Understanding the PWS and the SOO

Two types of requirements documents express the agency’s needs when an order will be performance-based: either a Performance Work Statement (PWS) or a Statement of Objectives (SOO).  The choice depends upon how flexible the ordering agency is on how the requirements are expressed to the vendors.  The PWS imposes more restrictions on solutions that can be offered, while the SOO is a very high-level statement of needs that leaves room for a good deal of innovation.  Both approaches require some of the same information as the SOW, in terms of security issues, GFI or GFE, deliverables and due dates, etc.  The SOW tells the vendors what to do and how to do it.  The awardee must comply.  In PBAs, we look for results and measure performance to ensure the results are in fact accomplished.

Image of nut and bolt
Regardless of the type of requirements document chosen, the following points hold true:
  • The procurement should support and be linked to the agency’s mission
  • Focus on the outcomes or results, not the “how-to’s”
  • Decide what constitutes success
  • Establish a baseline to measure current and future performance

Performance-Based Acquisitions (PBA)

Performance-based contracting (refer to FAR Subpart 37.6) methods are intended to ensure that required performance quality or service levels are achieved and that total payment is related to the degree that services performed or outcomes achieved meet contract standards.

PBAs requiring an SOW (per FAR 8.405-2) will have either a PWS or SOO describing agency requirements for potential quoters.

To the maximum extent practicable, agency requirements shall be performance-based (refer to FAR Subpart 37.6). Visit www.acquisition.gov/comp/seven_steps/home.html to review “Seven Steps to Performance-Based Acquisition.”  This is the official governmentwide guide for PBAs.


The suggested format for a PWS is similar in content to an SOW, but contains no “how-to’s.”

The “how” is left up to the quoter. A PWS outline is shown below.


The SOO approach is the least restrictive of all the requirements documents. Needs are expressed in terms of outcomes or results, and quoters may propose the solution they think will offer the best value and least risk. There is no mandatory format for the SOO, but FAR Part 37.602(c) suggests the following: