:

- 8(a): This describes a company that is small and disadvantaged
- HUBZone: This means you operate in a historically underutilized business zone
- WOSB: This is a women-owned small business, and means your company is owned and controlled by a woman or women

If you're a veteran, you may quality for additional designations:

- VOB: Veteran-Owned Business
- SDVOB: Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Business
- SDVOSB: Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business

To find out if you qualify as a small business, go to the "What is a Small Business" page on the SBA website.

Phase 3 Acronyms

There are a lot of contract-specific acronyms that are important to know once you're at the point of determining what you're going to sell to the government - specifically, where your services or products fit within pre-designated GSA Schedule categories.

Some of these GSA Schedule categories include:

- AIMS: Advertising and Integrated Marketing Solutions
- FABS: Financial and Business Solutions
- 03FAC: Facilities Maintenance and Management
- LOGWORLD: Logistics Worldwide
- MOBIS: Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services
- PES: Professional Engineering Services
- IT: Information Technology

There are many, many GSA Schedule categories. The ones listed above are those that are best known by their acronyms.

Phase 4 Acronyms

Finally, when you're at the bidding phase, that's when the acronyms can really start coming at you fast.

FAR: Federal Acquisition Regulation. This is essentially the government contracting Bible that maps out all the government buyer and contractor rules.

MAS: Multiple Award Schedule. This is awarded to firms that supply services and products at different price points. It gives government buyers greater flexibility in meeting their individual needs based on special features, administrative costs, access to current market pricing, etc.

GWAC: GovernmentWide Acquisition Contract. This is a type of contract the government uses to buy a broad range of information technology (IT) services and products.

RFB, RFI, RFP, and RFQ: Request for Bid, Request for Information, Request for Proposal, and Request for Quotation (in that order).

IDIQ: Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity. This is a kind of contract that provides an estimated ceiling dollar amount, although the dates of purchase and the quantity of service or product are not specified.


If learning all these acronyms does feel like learning a new language, you're not alone. One of the greatest challenges in doing business with the government is understanding what everything means and where it all fits together. I hope this short list of acronyms has answered some questions and provided some guidance.

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