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The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA): Bid and Proposal

Before preparing and submitting an offer, understanding the government’s needs is imperative to success. Particular attention should be given to the instructions of the requesting agency and to conditions of purchase, delivery and payment. Within Bid and Proposal Topics we’ll review:

  • Preparing the Bid
  • SBA Assistance
  • Unsuccessful Proposals

Preparing the Bid

Writing procurement bids and proposals requires the utmost care during preparation.

Before preparing and submitting an offer, closely study the description of the requirement to be sure that you can meet the government’s needs. This is critical. Particular attention should be given to the instructions of the requesting agency and to conditions of purchase, delivery and payment.

When determining the amount of the offer, the small firm should be especially careful to include all costs of material, labor, overhead, packaging and transportation. Furthermore, it should be sure to comply with other important provisions of the solicitation such as properly tagging, and marking and mailing any required samples well in advance of the opening date.

SBA Assistance

Marketing your business is critical to its success. The SBA offers many programs and services to help you better market your business. Consider using one or more of the following resources:

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)

This training resource is a cooperative effort of the private sector, the educational community and federal, state and local governments. It is SBA’s largest resource partner and an initiative that enhances economic development by providing small businesses with management and technical assistance. There are more than 1,100 SBDC lead and service centers located around the country.


The SCORE Association (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a resource partner of the SBA dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation, growth and success of small businesses nationwide. There are more than 10,500 SCORE volunteers in 389 chapter locations who assist small businesses with business counseling and training. SCORE also operates an active online counseling initiative.

Women’s Business Centers (WBCs)

Women’s Business Centers represent a national network of more than 80 educational centers designed to assist women start and grow small businesses. WBCs operate with the mission to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the world of business.

SBA District Offices

In addition to its resource partners, the SBA operates full service district offices in every state of the country. Locate the district office closest to you.

E-Business Institute

The E-Business Institute is an Internet-based learning portal for small businesses. It operates like a virtual campus and offers numerous management and technical assistance courses.

Unsuccessful proposals

Debriefing and Evaluation in the Negotiation Process

Each proposal is evaluated in detail before a contract is awarded. If your company was not awarded the contract, you may ask the contracting officer for a debriefing. This debriefing may be take place in person or by phone. You may ask the contracting officer which aspects of your proposal prevented your company from receiving the award and how you may improve in the future. Many women business owners have found this constructive criticism to be the key to successfully responding to future solicitations by the federal government.

Certificate of Competency

A small business may not receive the federal government contract on which it bids even if it is the lowest bidder. A contracting officer who determines that that the small business lacks certain elements of responsibility, may propose to reject the bid. Elements of responsibility include, but are not limited to, competency, capability, capacity, credit, integrity, perseverance and tenacity.

The SBA is authorized by law to certify a small business with regard to any of these elements of responsibility. Consequently, if a contracting officer rejects or proposes to reject a bid of a responsive small business on any of the elements of responsibility, the case is referred to the SBA. The small business is notified of this decision by the SBA and given the opportunity to apply for a certificate of competency (COC).

The bidder must furnish SBA with data and documentation to establish responsibility. This may include items such as letters of credit, current financial status, supplies or vendor quotations (if applicable) and production plans (if applicable).

The SBA will review the firm’s application and, if it grants the COC, it is binding on the contracting officer. A COC is valid only for the specific contract for which it is issued.

Protests with an Agency or with the General Accounting Office

Bidders who object to what they consider to be an improper award to another contractor have the right to file a protest against the award with the contracting officer. The protest must have a basis and it must be specific and timely. Contractors may file an initial verbal protest, but it must be followed up in writing.

The contracting officer will confirm, in writing, the telephone conversation with the protestor and advise her that she has a certain period of time, usually one week, to file the written complaint. Protests should generally be made before the contract award because, once made, the government rarely terminates a contract and issues a re-solicitation. The needs of the government for the product or service usually prevail. The protestor is notified in writing of the final decision on her protest. In addition to filing a protest with a contracting officer, the bidder an protest to the General Accounting Office. These are strict rules that must be followed in order for the protest to be timely. If not adhered to, the protest will be dismissed automatically.

A protest to GAO is initiated by filing a complete written protest addressed to General Counsel, General Accounting Office, Washington, DC 20548, Attention: Procurement Law Control Group. A copy of the protest must be filed with the contracting officer or the individual or location identified for that purpose in a solicitation within one day after filing with GAO.


  • U.S. General Accounting Office, Bid Protests at GAO: A Descriptive Guide. (available from the U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, DC 20548)
  • The Federal Acquisition Regulation, Part 14 (Formal Advertising), Paragraph 14.407.8. “Protests Against Award.”
  • The Federal Acquisition Regulation, Part 15 (Contracting by Negotiation), Paragraph 15.1003, “Protests Against Award.”