STATEMENT OF WORK IN ACQUISITIONS
Susan M. Anstead
University of Maryland, University College
CSMN637 – Acquisition of Information Technology
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Types of Statements of Work
Format of the Statement of Work
Examples of the Statement of Work
The Statement of Work (SOW) is a part of an Acquisitions Requirements Package,
which tells a contractor what work is required on a contract. They are
often the most essential documents in any Federal solicitation or contract.
According to the Department of Defense, Handbook for Preparation of
Statement of Work, "The majority of government contracts include a
SOW which forms the basis for successful performance by the contractor
and effective administration of the contract by the government."
A well-written SOW enhances the opportunity for all potential contractors
to compete equally for Government contracts and serves as the standard
for determining if the contractor meets the stated performance requirements.
"The solicitation for a task or delivery order contract shall include
Requirements for a Statement of Work are clearly defined by the
United States Government. According to the United States Code,
A Statement of Work, specifications, or other description that reasonably
describes the general scope, nature, complexity, and purposes of the services
or property to be procured under the contract."
The Federal Acquisition Regulations [FAC 97-11] describes in more detail
the requirements of the Statement of Work:
Generally, Statements of Work shall define requirements in clear, concise
language identifying specific work to be accomplished. Statements of Work
must be individually tailored to consider the period of performance, deliverable
items, if any, and the desired degree of performance flexibility.
When preparing Statements of Work, agencies shall, to the maximum extent
Describe the work in terms of "what" is to be the required output rather
than either "how" the work is to be accomplished or the number of hours
to be provided;
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; and
Avoid combining requirements into a single acquisition that is too
broad for the agency or a prospective contractor to manage effectively.
TYPES OF STATEMENTS OF WORK
There are three different types of Statements of Work:
The design/detail Statement of Work tells the contractor how to do the
work. In this case, the government requires the contractor to follow the
government’s way of performing the task or making the product. This type
of Statement of Work is primarily used for manufacturing or construction.
Level of effort; and
The deliverable in the Level of Effort Statement of Work is based on
the hour of work. Level of Effort SOWs are usually very broad and describe
the general nature of the service or products to be procured over a given
period of time. This type of Statement of Work is primarily used for task
order and delivery order contracts.
The Performance Based Statement of Work is by far the most preferred
method. It focuses on the purpose of the work, but does not dictate how
the work is to be done. It should provide answers to five basic questions:
what, when, where, how many, and how well. The goals of this type of Statement
of Work are:
Performance Based Contracting (PBC) requires structuring all aspects of
an acquisition around the purpose of the work to be performed as opposed
either to how the work is to be performed or to broad and imprecise statements
of work. It emphasizes quantifiable, measurable performance requirements
and quality standards in developing statements of work, selecting contractors,
determining contract type, incentives, and performing contract administration,
To save money by reducing contract costs from elimination of unnecessary
effort, through innovation by the contractor, and reduction in government
To shift the emphasis from processes to outputs.
To hold contractors accountable for end results.
The Performance-based Statement of Work will be the focus of this report.
FORMAT OF THE STATEMENT OF WORK
The Statement of Work is intended to be a brief statement of the
tasks to be done, not an elaborate document that might be developed for
procurement contracts. Examples of SOWs vary, with some consisting of only
one to two pages, while others are ten pages or more. Although there
is no fixed format, there are basic elements that should be addressed in
any Statement of Work. In general, the Statement of Work will include the
DESCRIPTION OF SERVICES
This is an introduction that gives a very brief overview of the services
to be provided. In addition, it explains:
why the particular project is of interest to the contractor
what the overall requirement is
the difficulties which may be encountered
what determinations must be made.
the intended collaborative effort and expected benefits
the focus of the effort (for example, is it an exchange of technology for
a mutually beneficial purpose, or a joint R&D project?)
the objective in a few concise statements so that all the participants,
including the reviewing officials, will have a clear understanding of what
The scope is an overall picture of the desired work in a concise form.
It may outline the phases of the project and establish limits in terms
of technical objectives, time, or any other provisions or limitations.
The scope should also describe the desire end result of the project.
This Section includes a brief statement of what the SOW should cover.
The scope paragraph defines the breadth and limitations of the work to
be done. In some cases, the use of an introduction, background, or both,
is preferred. Separate indentures under this Section are used in SOWs to
accommodate complex acquisitions requiring lengthy background information.
Background information should be limited to only that information needed
to acquaint the proposer with the basic acquisition requirement. The items
listed below should not be included in the "Scope" Section.
Directions to the contractor to perform work tasks.
Specification of data requirements.
Description of deliverable products.
Cite all applicable documents, specifications, reports, and other material
which have an impact on the project.
Military handbooks, government instructions, service regulations, technical
orders, and policy letters, as a type, are not written in language suitable
for contract application. In the event that it is necessary that such documents
be included in a SOW, only excerpts should be used and these should be
made into either a clear task statement or a clear reference statement
for guidance only, and not for contract compliance. Any documents called
out in Section 2 of the SOW should have the specific version referenced,
i.e. by date or by revision letter.
This should explain the work to be accomplished and describe the main
steps and actions which are required.
These tasks, developed to satisfy program needs, are essentially the
contractor work requirements. Although the Source Selection Evaluation
Board (SSEB) is responsible for the examination of SOW requirements in
order to eliminate nonessential requirements, such examinations may be
accomplished by the functional technical groups during development of the
REPORTS, DATA AND OTHER DELIVERABLES
Data and reporting requirements should be indicated here. This includes
how the contractor will present the data to the Agency, how successes will
be measured, and what the final deliverable will be.
