Order Code RS22280
Updated October 21, 2005
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Hurricane Katrina Recovery:
L. Elaine Halchin
Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Companies unfamiliar with the federal procurement process may find useful
information at several government websites, including those of the General Services
Administration (GSA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA). Usually, agency
solicitations for goods and services valued at amounts over $25,000 may be found on
the government’s Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website. However,
some agencies may not be posting solicitations on FedBizOpps yet. Monitoring several
federal government websites, instead of just FedBizOpps, may be an effective way to
track contracting opportunities related to Hurricane Katrina recovery and reconstruction
efforts. Under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42
U.S.C. § 5150), preference is to be given, in the expenditure of federal funds for major
disaster or emergency assistance activities, to private organizations, companies, and
individuals residing or doing business primarily in the affected area.
Overview of the Federal Procurement Process
To be eligible to compete for contracts, companies that are new to federal contracting
must fulfill three requirements: obtain a data universal numbering system (DUNS)
number1, and register with the federal government’s Central Contractor Registry (CCR)
and Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA) website.2 Links to
A DUNS number is a nine-digit number used to identify unique business entities. (Federal
Acquisition Regulation (FAR) § 2.101(a).) “FAR” refers to the Federal Acquisition Regulation.
Rules governing the federal procurement process are codified in the FAR, which consists of Parts
1-53 of Title 48 of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), and which is available at
FAR §§ 4.11 and 4.12. Under certain circumstances, companies may not need to register with
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
the websites are listed on the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) “Hurricane
Recovery — Vendor Information” page, at [http://www.fedbizopps.gov/katrina.html].
After an agency has determined its requirements for particular goods or services, it
issues a solicitation, which is a “request [to interested companies] to submit offers or
quotations to the Government.”3 If the agency is using sealed bid procedures, the
solicitation is called an “invitation for bid” (IFB); for negotiated procurements, the
solicitation is called a “request for proposal” (RFP).4 With some exceptions, solicitations
that exceed $25,000 are posted on the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps)
website, at [http://www.fedbizopps.gov], which is the single point-of-entry for federal
government contracting opportunities.5 Posting solicitations on this website is consistent
with, and supports the federal government’s policy of, full and open competition, which
means that “all responsible sources are permitted to compete.”6
Businesses interested in competing for the opportunity to be awarded a contract must
prepare their proposals according to, at a minimum, information and instructions provided
in the solicitation and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).7 In addition to
identifying the procuring agency, a solicitation describes the services or items to be
purchased, identifies the evaluation factors that will be used in selecting a source,
stipulates the format and contents of proposals, references applicable contract clauses, and
provides a due date for the submission of offers.8 Agency officials review and evaluate
bids and proposals, select one or more contractors to do the work, and award the
contract(s). After a contractor has begun work, agency personnel then administer and
monitor the contract.
Other Than Full and Open Competition
Several key characteristics of this process change when an agency conducts a
procurement under other than full and open competition, which is popularly referred to
as “sole source” or “no bid” contracting.” Notably, instead of posting a solicitation on
the FedBizOpps website, agency personnel provide the solicitation to one or more
the CCR. (FAR § 4.102(a).)
FAR Supbart 2.1.
See FAR Part 14 (sealed bidding) and Part 15 (negotiated contracting).
Contracting officers are required to publicize contract actions (for example, solicitations), and
contract actions in amounts exceeding $25,000 are to be publicized on the FedBizOpps website.
(FAR §§ 5.002, 5.003, 5.101(a), and 5.102(a)(1).) However, exceptions to this requirement exist.
For example, a contracting officer does not have to submit the notice of a contracting action to
FedBizOpps when it involves other than full and open competition and the rationale is an unusual
and compelling urgency. (FAR § 5.202(2)(2).)
41 U.S.C. § 253; FAR Subparts 2.1 and 6.1.
While the solicitation and the FAR are the primary sources of information, other applicable
documents might include, for example, the agency’s supplement to the FAR.
An offeror is a business that submits a bid or a proposal (that is, an offer) in response to a
companies that they believe are capable of meeting the agency’s requirements. Other than
full and open competition is permitted under the following, as quoted from the FAR.
Only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency
requirements. When the supplies or services required by the agency are available
from only one responsible source, or, for DOD, NASA, and the Coast Guard, from
only one or a limited number of responsible sources, and no other type of supplies or
services will satisfy agency requirements.
Unusual and compelling urgency. When the agency’s need for the supplies or
services is of such an unusual and compelling urgency that the Government would be
seriously injured unless the agency is permitted to limit the number of sources from
which it solicits bids or proposals, full and open competition need not be provided for.
Industrial mobilization; engineering, developmental, or research capability; or
expert services. Full and open competition need not be provided for when it is
necessary to award the contract to a particular source or sources in order to maintain
a facility, producer, manufacturer, or other supplier ... to establish or maintain an
essential engineering, research or development capability ... [or] to acquire the
services of an expert or neutral person for any current or anticipated litigation or
International agreement. Full and open competition need not be provided for when
precluded by the terms of an international agreement or a treaty between the United
States and a foreign government or international organization, or the written directions
of a foreign government reimbursing the agency for the cost of the acquisition of the
supplies or services for such government.
Authorized or required by statute. Full and open competition need not be provided
for when a statute expressly authorizes or requires that the acquisition be made
through another agency or from a specified source; or the agency’s need is for a brand
name commercial item for authorized resale.
National security. Full and open competition need not be provided for when the
disclosure of the agency’s needs would compromise the national security unless the
agency is permitted to limit the number of sources from which it solicits bids or
Public interest. Full and open competition need not be provided for when the agency
head determines that it is not in the public interest in the particular acquisition
A contracting officer is required to justify, in writing, other than full and open competition
actions, certify the accuracy and completeness of the justification, and obtain approval
from the appropriate agency authority.10 When not providing for full and open
competition, a contracting officer, nevertheless, is to solicit offers “from as many potential
FAR §§ 6.302-1- 6.302-7. Statutory authority for other than full and open competition is found
in 41 U.S.C. 253(c) (civilian agencies) and 10 U.S.C. 2304 (Department of Defense).
FAR § 6.303-1(a).
sources as is practicable under the circumstances.”11 In practice, this may mean that a
contracting officer contacts a small number of companies, or possibly only one, when
seeking a firm that can meet an agency’s particular requirements.
Information from federal agencies and the news media indicates that, at least
initially, federal agencies involved in Katrina recovery efforts have resorted to other than
full and open competition for some contracts.12 Six of the seven circumstances listed
above have been used to justify other than full and open competition for some of the
contracts that have been awarded by various agencies (“international agreement” has not
General Information on Federal Government Contracting
The General Services Administration (GSA) and the Small Business Administration
(SBA) provide information and offer assistance to firms seeking to do business with the
federal government. Their websites [http://www.gsa.gov] and [http://www.sba.gov] also
provide information for small businesses. Another website that offers information for
would-be government contractors is Business.gov [http://www.business.gov].
Finding Contracting Opportunities Related
to Recovery and Reconstruction Efforts
As federal agencies continue to respond to immediate needs and deal with the
challenges of a massive contracting effort aimed at rebuilding the affected area, the
location and extent of information about contracting opportunities may vary from agency
to agency. While some agencies are using FedBizOpps to post their solicitations, others
are not and may not for some time. Therefore, finding relevant contracting opportunities
may necessitate visiting selected agency websites as well as FedBizOpps.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA). The DHS website provides information on both
direct contracting opportunities (which apparently are prime contracting opportunities)
and subcontracting opportunities. This information appears to be directed at small
FAR § 6.301(d).
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “Debris Removal Contracts Awarded for Hurricane Recovery
E f f o r t s , ” n e w s r e l e a s e , P A - 0 5 - 1 0 , S e p t . 1 5 , 2 0 0 5 , a va i l a b l e a t
[http://www.hq.usace.army.mil/cepa/releases/Katrinacontracts.htm]; U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, “Hurricane Katrina Consolidated Contract Listing 9/16/05,” available at
[http://www.usace.army.mil/KatrinaRpt9_12HAC.pdf]; Leslie Wayne, “Cruise Ships, Spurned
by Evacuees, Are Home to Displaced City Workers and Families,” New York Times, Sept. 16,
2005, available at [http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16 /national/nationalspecial/16cruise.html];
Federal Emergency Management Agency, “FEMA Contracts to Provide Housing Relief for
Displaced Hurricane Victims,” news release, HQ-05-228, Sept. 8, 2005, available at
[http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=18708]; Kimberly Palmer, “Relief Efforts
Spawn Quick Contracts,” Government Executive, Daily Briefing, Sept. 8, 2005, available at
businesses. The Web page on direct contracting opportunities [http://www.dhs.gov/
dhspublic/interapp/editorial/editorial_ 0727.xml] provides points of contact for categories
of commodities or services that FEMA seeks. The Web page on subcontracting
opportunities [http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/interapp/editorial/editorial _0726.xml] lists
FEMA’s prime contractors and provides contact information for each. DHS also
maintains a National Emergency Resource Registry at [https://www.swern.gov/].
