Government Contracting: Terminology, Acronyms, & Definitions

As one of the largest buyers of goods and services worldwide, the U.S. government engages with a diverse array of contractors, both small and large, across numerous agencies such as the Department of Transportation (DoT) and the Department of Defense (DoD). For those small businesses seeking opportunities in government contracting, understanding the most commonly used government contracting terminology and acronyms is crucial to navigating this complex landscape.

This article serves as a comprehensive guide, providing definitions for contracting terms most often used in government procurement. Additionally, we’ve included a table that organizes the various acronyms to equip you with the knowledge needed to position your business and win more bids successfully.

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35+ Government contracting terms & definitions

In the government contracting space, there is a vast world of terms and concepts. To help you better learn the most common terms, we’ve listed them out below, each with its definition. By gaining familiarity with contracting terminology you will not only improve how you bid on contracts but more effectively communicate with other professionals and government agencies.

Bid or Proposal

One of the most entry-level government contracting terms, this is an offer submitted by a contractor in response to a solicitation, detailing how they will meet the requirements of the contract.

Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA)

A blanket purchase agreement allows a government agency to make recurring purchases from a vendor with predetermined terms and pricing.

Capability Statement

A capability statement is a document that outlines a company’s qualifications, past performance, and capabilities to compete for government contracts, which aids agencies in supplier evaluation.

Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code

A CAGE code is a unique identifier assigned to suppliers and contractors doing business with the U.S. government. It helps to standardize the identification and tracking of entities engaged in government contracting activities.

Contract Performance Report

A contract performance report is documentation submitted by the contractor to report progress, accomplishments, and any issues encountered during contract performance.


Contracts are legally binding agreements between two or more parties that outline the terms and conditions for providing goods or services.

Contracting Officer (CO)

A CO is the individual authorized to enter into, administer, and terminate contracts on behalf of the government agency.

Contracting Vehicle

A contracting vehicle is a specific type of contract or procurement method used to acquire goods or services, such as IDIQ contracts, GSA schedules, or GWACs.

Cost Accounting Standards (CAS)

CAS are standards established by the government for measuring, assigning, and allocating costs in contracts to ensure consistency and fairness.

Cost-Reimbursement Contract

A cost-reimbursement contract is a type of contract where the contractor is reimbursed for allowable costs incurred in performing the contract, plus a fee determined under the contract terms.

Distribution and Pricing Agreements (DAPA)

Distribution and pricing agreements are contracts between suppliers and government agencies that define terms for distributing products and setting prices.

Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)

The Defense Logistics Agency is the agency responsible for providing logistics support to the U.S. military and certain federal agencies, including procurement and distribution of supplies.

Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS)

The Dynamic Small Business Search is an SBA database where small businesses register their capabilities for contracting opportunities, aiding government agencies in identifying potential suppliers.

Economic Price Adjustment (EPA)

EPA is a mechanism in contracts to account for fluctuations in labor or material costs over time, ensuring fair pricing for both parties involved.

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)

The FAR is the primary regulation for use by all federal executive agencies in their acquisition of supplies and services.

Federal Acquisition Service (FAS)

The FAS is a division of the General Services Administration that is responsible for centralized procurement of goods and services for government agencies.

Federal Fiscal Year

The federal fiscal year is the 12-month accounting period used by the federal government for budgeting and financial reporting, beginning on October 1st and ending on September 30th. It is most commonly designated by adding FY (fiscal year) in front of the year number.

Fixed-Price Contract

A fixed-price contract is a type of government contract where the contractor agrees to provide goods or services for a set price, regardless of the actual costs incurred.

General Services Administration (GSA)

The GSA is a federal agency tasked with managing government buildings, supplies, and transportation, including procurement through programs like GSA Schedules.

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

The Government Accountability Office is a congressional watchdog responsible for auditing and evaluating government programs and expenditures to ensure accountability and efficiency.


Standing for historically underutilized business zones, a HUBZone is an area designated by the Small Business Administration to encourage economic development by offering contracting preferences to businesses located in those areas.

Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ)

Indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity is a contract that provides for an indefinite quantity of supplies or services during a fixed period.

Marketing Partner Identification Number (MPIN)

A marketing partner identification number is a unique identifier used by businesses registered in the System for Award Management (SAM) for secure access to government contracting systems.

Multiple Award Schedule (MAS)

MAS is a contract vehicle that allows government agencies to purchase goods and services from pre-approved vendors with negotiated terms and pricing.

North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) Codes

NAICS codes are part of the standardized system for classifying businesses based on their primary economic activity, used for data collection, analysis, and contracting purposes.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

The OMB is an executive branch agency responsible for overseeing the federal budget, management, and regulatory policies, providing guidance and oversight to federal agencies.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

An RFP is a document used to solicit proposals from prospective contractors to provide goods or services, detailing the requirements, evaluation criteria, and terms of the contract.

Simplified Acquisition Threshold

The simplified acquisition threshold is the maximum dollar amount set by the government for streamlined purchases of goods and services. Currently set at $250,000, this threshold streamlines purchases below this limit.

SLED Contracting

This type of government contracting refers to procurement activities involving state, local, and education (SLED) entities, often subject to unique regulations and processes distinct from federal contracting.

