Understand How GSA Buys

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) governs how the federal government buys goods and services. The FAR is regulated jointly by the Secretary of Defense (DOD), the Administrator of General Services Administration (GSA), and the Administrator of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Collectively, this body establishes rules that create a level playing field for vendors while providing value and flexibility for federal customers.

GSA has created programs and contracting methods to carry out the FAR, which include:

  • Multiple Award Schedules (MAS)
    A system based on North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes, to group like products and services together. Prospective vendors match their offerings to the appropriate Schedule, propose and may negotiate the terms and conditions of sale. If these terms are acceptable to GSA, the vendor is put on the Schedule, which means qualified customers can purchase the offering from the vendor under the agreed upon terms.
  • Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs)
    Pre-competed, Multiple Award, Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts, where schedule vendors compete to be selected at the start of a GWAC program. Multiple vendors are selected, forming a pool of providers from which a GSA customer then chooses to do business. GWACs can offer a small business a chance to subcontract to one of the prime contractors selected for a particular GWAC program.

    GWACs are high value contracts, typically with ceilings of several billion dollars. They provide cost-effective information technology (IT) solutions, such as systems design, software engineering, enterprise architecture solution, etc. Some are specifically set-aside for small business vendors such as: 8(a) STARS II, Alliant Small Business, and VETS2.
  • Architect/Engineer Acquisitions
    Design Services for major (prospectus) projects are competed using a qualifications-based selection process. It is a two-step process where technical qualifications from Architect-Engineer firms are reviewed. The vendors with the strongest technical proposals are interviewed in order to develop a list of finalists. The top-rated firm then negotiates contract terms with GSA.
  • Construction Acquisition
    General construction projects are procured via sealed bidding, competitive proposals in response to a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quote (RFQ), or against an existing multiple-award IDIQ (see below) construction contract.

    Major construction contracts use the FAR’s “Source Selection” Procedures, of which there are a number of variations. The objective is to select the proposal that offers the greatest value for the funds expended, not necessarily the lowest price. The outcome is a contract considered "Best Value."


Schedules are the most common procurement method used by federal agencies. They form the basis of several of GSA's key programs and contracting methods, including:

USAirforce commits to using OASIS small business for contracts worth 1.4 billion per year
  • OASIS (One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services) Small Business
    Multiple award, Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts that provide flexible and innovative solutions for complex professional services.
  • GSA Reverse Auctions - Note this platform is no longer available for creating or managing auctions after 9/30/2018. You may email any questions to ReverseAuctionshelp@gsa.gov.
  • GSA Advantage!
    Federal, state and local government customers can use this online shopping and ordering system to access thousands of contractors and millions of commercial supplies (products) and services.
  • eBuy
    A component of GSA Advantage!, eBuy is an online Request for Quotation (RFQ) tool.
  • GSA Global Supply
    One-stop source for all your military and agency support needs, from new tools to office supplies. When you order through GSA Global Supply, you are assured of regulatory compliance, one bill, and global delivery from a reliable government source. There's also no need to comparison shop thanks to requisition-based ordering.
  • Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA)
    Multiple Award Schedule BPAs provide a simplified method of filling anticipated, repetitive needs for supplies or services. They are issued against an established contract which governs terms, conditions, and prices.
  • Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ)
    A type of Schedules-based contract used when the volume of goods or services to be purchased cannot be precisely scoped, nor the exact order date. It’s a type of standing order. It is frequently used to acquire the services of architects and engineers and other technical construction professionals, as well as construction services.
  • Contractor Team Arrangements (CTA)
    Allows two or more GSA Schedule contractors to work together to meet a customer’s need. By complementing each other's capabilities, the team responds with a total solution for the customer's requirements.
  • Small Business Set-Asides
    The reserving of acquisitions exclusively for the participation by small business concerns. Additional small business set-aside consideration is given to contractors who are socioeconomically qualified (e.g., Women-Owned Small Business, HUBZone Small Business, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, etc.)

print Share Icon Last Reviewed: 2019-03-11