Companies interested in contracting opportunities or donating goods or services may
register on this website.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided information about the
procurement process and possible contracting opportunities at a couple of workshops in
the affected region. Sessions were held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Montgomery,
Alabama, on October 6, 2005.13 The agency’s news releases may be monitored at
Hurricane Contracting Information Center (HCIC). Established by the
Department of Commerce, the HCIC website [http://www.rebuildingthegulfcoast.gov]
provides information on the government contracting process and enables businesses to
register for contracting opportunities and to sign up to receive e-mail alerts. The HCIC
does not award contracts.
FedBizOpps Website. For the time being, agencies involved in recovery efforts
apparently may not be submitting solicitations to FedBizOpps. Nevertheless, the
FedBizOpps “Hurricane Katrina Emergency Contracting Information” page suggests
terms to use when searching the site for contracting opportunities.14 Also included on the
page are links to the DUNS, CCR, and ORCA websites, and several federal agency and
state websites. As recovery and reconstruction efforts continue, and as federal, state, and
local governments are able to develop long-term plans for the affected area, it seems
likely that, except for solicitations issued under other than full and open competition,
solicitations related to reconstruction efforts will be posted on the FedBizOpps website.
GSA’s “Katrina Support” E-Mail Address. A business seeking consideration
as a potential source of supplies, equipment, or services to support the hurricane recovery
effort may e-mail GSA via Katrinasupport@gsa.gov, including this information:
company name and address; a person to contact, including business and home telephone
numbers, cell phone number, fax number, e-mail address, and company website address;
and a succinct description of supplies, services, or equipment the company offers. GSA
will forward this information to federal contracting officers in multiple agencies involved
in the recovery effort. Providing the information, however, does not guarantee that GSA
or any other federal agency will award a contract to the vendor.15
Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Back to Business Workshop to Assist Businesses
in New Orleans Area,” news release 1603-062, Oct. 4, 2005, available at [http://www.fema.gov/
news/newsrelease_print.fema?id=19419]; Federal Emergency Management Agency, “FEMA
Opportunity Session for Disaster Contractors Changes Venue,” news release 1605-050, Oct. 3,
2005, available at [http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease_print. fema?id=19357].
General Services Administration, “Office of Marketing, Hurricane Katrina Recovery Vendor
GSA Supply Schedules. GSA has noted that contracting officers working on the
recovery effort are using the following GSA schedules: GSA e-Library, GSA Advantage!,
and GSA e-Buy.16 By selecting the link “How to Get on Schedule” on the GSA website
at [http://www.gsa.gov], companies will find guidance on how to get their products and
services listed on the appropriate GSA schedule(s). Initial steps involve identifying
applicable GSA-issued solicitations (accessible through the GSA website), and drafting
and submitting a proposal or bid in response to the appropriate solicitations.
State and Local Governments. Other contracting opportunities may be found
on state and local government websites. Links to state websites may be found on the
FedBizOpps “Hurricane Recovery — Vendor Information” page. Interested parties
should visit the state websites to determine what contracting opportunities, if any, are
available, and to learn about state government contracting procedures.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The USACE website includes
Hurricane Katrina contracting information, including subcontracting information, on its
website, at [http://www.lrl.usace.army.mil/DisasterEquip/]. Some of the relevant web
pages may include a function where businesses interested in competing for federal
contracts may register through some of the links listed. However, registering does not
guarantee that a company will receive a contract.
Preference for Local Firms and Individuals
While there is no guarantee that, following a major disaster or emergency, recovery
and reconstruction work will be awarded to businesses, organizations, and individuals
affected by the disaster or incident, a provision of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief
and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288; 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206) directs that
preference be given “to the extent feasible and practicable” to businesses and individuals
from the affected areas.17
Depending on the condition and needs of local cities in the affected area and the pace
of recovery, the federal government’s contracting efforts might continue to include sole
source contracting, in addition to full and open competition, for the foreseeable future.
Monitoring several relevant federal government websites possibly could increase the
chance of finding solicitations applicable to a particular company or industry.
Information,” available at [http://www.gsa.gov].
Schedules are lists of goods and services offered by vendors for purchase by all federal entities
and other authorized users. GSA (and certain other agencies) establish and maintain various
schedules. Schedules may also be referred to as “multiple award schedules” (MAS), meaning
that the procuring agency (for example, GSA) awarded contracts to more than one vendor
pursuant to a solicitation.
42 U.S.C. § 5150.