Doing business on behalf of the U.S. federal
government is a lesson in logistics as much as civics. And nowhere
is this more evident than in the world of meeting planning, where
requests for proposal vary from state to state, agency to agency
and, often, even within agencies, where individual departments
determine their own specific needs and design their own RFPs using
anything from a simple three-page form to a tedious 30-page
But along with their individual ways of doing things,
government meeting planners must follow the Federal Acquisition
Regulation, a code of uniform rules pertaining to the acquisition
of supplies and services for the executive branch.
FAR policy and regulations can seem daunting, and for good
reason. Whether it’s the Department of Education soliciting bids
for a three-day training program in Atlanta or the Department of
Defense looking to house 500 personnel in Alaska, the same rules
and processes apply.
Choosing a competitive acquisition is a matter of collecting
information from all bidders, assessing each alternative on the
basis of specified criteria, comparing each alternative to the
others and then ranking them to determine which best meets the
needs of the RFP.
Still, say seasoned federal planners, the complex RFP process
can be mastered without sacrificing adherence to general
regulations, individual agency preferences or ethics.
By the Budget
The rules vary based on the budget for a particular meeting or
" Up to $2,500. According to FAR, planners can
place a single piece of business worth up to $2,500 directly with a
hotel or supplier of their choice without going through the process
of soliciting competing bids, comparing them and then formally
awarding the business.
" $2,501 to $25,000. For each single piece of
business with costs falling within this range, meeting planners are
required to get a minimum of three competing bids from three
similar vendors before they award the business.
“All prudent planners, even if they are using a third party,
should make sure they get three bids,” says meeting planner Ruth
Harris, CMP, with the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control
& Prevention, Office of Workforce & Career Development,
Strategic Workforce Activity, “because they are the ones in charge
of assigning that government business, not the third party. And if
at any time you are asked if you got the three bids, you can answer
‘yes’ and show them.”
" More than $25,000. For each piece of
business in this budget category, planners still can use their
agency’s individually designed RFP form, but the RFP must be posted
at FedBizOpps (www.fedbizopps.gov), an online portal that is the
single point of entry for federal procurement opportunities. It
features RFPs from all agencies soliciting bids for products and
services, as well as the bids awarded. In other words, it offers
vendors looking to do business with the government complete
transparency of the process.
Once the meeting or event is listed on FedBizOpps, planners
also can send the RFP directly to national hotel sales contacts or
invite them to check the site and offer a bid.