A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a solicitation used in negotiated acquisition to communicate government requirements to the prospective contractors and to solicit proposals. At a minimum, solicitations shall describe the Government’s requirement, anticipated terms and conditions that will apply to the contract, information required in the offeror’s proposal, and (for competitive acquisitions) the criteria that will be used to evaluate the proposal and their relative importance. FAR Subpart 15.2 “Solicitation and Receipt of Proposals and Information” is the main guidance for government solicitations and RFP’s.
Definition: A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a solicitation used by an organization in obtaining proposals or bids in search of hiring a potential supplier(s) to satisfy a set of customer requirements.
Primary Purpose of a Request for Proposal (RFP)
The primary priority of a request for proposal (RFP) is to describe the needs and requirements of the party requesting so that potential suppliers can send bids that meet those needs. Usually, an RFP describes the work to be done, how it will be judged, and the terms and conditions of the proposed agreement. It also tells the supplier how to send their proposal and what forms or paperwork should be included. The RFP process is to let the person or group who asked for the proposals choose the one that best fits their needs and budget. The government uses the RFP to ensure that contracts aren’t given to people just because they know them. It also opens the process to competition, which should keep the project costs down.
The Main Goals and Objectives of a Request for Proposal (RFP) are:
- Communicate the intent to suppliers for a business opportunity.
- Detail the requirements that are needed to satisfy the customer’s needs.
- Tell suppliers that it’s competitive.
- Opens up the marketplace to many bidders.
- Gives a clear and detailed path forward for both customers and potential suppliers.
- Allows for a structured evaluation and selection process that is fair and impartial.
- Meets competitive laws and regulations
Other types of Requests:
- Request for Information (RFI): is a standard business process whose purpose is to collect written information about the capabilities of various suppliers.
- Request for Quotation (RFQ): is a method of soliciting offers from suppliers for customer’s requirements for suppliers or services that fit within the dollar amount for supplies or services; >$3000.
- Request for Technical Proposal (RFT): is a solicitation document used in a two-step sealed bid. Normally in letter form, it asks only for technical information; price and cost breakdowns are forbidden.
How to Write a Request For Proposal (RFP)
Who Develops a Request for Proposal (RFP)
An RFP is written by a customer organization, in defense acquisitions the government Program Management Office. The stakeholders within the government are normally in charge of developing the RFP and determining all associated requirements in the RFP. The development of an RFP takes a lot of skilled individuals to develop the best RFP possible. Below is a shortlist of the key players normally involved in the development of an RFP.
- Primary Stakeholders
- Project Manager
- Program Contracting Officer (PCO)
- Finance Manager
- User Community
- Acquisition Support Staff
Request for Proposal (RFP) Contracting Process
The contracting process involves all activities associated with identifying and justifying a mission need, formulating an Acquisition Strategy and Acquisition Plan (with the Program Manager (PM)) to meet this need, and implementing the strategy by means of a contract with the private sector. The contracting process has five phases: 
- Phase 1: RFP Development
- Phase 2: Solicitation
- Phase 3: Evaluation of offers
- Phase 4: Contract Award, and
- Phase 5: Post-award management of that contract
Phase 1: Request for Proposal (RFP) Development
Developing a Request for Proposal can be a very lengthy process that requires a lot of steps and work. Below is a quick overview of the main steps involved.
- Step 1: Conduct Market Research (Request for Information)
- Step 2: Determine the Requirements
- Step 3: Write the Draft RFP
- Step 4: Submit for Review (Government and/or Industry Review)
- Step 5: Finalize the RFP
- Step 6: Release to Public
Step 1: Conduct Market Research
Before initiating a procurement action, the Program Office must perform due diligence in assessing what products or services already exist. The purpose of market research is to ensure that the “best value” is identified for procurement actions greater than $100,000 throughout the acquisition process, from development throughout the lifecycle of the system.
Step 2: Determine Request for Proposal Requirements (RFP)
There are a variety of requirements that go into an RFP. The primary requirements are developed so that when meet they can meet the need of the intended user. The learn more about requirements development visit.
Step 3: How to Write a Request for Proposal (RFP)
The key to writing a good Request for Proposal is to start with all the information you will need. Before starting make sure the goals and objectives have been agreed to by att key stakeholders. Then make sure all requirements have been defined. Once both of these activities are complete you can start writing.
- Step 1: Form Your Team: The most important step is gathering the most knowledgeable and effective team members to write the proposal. The key players include the Program Manager (PM), who runs the actual project if awarded, and the RFP Manager who is responsible for executing the development process.
- Step 2: Develop Plan: A plan should address how the RFP Content (See Below of Government RFP Content) should be developed and the main requirements to achieve. The plan should list these proposal requirements in a Compliance Matrix. An effective plan that gives a timeline on when items are due and roles and responsibilities to all proposal team members.
