How to Find Government Contracts

Paul F. HahnThere are many opportunities for substantial contracts with the US Government.  However, finding your way through all the Govt. websites and learning some of the unique Govt. nomenclature can be a time-consuming task.  In this article I will discuss some basics and key indicators that should save you a considerable amount of time. 


First, some basic terms you should know:

A. Dun and Bradstreet (B&D) Registration

  • You probably already have this but if not your company needs to apply


B. Contractors Central Registration (CCR)

  • You must be registered in CCR to do business with the Govt.

  • Their website is:


C. Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA)

  • Required to receive an award from the Govt.


D. Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website

  • This is your main website for finding opportunities for Govt. contracts


E. Business Partner Network

  • A very helpful source of information

  • Contains links to CCR,SBA, ORCA and FBO


F. The Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code

  • Required for Govt. contracts

  • The CAGE request process is incorporated into the CCR registration


G.  Federal Service Desk

  • Contains great info on how to register in CCR


H. Small Business Administration

  • Registration is very helpful in getting awards as many contracts are set-aside for small businesses


I. North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes

  • ORCA and CCR require you to select these codes that describe your business

  • You will find the codes are non-specific but adequate to describe the kind of work or services you can provide (check

  • Check out categories under codes 221, 236, 237,and 238 for a start


J. Product Service Codes (PSC) and Federal Supply Classification (FSC) codes

  • Only a few of these apply to construction work, for example:

  • Y -- Construction of structures and facilities

  •  Z -- Maintenance, repair, and alteration of real property


The foregoing is a lot to take in at first glance.  Don’t be discouraged, you only need to accomplish each step one at-a-time.  The most time-intensive tasks are getting registered in CCR and ORCA.

If you have never searched for Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Quotations (RFQ) from the Government; the best place to get a feel for how things work, is FBO.  This will be the main emphasis of this article.

The first step is to go to the Federal Opportunities Website:

  • Click on “Find Opportunities”


  • In the “Keyword/Solicitation#” box type in: Construction Projects


  • Select “Last 30 Days” in the “Posted Date” drop-down menu


  • Click “Search”


  • This will give you an idea of what type of projects are available


  • Clicking on a single project shows you details of the solicitation


  • If there are numerous entries (denoting changes or revisions) you will be able to backtrack to the original solicitation when you will find a link to the “Solicitation” or “Synopsis” on the webpage


  • Important note:  FBO’s programming does not like use of the back button.  If you need to go back to the opportunities list, use the “Return to Opportunities” button near the top of the page.  This will save you a lot of time and frustration!


  • There are many things that can frustrate and discourage you during your searches for work.  Many of the posting are limited to contractors already working on the projects.  These are often noted on the opportunities list as “Special Notices” in the “type/set-aside” column.  You may also see “Awards” in this column.  You can skip that opportunity unless you want to see who won the contract and at what bid price.


The better way to search for opportunities is to set up one or more a “Search Agents”.  There are many benefits to using search agents, including email notifications and quick searches individualized to your specific criteria.  To be able to set up search agents and receive customized alerts you will need to have a DUNS number and be registered in CCR.

Once you are registered, you can log in as a “Vendors/Citizen”.  Next, click on the “Opportunities” tab. At the top of the web page you will see a tab marked “Search Agents”; click on this tab. Now you can create a new search agent by clicking on the “Add New Search Agent” box located on this page.  Fill in the required data.  You can limit searches geographically or by appropriate set-aside code, but most importantly, you can specify the type of work you are interested in by selecting the NAICS Code and the Classification Codes that describe your specialty.  You should also set up a schedule for the search agent to run.  I have mine set up to run daily. This saves a great amount of time later on when you receive your email alerts or want to run the search agent manually.  By using search agents; you will not be overwhelmed with projects that don’t meet your criteria.

The next tip is for sorting through the email alerts you will receive.  Below is an example of an alert that I received for Construction projects:

Saturday, January 28, 2012, 07:59 am

Dear Paul:

Your FBO Opportunity Search Agent called: 'construction projects' has identified the following opportunities that have either been newly posted or modified and match your search criteria.

Title:             RECOVERY--Z--PROJECT NUMBER 16040, Sam Rayburn Dam and Reservoir, TX
Sol. #:            W9126G10R0091
Agency:            Department of the Army
Office:            U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Location:          USACE District, Fort Worth
Posted On:         Jan 27, 2012 2:40 pm
Base Type:         Award Notice

Note that the second-to-last line is entitled “Base Type”.  In this example the base type is “Award Notice”.  If I am looking for new opportunities, I can skip this one and look for ones labeled “Pre-solicitation” or “Combined Synopsis/Solicitation”.  These will be new opportunities.

It has been a long time since I first learned all of this, as I stared back in 1993, and learned it one step at-a-time. So I may have forgotten a step or two.  However, there are lots of guides and good tutorials on the FBO site and individual help can be obtained by calling the Federal Service Desk. They have been very helpful to me in the past. These links and instructions appear on the “My FBO” web page.

Finding Federal Government work can be a big boost to your company’s business.  There are many new projects announced daily.  I hope I have offered up some good tips to save you time getting started and wading through the daily alerts.  There is no need to feel intimidated; lots of good help is available from the Federal Service Desk and online tutorials.  Once you learn a few new terms you will find easy to stay abreast of the government contracts up for grabs.

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