United States: Understanding The Scope Of Federal Supply Schedule Labor Category Descriptions: Risks And Opportunities Presented By The GAO's Allworld Language Consultants Decision

In a Federal Supply Schedule ("FSS") procurement conducted under FAR Subpart 8.4, all items quoted and ordered by the agency are required to be available on the vendor's schedule contract as a precondition to its receiving the order. This means, in the case of a task order for services, that all of the solicited labor categories must be on the successful vendor's FSS contract.

GAO has issued several opinions addressing what it means for GSA schedule services to be "on" a vendor's FSS contract. In US Investigation Services, Professional Services Division, B-410454.2, Jan. 15, 2015, 2016 CPD ¶ 44, a bid protest successfully litigated by Sheppard Mullin, GAO articulated the test as whether the duties, responsibilities, and qualifications for the types of employees solicited by the agency are encompassed within the FSS labor category description. In that case, GAO sustained a protest alleging that the services offered by the awardee were not available on its GSA schedule contract where "none of the responsibilities or activities described in [the awardee's FSS] labor category description [was] germane to the work required under the RFQ."

More recently, in AllWorld Language Consultants, Inc., B-411481.3, Jan. 6, 2016, 2016 CPD ¶ 12, GAO articulated what could be interpreted as a more restrictive standard for determining whether services are available on a vendor's FSS contract. Specifically, AllWorld includes language that arguably could be interpreted to suggest that a vendor's FSS labor category description must recite all capabilities and qualifications identified in the solicitation and statement of work for an FSS procurement.

AllWorld involved a solicitation issued by the GSA, on behalf of the Air Force, for an FSS task order to procure linguistic support services in southwest Asia. The solicitation required linguists to provide both oral and written translation services. The statement of work provided that the proposed linguists may be required to live and work in harsh desert environments, including living and working in temporary facilities such as tents; serve during a level of heightened state of threat; function effectively and efficiently during extended periods of high pressure and stress, while maintaining a professional functional demeanor at the scenes of crimes, many of which may be the result of violent and repugnant acts; function as an integral member of a team of highly trained personnel; and operate government-owned vehicles.

The awardee's technical quotation offered to meet all of the solicitation requirements using a single FSS labor category. The awardee's FSS description of that labor category, however, did not include certain of the qualifications required by the statement of work. In particular, it did not include oral translation services of any type. It also contemplated that all work would be performed at the contractor's facility, with no provision for the performance of services in remote locations.

The protester argued that the awardee's quotation was technically unacceptable because the quoted labor category, as described on the awardee's FSS contract, did not meet the requirements of the solicitation and the statement of work. GSA responded that "no contractor's FSS labor categories align precisely with the requirements of any particular PWS," and explained that it therefore looked to the awardee's technical quotation to determine what duties the proposed linguists would perform.

GAO rejected GSA's argument and sustained the protest. GAO found that the labor category description included in the awardee's FSS contract, on its face, did not include many of the qualifications required by the solicitation. GAO held that the awardee could not, through its technical quotation, propose additional capabilities that were required by the solicitation but missing from the awardee's FSS labor category description.

Given the significant disparity between the awardee's FSS labor category description and the solicitation requirements, GAO had little choice but to sustain the protest. However, GAO's opinion includes the following broad language that is likely to be troubling to agencies and contractors alike:

We note as well that GSA's underlying premise – that [the awardee] could identify a labor category under its FSS contract that did not meet all of the requirements of the PWS, but could somehow enhance or alter the narrative description and qualifications of that labor category through the technical portion of its quotation – reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of FSS contracting. The labor categories identified and described in each firm's underlying FSS contract are fixed, discrete, specific labor category descriptions that are contractually binding and not subject to alteration, just as the technical specifications for products available under a firm's FSS contract are fixed, discrete specific, contractually binding, and not subject to alteration.

To the extent a quoted labor category description under a firm's FSS contract does not, in the words of GSA, 'align precisely' with the requirements of a given solicitation, the firm may not properly alter the underlying labor category description through the terms of its quotation. Rather, where a firm's quoted labor category description does not align with the requirements of the solicitation, it means that the quoted labor category does not meet the requirements of the solicitation, and therefore cannot serve as the basis for issuing a task order to the firm.

The holding of AllWorld is unremarkable given the significant disparity between the awardee's quoted FSS labor category description and the requirements of the solicitation. Oral translation services to be provided in a warzone-type environment clearly are not within the scope of a labor category limited to written translation services to be provided at a contractor's facility. However, there is a perceived risk that the AllWorld decision, and specifically the above quoted language, could be interpreted more broadly to mean that an offeror's FSS labor category description must include each and every capability described in the solicitation and the statement of work.

Whether interpreted broadly or narrowly, the AllWorld decision has several important implications for GSA schedule contractors.

