Offering the Government an Unsolicited Proposal | Schoonover & Moriarty LLC

Likely many of us have experienced the, what I call, Costco effect: you enter the store intending to buy a rotisserie chicken and giant package of toilet paper, only to leave the store with a new outdoor patio set. We justify those purchases on the theory that we didn’t know we needed something until we saw it.

Well, you may be interested to know that the federal government isn’t immune to this same phenomenon. It too is open to purchasing goods or services for which it had no previous intent to buy . . . until it realized that it couldn’t live without them. And yes, there’s a FAR provision for that: FAR Subpart 15.6

The Government understands that private firms (outside the contexts of Government-funded research arrangements, like SBIR and STTR ) may develop ideas or approaches that may further agency missions. For that reason, the Government allows entities to submit unsolicited proposals.

But submitting an unsolicited proposal does not automatically translate into a contract award. The unsolicited proposal and the Government must jump through several regulatory hoops before that happens. Let’s discuss some of the process.

Proposal characteristics

To be valid, an unsolicited proposal must satisfy the following:

  • show innovation and uniqueness
  • be independently originated and developed by the offeror
  • be prepared without Government supervision or endorsement
  • include sufficient detail to allow the Government to assess the possible benefits
  • not be an advance proposal for known agency requirement that can be acquired by competitive methods
  • not address a previously published agency requirement

Proposal contents

An unsolicited proposal must contain basic contact information, technical information, and supporting information. On the technical side, the proposal should include:

  • a concise title and abstract
  • a well-developed discussion of the objectives, methodology, and anticipated results
  • the biographical information of proposed key personnel
  • support needed from the agency.

On the supporting information side, the proposal should include:

  • proposed price or cost estimate
  • period for which the offer is valid
  • type of preferred contract
  • proposed duration of the effort
  • a summary of the organization and relevant past experience and past performance
  • other applicable issues, such as OCIs, security clearances, and environmental impacts.

Agency review

The agency reviews an unsolicited proposal to ensure that it meets the criteria above. In that regard, the agency assesses the proposal’s uniqueness and the overall scientific and technical merits. Further, it considers the offeror’s capabilities, experience, facilities, and techniques and the proposed key personnel’s qualifications. Finally, the agency also conducts a price realism analysis.

Contract award

Even if the agency is enthusiastic about the proposal, that alone isn’t enough to award a contract without full and open competition. But, a sole source is still possible if the agency obtains the proper justification and approval and funds, and the contracting officer publicizes the proposed contract action.

Protections afforded unsolicited proposals

An offeror can protect data within a its unsolicited proposal by marking it with the prefab legend in FAR 15.609. If this legend is included, Government personnel cannot disclose the information (disclosure could subject those personnel to criminal penalties).

Similarly, the Government cannot rip off an unsolicited proposal. That is, it cannot use the data, concepts, or ideas as the basis for solicitation or negotiations with another company without the offeror’s consent. So, submitting an unsolicited proposal won’t let a genius or lucrative cat out of the bag.