A task order in government contracting is a smaller, special request that is announced by the government agency, usually for a service rather than a product. It is the direct result of a type of request called Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ). It is directed to a smaller group of pre-vetted contractors.
A Request for Proposals (RFP), on the other hand, is announced by the federal government for all interested contractors. In awarding contracts, the government considers expertise as well as low pricing. By law, government agencies are required to make public calls for services to prevent unfair commercial favoritism. This public invitation stimulates competition. RFPs demand detailed specifications, more skill, cost-effectiveness, and strict compliance. The contractors submit a proposal describing what they can provide and at what price for the requesting government agency.
Task Order Vs. Contract RFP
Task orders and contract RFPs are mostly similar but there are a few differences. The response is the same, but the expectations are much more limited.
· The IDIQ contract is a type of contract that allows the government to place orders for supplies and services without specific quantities. This means there is no minimum or maximum order size, meaning companies only have their own requirements in mind when bidding on these contracts. This puts them at an advantage because they can provide whatever it takes (i.e., anything from one bottle all the way up).
· The pricing structure is different between them: The task order is issued by the agency having pre-negotiated, ceiling prices. The contract RFP typically has no ceiling price structure.
· Regarding qualifications, the government agency has a group of experienced vendors to select from who have done previous work,
while the contract RFP calls publicly for all qualified vendors to compete.
· Task orders can be issued as ordinary calls for bidding or set aside for special groups such as veteran-owned or women-owned small businesses. Ordinary RFPs can call for a small business as well, but the competition is open to any qualified vendor.
· Task orders typically will not require past performance to be demonstrated because this will already be known from previous contracts. The ordinary RFP typically requires past performance to be made known, ranging from three to five years past.
· The turnaround speed is different: 10 days for the task order compared to 30 days for the standalone RFP.
Responding To A Task Order
There are some common ways that vendors respond to task orders. One type is the more common response of a teaming structure. It is called Prime Contractor/ Subcontractor. This means that the primary company takes on some work, but they subcontract it out to another company if there are aspects outside their scope or expertise. This often helps large businesses needing specific tasks done in niche areas, which smaller businesses can meet more efficiently.
Another program is the Mentor/Protégé type. Businesses with industry experience can share their knowledge and navigate the government contracting environment by partnering up.
Despite there being many similarities between standard RFPs and those that come from an IDIQ solicitation process, task orders provide more opportunities for small and niche businesses along with shorter turnaround times.