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Preaward Survey

ACON 055


Study of financial, organizational, and operational status made prior to contract award to determine a prospective contractor's responsibility and eligibility for government procurement.

Alternate Definition

FAR 2.101 defines a preaward survey as “an evaluation of a prospective contractor’s capability to perform a proposed contract.” The purpose of a preaward survey is to obtain information not available to the contracting officer to make a responsibility determination prior to contract award.

General Information

Prior to awarding a contract, the contracting officer must make an affirmative statement of responsibility of the prospective contractor. In making this responsibility determination, the contracting officer shall consider information from various sources to include conducting a preaward survey of the prospective contractor if the necessary information cannot be obtained by the contracting officer.


The preaward survey is initiated by the contracting officer using the Standard Form (SF) 1403. The 1403 outlines the additional information needed to determine responsibility (FAR 9.106-2). The contracting officer should only include information that is necessary to make the responsibility determination. The more information requested, the greater the time necessary to complete the survey, possibly delaying the acquisition. Normally, the contracting officer will need additional information on the prospective contractor’s production capability, technical capability, financial capability, or ability to deliver the required supply or service in accordance with the contract. The contracting officer may also want to determine the adequacy of the prospective contractors accounting system if a cost type contract is being considered.


The preaward survey can also be used to find out if the prospective contractor is able to comply with the appropriate labor laws such as Contracts for Materials, Supplies, Articles, and Equipment Exceeding $15,000, the Service Contract Labor Standards statute, or various OSHA regulations. Regardless of what information is needed, the contracting officer should only request the minimum information needed to make a responsibility determination. Once complete, the SF 1403 and solicitation are sent to the surveying activity. Within DoD, the surveying activity is normally the Defense Contract Management Agency. Before the surveying activity conducts the survey, it will confirm if the prospective contractor is debarred or suspended. It also determines if the procurement is for a commercial item and if it is over the simplified acquisition threshold (FAR 9.106-1(a)). The surveying activity will then determine what type of survey is needed.




There are three types of formal surveys; General Purpose Capability Study, Onsite Survey, and Short Form. The General Purpose Capability Study is a study of the general capabilities and qualifications of the prospective contractor. General Purpose Capability Studies do not consider the quantity of the items being procured, or the required delivery schedule in the solicitation. An award recommendation is not made, but a risk rating may be provided. The information to be included in the General Purpose Capability Study will come from data readily available to the surveying activity; no onsite visit is required.


If the information is not readily available, then an onsite survey must be conducted. When an onsite survey is required, the surveying activity will coordinate a visit to the prospective contractor’s facility. The prospective contractor will be informed of the information that is required and grants the surveying activity access to the facility. If the contractor does not grant access, the responsibility determination cannot be made and the prospective contractor may not win the contract. The survey team includes may include the contracting officer or buyer, quality assurance representative, safety representative, legal counsel, technical subject matter expert, and others as necessary. Once the onsite visit is made, the surveying activity reports the findings of the visit and may provide an award recommendation and risk rating to the contracting officer.


The third type of formal preaward survey is the short form survey. This type is used when the surveying activity can make an award recommendation and risk rating to the contracting officer based on the information readily available without having to conduct an onsite survey. The short form version of pre-award surveys aims to expedite the evaluation process while still gathering essential information about the contractor's qualifications. It allows the government to make a relatively quick assessment of a contractor's eligibility and capacity to perform the contract, enabling a more efficient procurement process for both the government and contractors involved.The surveying activity will annotate on the SF 1403 that the survey is a short form survey.


If the contracting officer determines that the information needed does not require a formal survey, he/she can request an informal survey. This request can be made over the phone or via email; the SF 1403 is not needed. Information for the informal survey comes from data readily available to the surveying activity and can include information contained in formal surveys that were conducted within the last 12 months. An informal survey does not contain an award recommendation, but can provide a risk rating if sufficient information is available. If the surveying activity determines that the information is not available, it may recommend that the contracting officer request a formal survey.


When requesting any type of preaward survey, the contracting officer needs to consider the time required to conduct the survey. General Purpose Capability Studies and Onsite Surveys may take as long as 45 days to complete, while Short Form and informal surveys can be completed in a matter of days.


Preaward Survey Type May Provide Risk Rating May Provide Award Recommendation Time Necessary
General Purpose (Formal) YES NO Up to 45 Days
Onsite (Formal) YES YES Up to 45 Days
Short Form (Formal) YES YES Several Days
Informal If Sufficient Info Exists NO Several Days


In addition to requesting a preaward survey from a surveying activity within the DoD, the FAR allows the contracting officer to request a survey from another agency (FAR 9.106-3). Once the preaward survey is complete and the report received, the contracting officer should have the necessary information to make a determination of responsibility.