The following sample format is meant to be a guide and should be tailored to the specific requirement. Consult your contracting office for additional guidance. The SOW format and contents usually includes at least the following:
to acquaint the reader with the basic acquisition situation. The background information should:
This section must describe requirements in a way that permits contractor personnel to perform the effort without direct government supervision. Contractor personnel must not be subject to the type of supervision and control usually prevailing between the government and its employees. For example, an SOW may permit the government to approve key personnel, but must not permit the government to approve all personnel performing the service. The SOW should also not include words that appear to indicate that the government is managing day-to-day operations.
Specify requirements clearly so that all readers can understand them.
Reference the applicable specifications and standards needed.
Tailor specifications and other documents for the specific effort.
Separate general information from direction.
This section identifies any government-furnished property provided to the contractor, such as government-furnished material, equipment, or information. Before offering to provide any property, make sure that it will be available when required, where required, and in the condition required by the contract. Failure to meet government-furnished property requirements often leads to a contractor claim for an equitable adjustment to contract price, delivery, or other requirements. Specific requirements about providing government-furnished property can be found in FAR 45, Government Property, and related agency and bureau policy.
The period of performance may be stated using actual dates, days after contract award, or using some other method. If different periods of performance will apply to different tasks, the tasks and related periods of performance should be clearly identified.
A variety of people with different perspectives and life experiences will read your SOW. Readers typically include government and industry contracting personnel, managers, technical experts, accountants and lawyers. All these readers need to understand the SOW in a clear and concise manner; therefore, language selection is very important.
Below are tips that you should consider when developing the SOW:
Use simple words, phrases, and sentences whenever practical.
Be concise, precise, and consistent. Keep sentences short and to the point. Normally the longer the sentence, the harder it is to understand.
Use verbs in the active voice. A verb is in the active voice when it expresses an action performed by its subject. For example, “The contractor shall report contract progress quarterly.”
Avoid using verbs in the passive voice. A verb is in the passive voice when it expresses an action performed upon its subject or when the subject is the result of the action. For example, “Contract progress shall be reported quarterly by the contractor.”
Use “shall” or “must” when writing a requirement binding on the contractor. Avoid “should” or “may” because they leave the decision on appropriate action up to the contractor.
Use “will” to indicate actions by the government.
Be consistent when using terminology. Use the same word to mean the same thing throughout your SOW. Avoid using different words to indicate the same type of action.
Avoid redundancy. At best, requiring the contractor to do the same thing in different parts of the SOW will add needless words to the SOW. At worst, there may be subtle differences in the requirements that will lead to a dispute during contract performance.
Avoid vague or inexact phrases and generalizations.
Avoid catchall and open-ended phrases, such as, “is common practice in the industry,” “as directed,” or “subject to approval.” If you want to give the contractor an opportunity to use their standard commercial practices, require each offeror to identify its commercial practices in a proposal and then include that proposal as part of the order/contract.
Define technical terms.
Avoid using government jargon. Assure that it is clearly defined whenever jargon must be used.
Only use “any,” “either,” “and/or,” “etc.” when allowing the contractor to select an alternative.
Use abbreviations or acronyms only after spelling them out the first time they are used (e.g., National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)). Spell them out even if they are commonly used by the user’s agency because a commercial contractor may not be familiar with them.
Identify the date or version of any document referenced in your SOW.
Advise readers from industry where they can obtain referenced documents.