Proposal Preparation Tips for DoD Contracts

March 26, 2007
The second of a three part series offering suggestions to any company interested in procurring a DoD contract.

Let me emphasize that this will not be a dissertation on how to write a proposal. There are numerous books on the market, each with its own version and twist on how to write a proposition. These are merely tips regarding "what it takes to win" and "what will keep you from winning" when pursuing DoD procurements.

Presuming that a company has laid this groundwork, it will be ready to begin crafting a winning proposal.

To get started:

  • Read the first article in this series
  • Designate a proposal manager
  • Understand the Statement of Work (SOW)
  • Either decide to write the proposal without the assistance of a professional proposal preparation company or acquire a consultant with DoD systems acquisition knowledge
  • Assemble the expertise and resources required to develop specific Request For Proposal (RFP) sections and paragraphs
  • Understand the lexicon and abbreviations commonly used in the DoD community

What It Takes to Win

Assemble a winning team that is both mentally and physically capable of procuring a DoD contract. Allocate the finances within a set budget and assign the best personnel available — filling in the holes by hiring experienced professional experts. It is also important to dedicate workspace for the proposition prep team. Tip: Look into obtaining active duty DoD user inputs, if at all possible, for similar equipment/services awarded by the DoD.

To set a company ahead of the pack, the DoD procurement team should examine existing equipment and observe applicable services currently in use, scrutinize the technical assets and enhance them in areas where there may be weaknesses. It is important to have DoD "experienced eyes" in the form of a Red Team, to review and dissect the proposal before submitting it.

Ensure the entire RFP is clearly and precisely fulfilled and all applicable Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs) and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations (DFARs) clauses and provisions are accounted for. FARs and DFARs are clauses applicable to DoD contract procurement that are incorporated into and form a part of the terms and conditions of some purchase orders. Hiring a former DoD procuring contracting officer (PCO) to interpret these terms and conditions has always proved invaluable. Past performance assessment and relevancy to the solicitation are extremely important and cannot be over emphasized.

Have a team, during proposition prep, continuously brainstorm and see if it has exhausted and taken advantage of all reasonable efforts and resources to give the company the competitive edge. This is usually not apparent to companies just getting their foot in the DoD door and remains the most persuasive reason to bring a consulting firm onboard.

Confirm that all requirements in the RFP have been met or exceeded by outlining how each specification is going to be satisfied. Lastly, think outside the box. Be innovative, explain how to save the DoD manpower, illustrate cost savings and describe mission effectiveness.

What Will Keep You from Winning

Almost all companies trying to penetrate the DoD market for the first time do not understand that DoD Source Selection Evaluation Boards (SSEB) have expectations, processes and procedures which they follow when evaluating proposals. In other words, there is the "DoD system" and the "commercial way." Fail to explain how the company will fulfill the RFP's requirements and it will lose the contract. Offer alternatives to the RFP or give the SSEB options.

To Sum It Up

Display how the company will meet or exceed the RFP requirements. Determine winning themes and differentiators and reinforce those themes throughout the proposal. Put pride away, minimize frustrations and seek DoD experienced folks who can help a company gain the competitive edge. Hiring a DoD experienced consulting firm will enhance the chances of winning, but it will not guarantee it. However, not hiring someone with DoD contract experience will just about promise no return for your efforts.

The next article in this series will spotlight contract award and execution. Here's a preview: Don't offer options or alternatives to the requirements—these run the risk of being labeled as counteroffers. Be responsive to every instruction prescribed in the RFP, keeping in mind that the DoD wants to have a comfort level with the awardees.

Frank A. Urbanic, Jr. is the CEO of Armed Forces Marketing Consultants® Inc. ( He is a retired USAF Officer with experience as a program manager in weapons systems acquisition. AFMC® Inc. is
a marketing consulting company structured to assist firms interested in DoD procurements. He can be reached at: [email protected] or 281-482-0641.