First, in light of decisions such as AllWorld, contractors should confirm that their FSS labor category descriptions are sufficiently broad to capture all requirements for the types of FSS procurements in which they typically participate. A contractor can accomplish this objective by comparing its FSS labor category descriptions to a representative sample of recent solicitations or task orders. If those solicitations and task orders include requirements that are not in the contractor's FSS labor category description, it may be advantageous for the contractor to broaden its FSS labor category description to include those requirements. It is impossible to anticipate every requirement that may be included in a new solicitation, but this exercise may help a contractor to identify recurring requirements or capabilities that should be included in its FSS contract in order to increase the likelihood of being eligible for future FSS task orders.

Prior to AllWorld, some contractors took the opposite approach, watering down their labor category descriptions to one or two sentences with a very general statement of capabilities. This practice brings with it significant risk, particularly in light of the potential to interpret AllWorld as requiring a contractor's FSS labor category description to include, "on its face," a detailed recitation of all capabilities and qualifications necessary to perform the statement of work. This approach also creates a risk that GSA will not have sufficient information to evaluate an offeror's proposal for an FSS contract, and to make a price reasonableness determination, in the first instance.

Second, contractors should propose an FSS labor category that is appropriate for the work described in the solicitation and the statement of work. GAO's decision in AllWorld suggests that the awardee's FSS contract included additional labor categories that potentially could have met the solicitation requirements. The awardee, however, proposed a labor category that clearly did not meet the requirements of the solicitation. GAO suggested that this approach provided the awardee with a "significant competitive advantage" because the labor categories that potentially met the solicitation requirements were more expensive than the proposed labor category. However, given that the awardee's quotation agreed to meet all of the solicitation requirements, the awardee potentially could have achieved the same competitive advantage by offering a higher discount on one of its more expensive FSS labor categories that complied with all of the solicitation requirements.

Third, contractors should understand the potential bid protest implications of cases such as AllWorld. FSS price lists and labor category descriptions are publicly available on the GSA Advantage! website. Thus, a disappointed offeror can validate whether the awardee's FSS contract includes labor categories that align with the requirements of the solicitation and statement of work. If the awardee's FSS contract does not include any such labor categories, there may be a valid basis for protest. If the awardee's FSS contract includes labor categories that are consistent with the solicitation requirements, but those labor categories are far more expensive than the award value would seem to suggest, there may be a basis to allege that the awardee either did not propose those compliant FSS labor categories or that it proposed those FSS labor categories at a price that was unrealistically low (if the solicitation requires a price realism analysis).

Fourth, GSA schedule contractors should understand the incentives that decisions such as AllWorld create for agencies and anticipate how agencies will respond. Insisting on precise alignment between FSS labor category descriptions and solicitation requirements may incentivize agencies to water down statements of work for FSS procurements to avoid including specific requirements that are not expressly listed in many contractors' FSS labor category descriptions. Thus, contractors should be on the lookout for vague solicitation requirements and, to the extent possible, attempt to obtain more specific information through the question and answer process. Likewise, contractors should anticipate the possibility that agencies will attempt to impose more specific, and potentially more stringent, requirements after award. Such requirements may be outside the scope of the contractor's FSS contract or, at minimum, may constitute a change for which the contractor is entitled to additional compensation.

Alternatively, to the extent an agency requires a solicitation with very specific labor category qualifications, it may choose to procure its requirements outside the FSS program. I have witnessed this trend in my own practice, particularly in the context of corrective action taken in response to several GAO protests that included allegations similar to those raised in AllWorld. None of the prospective offerors' FSS contracts in those cases included service descriptions that expressly covered each and every requirement of the solicitation. Rather than risking a sustained protest, the agencies chose to abandon the FSS program and procure their requirements on an open market basis. Decisions like AllWorld have the potential to push agencies away from the FSS program. Thus, contractors who are accustomed to selling to the Government solely through their FSS contracts may wish to familiarize themselves with some of the important differences between FSS procurements and procurements conducted on an open market basis. These include, without limitation, different procedures, different terms and conditions, different pricing strategies, and the flexibility to offer different products and services beyond those included on the contractor's FSS contract.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
19 Oct 2017, Webinar, Los Angeles, United States

Please join Oliver Wyman and Sheppard Mullin for an upcoming webinar to discuss the critical topic of pharmacy value. "Driving Value in Pharmacy: How the Industry Can and Must Deliver Change" will highlight where the industry can and must evolve to bring needed relief to consumers and improve health.

19 Oct 2017, Webinar, Los Angeles, United States

Stay tuned on the latest developments in Europe that may affect your business and join Sheppard Mullin’s Antitrust & Competition “Breakfast with Europe” drive-time webinars, bringing you up to speed on what you need to know about the month back, the present and month forward in European competition law developments.

24 Oct 2017, Seminar, Los Angeles, United States

Presented by The American Bar Association White Collar Crime Committee.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.