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U.S. Geological Survey Manual

402.5 - Procurement Specifications


OPR: Admin/Office of Procurement and Contracts

1. Purpose. This chapter provides guidelines and procedures for developing specifications and statements of work, including the use of Federal specifications and standards, used in the acquisition of supply items, data and services.

2. Authority. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 10.006 requires all Federal agencies to use specifications and standards listed in the Index of Federal Specifications and Standards. Deviations from the use of prescribed specifications are described in FAR 10.007.

The Metric Conversion Act of 1975 and the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, as implemented in 758 DM 1, require use of metric measurements in specifications whenever practicable.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requires government agencies to buy products containing the maximum feasible amount of recovered and/or recycled materials. Together, RCRA; the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990; Executive Order 12759, Federal Energy Management; and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, make it a national policy to (1) prevent pollution by purchasing and using products and services which are environmentally sound and energy efficient, and (2) reduce pollution by buying and using products containing recovered or recycled materials. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified various types of items referred to as the "EPA Guideline Items" which require either recycled/ recovered material content, or a waiver by the Head of the Procuring Activity based on one or more of the following exceptions:

A. The item with recycled/recovered content does not meet all reasonable performance specifications. Use of such an item would jeopardize the intended end use of the designated item.

B. An item containing recycled/recovered materials is not readily available at a reasonable price.

C. Applying minimum content standards results in inadequate competition.

D. Use of an item containing recycled/recovered materials would pose a safety problem.

E. Obtaining items with recycled/recovered material content would pose an unusual and unreasonable delay.

Executive Order 12843, requires agencies to conform their procurement practices to the requirements of the Clean Air Act Amendments (Public Law 101-549) to reduce use of substances that cause stratospheric ozone depletion.

3. Definitions.

A. Specification means a physical and/or functional description of a material, product, data or service needed to fill a USGS requirement, including the criteria for determining whether or not the requirements are met.

B. Standard means a document that establishes engineering and technical limitations and applications of items, materials, processes, methods, designs, and engineering practices. It includes any related criteria deemed essential to achieve the highest degree of uniformity in materials or products, or interchangeability of parts used in those products. Standards may be used in specifications, solicitations, and contracts.

C. Federal specification or standard means a specification or standard issued or controlled by GSA and listed in the Index of Federal Specifications, Standards and Commercial Item Descriptions." Federal specifications must beused unless (1) the value of the purchase is below the small purchase threshold; (2) the item is a commercial item, for which you may use a purchase description or commercial item description; or, (3) no federal specification exists for the item(s) being procured.

D. Voluntary standard, also known as non-Government standard, means a standard established by a private sector association, organization or technical society, and available for public use. The term does not include private standards of individual firms. For further guidance, see OMB Circular A-119, Federal Participation in Development and Use of Voluntary Standards.

E. Commercial item description means an indexed, simplified product description managed by the General Services Administration (GSA), which describes, by functional or performance characteristics, the available, acceptable commercial products capable of satisfying the Government's needs.

F. Product description is the generic term for documents used for acquisition and management purposes, such as specifications, standards, voluntary standards, commercial item descriptions, or purchase descriptions.

G. Purchase description means any product description containing the essential physical characteristics and functions required to meet the Government's minimum needs, usually prepared for one-time use, for small purchases, or when development of an indexed product description is not otherwise cost effective.

H. Metric measurements are statements of size, volume, or weight units based on a decimal system which uses the meter, liter, and the kilogram in lieu of the inch, gallon, and pound, as is traditional in the English system. It is used as the standard measurement system throughout most of the world.

I. Dual system is a method of stating measurement units in a specification in such a way that both the Metric and English measurement units are available for a vendor's use. A dual system of measurements is needed during the period of transition to metric measurements in the United States to insure that we do not eliminate non-metric vendors from competition until such time as they can convert their manufacturing capabilities to comply with standard metric measurements.

J. EPA Guideline Items are the specific categories of items identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which must be procured in forms containing the maximum amount of post-consumer, recovered/recycled materials practicable, economic and performance factors considered. EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guideline for Products Containing Recovered Materials (Title 40, Code of Federal Regulations, part 247) is provided in Appendix A. Specific recommendation for recycled content for each of the Guideline items is contained in the EPA Recovered Materials Advisory Notice, Section II (Appendix B).

4. Responsibilities.

A. The Head of the Contracting Activity (Assistant Director for Administration) is responsible for authorizing deviations from use of Federal specifications under FAR 10.007 and Department of the Interior Acquisition Regulation (DIAR) 1410.007, and for granting exceptions to the use of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for items containing recovered or recycled products.

B. Division Chiefs are responsible for monitoring the requisitions created in their divisions to insure that program officials actively pursue the use of products that enable the USGS to eliminate, reduce, recycle or better manage its solid wastes and/or hazardous wastes and ozonedepleting substances. Division Chiefs are also responsible for determining when program requirements preclude acquisition of products with recycled content, except those items covered by EPA guidelines, and for determining which system of measures is appropriate for each specification under their control.