- Step 3: Develop the Outline: Each section team leader is responsible for developing a Proposal Outline for the assigned proposal volume. This outline adds details to the High-Level Outline such as customer requirements, specific descriptions, Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), and administrative approach to each volume and section.
- Step 4: Prepare the First Draft: The first rough draft is prepared by team members and reviewed by each section manager.
- Step 5: Prepare the Second Draft: The second rough draft is prepared by team members and reviewed by the Project Manager.
- Step 6: Stakeholder Review: The RFP project manager should arrange to have stakeholders review the draft RFP. This review should be scheduled towards the end of the writing but should still provide sufficient time for the Red Team Review comments and recommendations to be evaluated and incorporated into the final draft RFP.
What is contained in a Government Request for Proposal (RFP)?
A government RFP should contain the following sections:
- Section A – Solicitation/Contract Form (SF-33)
- Section B – Supplies and Services and Prices/Costs
- Section C – Description/Specifications/Statement of Work
- Section D – Packaging and Marking
- Section E – Inspection and Acceptance
- Section F – Deliveries or Performance
- Section G – Contract Administration Data
- Section H – Special Contract Requirements
- Section I – Contract Clauses
- Section J – List of Attachments
- Section K – Representations, Certifications, and Other Statements of Offeror’s
- Section L – Instructions, Conditions, and Notices to Offeror’s
- Section M – Evaluation Factors for Award (unnecessary for sole-source acquisitions)
Other items that are included in a Government Request for Proposal (RFP) include:
- DD Form 254
- Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) (top 3 levels)
- Proposal Compliance Matrix
- Model Contract
- Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) List Attachment
- Bidders Library
Other information that must be included within a Government Request for Proposal (RFP)
- Security Requirements: The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requires that a Department of Defense (DD) Form 254 be incorporated in each classified contract, and the National Industrial Security Operating Manual (NISPOM) (4-103a) requires that the government issue a DD 254 with each Invitation for Bid, Request for Proposal (RFP), or Request for Quote (ROQ). The DD Form 254 provides to the contractor (or a subcontractor) the security requirements and the classification guidance that would be necessary to perform on a classified contract.
- Software Content: Software is addressed in the Request for Proposal (RFP) in order to solicit proposals that provide the information to support an effective Government evaluation and identification of strengths, deficiencies, uncertainties, weaknesses, and risks related to software. See Software RFP Content
- Information Assurance: Every acquisition program should include language in its RFP that addresses a contractor’s Information Assurance (IA) requirements. These requirements should be clearly and unambiguously articulated to potential offerors and what is expected from them in terms of compliance and performance.
Step 4: Submit for Review (Government and/or Industry Review)
Once the stakeholder has approved a draft RFP. Submitting that draft RFP for government and industry comments is possible. This is a good way to understand if the RFP is communicating the needs appropriately with Industry. This will help eliminate any confusion when the finalized RFP is released.
Step 5: Finalize the Request for Proposal (RFP)
Once the industry has commented on the RFP, It’s time to finalize the RFP and release it for solicitation.
Step 6: Release for Solicitation
Phase 2: Solicitation
How is the Request for Proposal (RFP) submitted out for Bid
The RFP is normally released for bid thru a pre-established bidding system through the organization. In defense acquisition, the normal submission process is for the government to submit all RFP on:
- System for Award Management (SAM).
- It used to be called FedBizopps.
Phase 3: Evaluations of Proposals
How are the Proposals Evaluated
When proposals are submitted back to the government or organization, they go through the source selection process.
Phase 4: Contract Award
This is where a contract is officially awarded to a contractor. Most of the responsibility in this phase lies with the Program Contracting Officer (PCO) and Contracts Officer’s Representative (COR). It is important that the Program Management Office (PMO) and Program Manager (PM) understand all of the components of a contract award to continue working toward a realistic schedule following the conclusion of Phase 3: Evaluation Phase.
Phase 5: Post Award Management
This is the phase where you manage the contract.
Request for Proposal (RFP) Development Best Practices
There are a number of best practices that anyone developing an RFP should follow. These best practices will ensure the best RFP is developed in order to guarantee the best proposals are received and the best contractor is chosen. A few of these best practices are:
- Ensure all stakeholders are involved in the process
- Use a pre-established template that’s agreed upon
- Make sure everyone signs off on the final RFP
- Make sure the contractor community has seen a draft for comments
- Don’t be overly complex (Simple is the best approach)
- Create a Bidders Library of all received and answered comments
- Keep everyone informed on the progress
AcqLinks and References:
-  DoD Instruction 5000.02 “Operation of the Defense Acquisition System”
- MIL-HDBK-245D DoD “Handbook for Preparation of Statement of Work”- 3 April 1996
- Template: Proposal Evaluation Plan
- Template: Source Selection Plan
- Website: FAR Subpart 12 “Acquisition of Commercial Items”
- Website: FAR Subpart 15.2 ‘Solicitation and Receipt of Proposals and Information”
- Website: Navy Contract Management Process Guide
- Website: The Association of Proposal Management Professionals