The Performance Work Statement (PWS) is a Statement of Work (SOW) for Performance-Based Acquisitions that clearly describes the performance objectives and standards that are expected of the contractor. When a contract is awarded, the PWS is legally binding upon the contractor and the U.S. Government.
Definition: “A Performance Work Statement (PWS) is a Statement of Work for performance based-acquisitions that describes the required results in clear, specific, and objective terms with measurable outcomes.”
Types of Statement of Works (SOW)
- Statement of Work (SOW): For system procurement and Research and Development (R&D) (MIL-HDBK-245)
- Performance Work Statement (PWS): For the acquisition of professional services. (AFI 63-124)
Performance Work Statement (PWS) Regulations
The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR 37.602) only requires that agencies, to the maximum extent practicable:
- Describe work in terms of required results rather than “how” the work is to be accomplished or the number of hours to be provided
- Enable assessment of work performance against measurable performance standards
- Rely on measurable performance standards and financial incentives in a competitive environment to encourage innovation and cost-effective methods of performing the work
- Use the Work Statement Writing Guidelines Summary
PWS Main Guidance: Air Force Instruction (AFI) 63-124 Performance-Based Service Acquisitions
The PWS should state requirements in general terms of what (result) is to be done, rather than how (method) it is done. The PWS gives the contractor maximum flexibility to devise the best method to accomplish the required result. The PWS must be written to ensure that all offerors compete equally. The U.S. Government must remove any features that could restrict a potential offeror.
However, the PWS must also be descriptive and specific enough to protect the interests of the U.S. Government and to promote competition. The clarity and explicitness of the requirements in the PWS will invariably enhance the quality of the proposals submitted. A definitive PWS is likely to produce definitive proposals, thus reducing the time needed for proposal evaluation.
Preparing a Performance Work Statement (PWS)
Begins with an analytical process, often referred to as a “job analysis.” It involves a close examination of the agency’s requirements and tends to be a “bottom-up” assessment with “re-engineering” potential. This analysis is the basis for establishing performance requirements, developing performance standards, writing the performance work statement, and producing the quality assurance plan. Those responsible for the mission or program are essential to the performance of the job analysis. 
Guideline: Work Statement Writing Guidelines Summary
Job Analysis Six (6) Steps
- Conduct Organizational Analysis
- Conduct Work Analysis (use Work Breakdown Structure (WBS))
- Gather Workload and Resource Data
- Analyze Directives
- Conduct Performance Analysis
- (as required) Analyze Incentives
A well-written Performance Work Statement (PWS) has the following attributes: 
- Specifies requirements clearly to permit the government and offeror’s to estimate the probable cost and the offeror to determine the levels of expertise, manpower, and other resources needed to accomplish the task.
- States the specific duties of the contractor in such a way that the contractor knows what is required and can complete all tasks to the satisfaction of the contract administration office.
- Written so specifically that there is no question of whether the contractor is obligated to perform specific tasks.
- References only the absolute minimum applicable specifications and standards needed. Selectively invokes documents only to the extent required to satisfy the existing requirements.
- Separates general information from the direction so that background information and suggested procedures are clearly distinguishable from contractor responsibilities.
- Avoids directing how tasks are to be performed and states only what results are required.
Developing the Performance Work Statement (PWS)
To create the actual PWS it is best to use an established template from your organization or from a legal entity. Since you already have the task and the content defined it should be an easy step to plug in your content. A template also makes sure you are addressing all legal questions and you didn’t is any content.
Template: Performance Work Statement
Performance Work Statement (PWS) Notional Format:
- General Information
- Background information
- Government/Contractor Furnished Property/Information
- Performance Objectives and Standards
- Applicable documents
- Special Requirements/Constraints (such as security)
Performance Work Statement (PWS) vs. Statement of Objective (SOO)
The SOO is a Government prepared document that provides the basic, high-level objectives of the acquisition. It is provided in the solicitation in lieu of a government written Performance Work Statement. In this approach, the contractors’ proposals contain their statements of work and performance metrics and measures (which are based on their proposed solutions). The use of a SOO opens the acquisition up to a wider range of potential solutions.
AcqLinks and References:
-  MIL-HDBK-245D “DoD Handbook for Preparation of Statement of Work” – 3 April 1996
- Air Force Instruction (AFI) 63-124 Performance-Based Service Acquisitions
- Performance Work Statement Template
- Developing a Performance Work Statement Handbook – Sept 2009
- Work Statement Writing Guidelines Summary
- A CORs Guide to Statement of Work and PWS
- Example: Performance Work Statement (PWS) for KC-X Program Office
- Presentation: How To Write a PWS Training