C. Requisitioners and Requisition Reviewing Officials are responsible for preparing their requests for supplies and services within the framework of and with a full knowledge of specifications and standards applicable to their cognizant areas of program responsibility. They are responsible for the requisition of commercial items whenever they are available and suitable for our needs, using standard Government specifications whenever possible, and for drafting specifications and statements of work which:

(1) Are accurate and clear;

(2) Are complete and concise, reflecting only USGS minimum needs;

(3) Promote competition;

(4) Are quantifiable;

(5) Do not contain unnecessarily restrictive requirements;

(6) Encourage the acquisition of commercially available items;(7) Eliminate or reduce the use of hazardous materials and the creation of hazardous wastes;

(8) Require recycled or recovered materials to the maximum extent practical and safe, stressing the purchase/use of EPA guideline items,

(9) Eliminate or reduce use of ozone-depleting substances by substitution of alternate substances or new technology to the extent economically practical;

(10) Ensure the acquisition and use of goods and services which are otherwise environmentally sound and energy efficient, and

(11) Use metric measurements or a dual (metric/inch-pound) system of dimensions, except when metric use is impractical or is likely to cause inefficiencies or loss of markets to United States firms.

The specification review sheet provided as Figure 1 documents the requiring office's considerations regarding specification of recycled content and metric conversion requirements. This form is to be completed and provided to the procuring office with requisitions using a specification or statement of work having substantial design elements.

D. Contracting Officers are responsible for ensuring that the appropriate types of specifications and standards are used in all solicitations and resultant contracts entered into by the USGS for the procurement of supplies and services to fill official requirements.

5. Types of Specifications.

There are several types of specifications. One of these should accompany any DI1 requisition form submitted to the contracting office for processing. The different types of specifications are:

A. Performance specifications describe the product/service in terms of form, fit and function. "Form" deals with the general constraints to be placed on the item/service. "Fit" describes how the procured item or service will be compatible with related or existing item/service. "Function" describes what the article must do. Performance specifications are the preferred type of specifications for USGS use.

B. Design specifications describe an item in terms of its detailed form or composition, i.e., specific materials, dimensions, design concepts, methods of manufacture, etc. This type of specification stipulates a design from which a supplier cannot depart in order to substitute its own design preference. When manufacturing or service problems arise from faulty or unclear specifications, the Government, as drafter of the ambiguous specification, is almost always found to be liable for any remedies required.

C. Hybrid specifications combine the design and performance specifications.

D. Formulation (Material) specifications define in detail the chemical composition of the material. In addition, it may define the manufacturing or production techniques to be used to blend the chemicals into the desired end product. This type of specification is used mainly for the purchase of metals, chemicals, plastics, paints, etc.

E. Brand Name or Equal Descriptions identify products by their brand name, make, model or catalog number and name and address of the manufacturer. (See FAR 10.001 and DIAR 1410.00470). Offerors can propose an equal product that has the same salient characteristics as the brand name product.

F. Specific Make and Model specifications (also called "Brand Name Descriptions") identify the specific make and the model number of the item to be procured. (See FIRMR 20139.601 and 20120.103-5.) As specified in FIRMR 20139.601-3, this type specification should only be used when no other type of specification can satisfy the Government's needs. The make and model specification differs from the brandname or equal in that potential contractors cannot propose an equal item. A specific make and model specification restricts competition and must be accompanied by a justification for other than full and open competition in accordance with FAR 6.303.

6. The Statement of Work.

Each statement of work (SOW) describes (1) the service to be provided by the contractor, (2) the conditions under which the work must be conducted, (3) an explanation of how the contractor's achievement will be assessed, (4) reports, data, and items to be delivered by the contractor, and (5) any other contractor and government obligations related to the procurement. The SOW must be clear, complete, and precise in describing the supplies and or services in a manner designed to promote full and open competition as well as compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

An SOW which is clearly defined and understood by the both the government and the potential contractor will ensure that the government (1) receives the item, data, or service necessary to fill its needs; (2) pays a price which is fair and reasonable to both the government and the contractor; and (3) spends a minimum effort on contract administration. A well defined SOW saves time and effort throughout the acquisition process. Ambiguities in Government prepared specifications result in costly delays and additional effort by the contractor, for which the Government, as drafter of the specifications, must bear the expense.

It is always preferable to develop and use a performance oriented, or functional, type SOW. The SOW should identify "what" is to be delivered, or the end result of the service, not "how" the work is to be accomplished. The tasks should be expressed in clear, concise, and enforceable terms.

The development and use of a performance oriented SOW, rather than a detailed specification, results in a contract which places the maximum risk of performance on the contractor. Detailed specifications, in which the Government describes exactly how the item is to be created or the service is to be performed, result in the maximum risk of performance being held against the Government. If detailed specifications are used in lieu of performance specifications, the contractor can only be required to meet the requirements contained in the detailed specifications, whether or not the desired performance criteria are met. SOWs for follow-on procurements should be reviewed and revised to remove any ambiguities and make them more performance oriented.

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Last modification: 08-Jan-2013@14:47 (bt)