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Statement of Work - Performance Work Statement - Statement of Objectives


Alternate Definition

A statement of work (SOW) is portion of a contract which establishes and defines all non-specification requirements for contractor's efforts either directly or with the use of specific cited documents.
A performance work statement (PWS) is a statement of work for performance-based acquisitions that describes the required results in clear, specific and objective terms with measurable outcomes.
A statement of objectives (SOO) is a Government-prepared document incorporated into the solicitation that states the overall performance objectives. It is used in solicitations when the Government intends to provide the maximum flexibility to each offeror to propose an innovative approach. That portion of a contract that establishes a broad description of the government’s required performance objectives.

General Information

Reference:    MIL-HDBK-245E Preparation of Statement of Work (SOW).  This handbook is for guidance only and cannot be cited as a requirement.

Statement of Work (SOW)

The SOW should specify in clear, understandable terms the work to be done in developing or producing the goods to be delivered or services to be performed by a contractor. The goods and services must be consistent with the appropriation to be used. Preparation of an effective SOW requires both an understanding of the goods or services that are needed to satisfy a particular requirement and an ability to define what is required in specific, quantitative terms. A SOW prepared in explicit terms will enable offerors to clearly understand the government's needs. The appropriation should sync to the goods and services identified in the SOW "Requirements or Scope." 

A well written SOW aids the Government in the conduct of the source selection and contract administration after award. The SOW is aligned with the acquisition milestones and phases described in the Guide to DOD Program Management Business Processes.

After contractor selection and contract award, the contract SOW becomes a standard for measuring contractor performance. Consequently, the SOW author must consider the contractual and legal implications of the SOW during its preparation. As the contracted effort progresses, the government and the contractor will refer to the SOW to determine their respective rights and obligations. In this respect, the SOW “defines the contract and is subject to the interpretations of contract law.” The SOW must clearly define the work to be performed, since the language detailing the contractor's effort may be pertinent to legal questions concerning the scope of work.

The standard format for the SOW is as follows (subject to variations specified in MIL-HDBK-245E Section 5 for specific types of SOWs):


SOW Section Title


Performance Work Statement (PWS)  A PWS describes the work in terms of what is to be the required output rather than how the work is to be accomplished.  A PWS template can be found at Appendix H of MIL-HDBK-245E (NOTE:  download the version pre-Change 1 for Appendix H).

Quality Assurance Surveillance Plan (QASP)  The QASP is the document government personnel use to assess contractor performance. Using the Requirements Roadmap ensures that each performance objective is linked to a method of inspection incorporated in the QASP.

FAR 37.602 Performance Work Statement states that a PWS may be prepared by the Government or result from a Statement of Objectives (SOO) prepared by the Government where the offeror proposes the PWS.

Agencies shall, to the maximum extent practicable:

  • Describe the work in terms of the required results rather than either "how" the work is to be accomplished or the number of hours to be provided (see 11.002(a)(2) and 11.101);
  • Enable assessment of work performance against measurable performance standards;
  • Rely on the use of measurable performance standards and financial incentives in a competitive environment to encourage competitors to develop and institute innovative and cost-effective methods of performing the work.

A PWS and QASP tool, known as the Acquisition Requirements Roadmap, helps a user to develop a Work Breakdown Structure to accomplish the goals of the acquisition and the tasks needed to accomplish the work.  Users complete the requirements roadmap process creating a PWS that aligns with the Quality Assurance Surveillance Plan (QASP). In summary, the requirements roadmap process includes the following tasks:

  1. Define the desired outcomes: What must be accomplished to satisfy the requirement?
  2. Conduct an outcome analysis: What tasks must be accomplished to arrive at the desired outcomes?
  3. Conduct a performance analysis: When or how will I know that the outcome has been satisfactorily achieved, and how much deviation from the performance standard will I allow the contractor, if any?

When a contract is awarded, the PWS is legally binding upon the contractor and the U.S. Government. It provides an objective measure so that both the U.S. Government and the contractor will know when increments of work are completed and payments are justified.


Statement of Objectives (SOO)

The SOO is a Government prepared document incorporated into the RFP that states the overall solicitation objectives. It can be used in those solicitations where the intent is to provide the maximum flexibility to each offeror to propose an innovative development approach. Offerors use the RFP, product performance requirements, and SOO as a basis for preparing their proposals including a SOW and CDRL. Note:  The SOO is not retained as a contract compliance item.

The program SOO should provide the basic, top level objectives of the acquisition and is provided in the RFP in lieu of a Government written SOW. This approach provides potential offerors the flexibility to develop cost effective solutions and the opportunity to propose innovative alternatives meeting the stated objectives.  It also presents the Government with an opportunity to assess the offeror’s understanding of all aspects of the effort to be performed, by eliminating the ‘how to’ instructions to accomplish the required effort normally contained in the SOW the Government provides to prospective offerors.

The SOO is used, along with other information and instructions in the RFP, by offerors to develop the contract WBS, SOW, and other documents supporting and defining the offerors proposed effort. SOO content depends both on the type of program and on the program phase. It is possible that a ‘mature’ program, such as one which has been fielded for some time, could require slightly more detail in the SOO to properly integrate with other, ongoing parts of the program. The SOO is replaced at contract award in the contract by the proposed SOW.

The following steps provide the conceptual process for developing the SOO:

  • Conduct market research to determine whether commercial items or non-developmental items are available to meet program requirements.
  • Review the requirement documents which authorize the program and define its basic objectives. Complete a risk assessment and expound the basic objectives of the program to incorporate the major technical and programmatic risks.
  • Review the various DoD/services/joint services requirements documents for program management, acquisition and control impact.
  • Prepare a bibliography citing the specific portions of all applicable governing instructions, directives, specifications and standards with which the program must comply. Keep these requirements to the absolute minimum.
  • Categorize the work described by the program WBS into that which will be done in-house and the objectives of that work that need Contract Work Breakdown Structure (CWBS) to be contracted.
  • For each RFP/contract defined, prepare a SOO from the objectives identified.

FAR 37.602(c) Offerors use the SOO to develop the PWS; however, the SOO does not become part of the contract.  The SOO shall, at a minimum, include-

           (1) Purpose;
           (2) Scope or mission;
           (3) Period and place of performance;
           (4) Background;
           (5) Performance objectives, i.e., required results; and
           (6) Any operating constraints.

There is no predetermined length for the SOO document. It should be a concise, cogent document of appropriate length.