As part of the approval process, a Statement of Work is read by
individuals with very diverse backgrounds. They may include engineers,
scientists, accountants, lawyers, and contract specialists. Because of
these varying backgrounds, it is critical that the SOW be written in such
a manner so that both technical and non-technical professionals can understand
them. 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. 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,
performance-based, quantitative terms. A SOW prepared in explicit terms
will enable offerors to clearly understand the government's needs.
The Statement of Work should clearly describe the work to be done by
a contractor. There must be 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 terms. A SOW enables contractors to
understand the government's needs, and this facilitates the preparation
of responsive proposals and delivery of the required goods or services.
A well-written SOW also aids the Government in conduct of the source selection
and contract administration after award.
According to the NASA Guidance For Writing Work Statements, an
effort to produce a quality Statement of Work will:
A well-written SOW has the following attributes:
enable contractors understand the requirements of the project;
allow contractors to produce accurate price estimations;
provide a baseline for the development of the evaluation criteria, technical
proposal instructions and independent cost estimate;
minimize the need for change orders;
allow both the Government and contractor to assess performance; and
reduce claims and disputes under the contract.
According to the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management
and Budget, a Statement of Work must include the following minimum requirements
to be considered Performance Based:
Specifies requirements clearly to permit the government and offerors to
estimate the probable cost and the offeror to determine the levels of expertise,
manpower, and other resources needed to accomplish the task.
States the specific duties of the contractor in such a way that the contractor
knows what is required and can complete all tasks to the satisfaction of
the contract administration office.
Written so specifically that there is no question of whether the contractor
is obligated to perform specific tasks.
References only the absolute minimum applicable specifications and standards
needed. Selectively invokes documents only to the extent required to satisfy
the existing requirements. (The tailoring of reference document requirements
should result in a reduction to the overall costs otherwise incurred if
all requirements stated in a document are invoked).
Separates general information from direction so that background information
and suggested procedures are clearly distinguishable from contractor responsibilities.
Avoids directing how tasks are to be performed and states only what results
Performance requirements that define the work in measurable, mission-related
Performance standards (i.e., quality, quantity, timeliness) tied to the
A Government quality assurance plan that describes how the contractor’s
performance will be measured against the performance standards.
If the acquisition is either critical to agency mission accomplishment
or requires relatively large expenditures of funds, positive and negative
incentives tied to the Government QA plan measurements.
The Statement of Work is a vital part of an acquisitions package,
particularly in the Federal Government. As outlined above, many Federal
Agencies maintain strict guidelines on the preparation of the Statement
of Work. Requirements for the Statement of Work are outlined not only from
the Executive Office of the President, but also through United States Code.
Due to the focus on the Statement of Work in Government acquisitions, it
becomes necessary for anyone doing business with the Federal Government
to provide a Statement of Work as part of their proposal.
By using the Statement of Work, both the Agency and the Contractor are
provided certain protections. The Agency is assured that the work will
meet an acceptable level of requirements, in order for the proposal to
be accepted. The Contractor is assured that they will be given the freedom
to reach the agreed-upon end-result in a manner that is most feasible to
The Federal Government is not the only one who is using the Statement
of Work. Many companies in private industry are also recognizing the benefits
of using such a tool in acquisitions. These companies include educational
institutions and private technology firms.
One of the greatest benefits of the Statement of Work as outlined in
this report is its focus on Performance Based Contracting (PBC). PBC allows
for the Contractor to propose an end-result, but not propose how it will
reach that end-result. The focus is on WHAT will be accomplished, rather
than HOW it will be accomplished. This prevents both the Agency and the
Contractor from concentrating too much on minute specifics, rather than
concentrating on what they are trying to accomplish in the end.
EXAMPLES OF THE STATEMENT OF WORK:
ATN Scientific Computing at http://www.rhumba.oit.unc.edu/scicomp/sow.html
Large Binocular Telescope Project at http://abell.as.arizona.edu/~hill/rfp/hydro/hydwor.htm
Statement of Work for Joint Interoperability Engineering Organization
(JIEO) Systems Engineering (JSE) Contracts at http://www.disa.mil/D4/diioss/jse/jsesow.htm
Statement Of Work Forbase Supporttrunked Radio Systems at http://www.monmouth.army.mil/bstrs/download/t_sow.txt
Contract Statement Of Work For National Defense Center For Environmental
Excellence at http://www.ies-systems-landtech.org/ct/project/report/landtech.23/General/SOW/sow.htm
CERTAN-ITSS, Preparing the S.O.W.; February 15, 1999; Online, available
Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) Statement of
Work (SOW) Guidelines; April 16, 1999; Online, available at http://sql3.pica.army.mil/techtran/howtodo/CRADA/statement.htm
Department of Defense, Handbook for Preparation of Statement of Work
(SOW); April 3, 1996; Online, available at http://lrc3.monmouth.army.mil/cecom/lrc/pie/word/hbk245d.doc
Kelman, Steven; PBSC Checklist Memorandum; Executive Office of the President,
Office of Management and Budget; August 8, 1997; Online, available at http://www.arnet.gov/References/Policy_Letters/pbscckls.html
NASA Guidance for Writing Work Statements; December 1997; Online, available
Performance Based Statement of Work (SOW); April 16, 1999; Online, available
Sateriale, Ken; Performance Based Contracting; NASA; August 7, 1999;
Online, available at http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/procurement/perfbase.htm
Software Development Contracts; May 22, 1997; Online, available at http://www.arnet.gov/References/Policy_Letters/pbscswdc.html
Statement of Work; June 16, 1996; Online, available at http://www.os.kcp.com/home/fiasow.html
Statement of Work Format, Example Model Text; February 17, 1999; Online,
available at http://www.airtime.co.uk/users/wysywig/sow_mt.htm