Small Business Set-Aside

This term describes a procurement strategy that reserves certain contracts exclusively for small businesses to promote their participation in government contracting.

Socioeconomic Programs

Socioeconomic programs are government initiatives aimed at promoting the participation of certified small businesses, disadvantaged groups, and other underrepresented entities in federal contracting.

Sole Source Procurement

Sole source procurement is a method where only one known source is capable of providing the required goods or services. Most typically used when competition is impractical or unavailable.


This contracting term describes a formal invitation by a government agency for offers or bids to provide goods or services.

Special Item Number (SIN)

SIN is an unique identifier that is used in GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule program to categorize and organize specific products or services offered by vendors.


The practice of hiring other companies or individuals, called subcontractors, to perform specific tasks or provide goods and services under a prime contract.

System for Award Management (SAM)

SAM is the primary database used by federal agencies for managing and validating vendor registrations, certifications, and representations for government contracts and grants.

Task Order

A task order is a contractual document authorizing a contractor to perform specific tasks under an existing contract, typically issued under an IDIQ or similar arrangement.

Transactional Data Reporting (TDR)

TDR is a GSA initiative requiring vendors on the Multiple Award Schedule program to report transactional data, enabling better pricing analysis and market research for federal buyers.

Unique Entity Identifier (UEI)

A unique entity identifier is a number assigned to entities doing business with the federal government, including contractors and grantees, facilitating standardized identification and tracking in federal systems.

Unison Marketplace

The unison marketplace is an online platform used by government agencies for conducting auctions, solicitations, and contract management, facilitating efficient procurement processes and competition among vendors.

Government contracting acronyms and abbreviations

Below are the most common government contracting acronyms and terms contractors should know. Covering a wide range of topics, these abbreviations help to streamline communication within the scope of government procurement and contracting processes. Government contractors need to understand these acronyms to help navigate the oftentimes complex bidding process.



ACHAutomated Clearing House
ACOAdministrative Contracting Officer
BLSBureau of Labor Statistics
BOPBasic Contract Option Period
BPABlanket Purchase Agreement
CAFContract Access Fee
CAPContract Administration Plan
CAVContractor Assistance Visits
CFRCode of Federal Regulations
CLINContract Line Item Number
CONUSContiguous United States
COPContract Ordering Period
CORContracting Officer Representative
COTRContracting Officer Technical Representative
DBEDisadvantaged Business Enterprise
DFARSDefense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement
DIBBSDefense Internet Bid Board System
DICAPDepartment of Defense Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process
DoDDepartment of Defense
DoTDepartment of Transportation
DPADelegation of Procurement Authority
DSSRDepartment of State Standardized Regulation
EAExecutive Agent
ECIEmployment Cost Index
EFTElectronic Funds Transfer
EPEATElectronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool
FAFunctional Area
FARFederal Acquisition Regulation
FASFederal Acquisition Service
FEMAFederal Emergency Management Agency
FFPFirm Fixed Price
FIPSPUB Federal Information Processing Standards Publication
FISMAFederal Information Security Management Act
FPFixed Price
FYFederal Year
GAOGovernment Accountability Office
GSAGeneral Services Administration
GWACGovernmentwide Acquisition Contract
HSPDHomeland Security Presidential Directive
IAInformation Assurance
IDIQIndefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity
IGInspector General
IOAIndustrial Operations Analyst
ITInformation Technology
ITSIntegrated Technology Service
ITSSInformation Technology Solutions Shop
LHLabor Hour
LPTALowest Price Technically Acceptable
MAMultiple Award
MAPMarketing Action Plan
MBEMinority Business Enterprise
MCSMinimum Contract Sales
MPINMarketing Partner Identification Number
NAICSNorth American Industrial Classification System
NDAANational Defense Authorization Act
NICAPNational Information Assurance Certifications and Accreditation Process
NSNsNational Stock Numbers
OCOOrdering Contracting Officer
OMBOffice of Management and Budget
PCOProcuring Contracting Officer
PGCPricing Guideline Coefficients
PLPublic Law
PoPPeriod of Performance
PPIRSPast Performance Information Retrieval System
RFIRequest for Information
RFPRequest For Proposal
RFQRequest For Quote
RPReporting Period
SAMSystem for Award Management
SAPSpecial Access Programs
SBASmall Business Administration
SBISpecial Background Investigations
SCAService Contract Act
SCISensitive Compartmented Information
SDVOSBService-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business
SOPStandard Operating Procedure
STARSStreamline Technology Acquisition for Resources Services
T&MTime and Materials
USCUnited States Code
VIPRVirtual Incident Procurement
VOSBVeteran-Owned Small Business
WOSBWoman-Owned Small Business

Find Out How FAMR Helps Government Contractors

At FAMR, our dedication lies in helping small businesses navigate through the complexities of the federal marketplace. With our team of government contracting specialists, we offer customized guidance to help you seize contract opportunities and expand your operations efficiently. We can also offer marketing services to boost your small business’s image and maximize its presence in the marketplace!

Ready to embark on this journey? Connect with us online today or give us a call to take the first step toward unlocking your business’s potential in the federal marketplace!

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