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Donnie Harris: Retired Contracting Officer with an Unlimited Warrant to Write Billions in Contract Actions

 In GovCon Tips

Navigate the government contracting market with retired military contracting officer Donnie Harris.


Donnie Harris is a retired military contracting officer who served two decades for the Coast Guard Office of Chief Counsel, Procurement Law Division, and the Clerk of the Court/Paralegal for the Coast Guard Court of Military Appeal.

Throughout his tenure, Harris participated on various radio shows and trained thousands of military and civilian personnel on topics ranging from preparing a statement of work to updates on the FAR.

Over the course of these years, he managed complex and high-profile procurements totaling $1.2 billion from the acquisition to the pre-award phase. 

After retiring, he was employed by numerous companies that wanted to utilize his procurement experience. 


What that audit means is when you’re dealing with a cost reimbursable contract, you have to have an approved purchasing system that is approved by the government.

Huge companies like Booz Allen Hamilton use this process in order to ensure that everything, from the reqs and certs to the subcontractor agreements, are dated and signed correctly.

The reason is that if you fail too many audits, then that’s going to go into your past performance.

You may have an outstanding technical solution, but because you’re not able to pass an audit and it is reflected in your past performance, then you’re probably not going to win.

This is why Harris worked with a whole department in Booz Allen that was strictly dedicated to doing this audit. 


Under the subcontracting goal, huge companies that do federal works need to subcontract a certain percentage of their work to small businesses. 

For instance, you’re not going to get a small business who can build a $3 billion bridge. The reasons may include the fact that they don’t have the infrastructure, the resources, and the technical knowledge and expertise to build a bridge.

Still, these small businesses can do some of the legwork, like dirt removal, concrete, and other of the small jobs. This is where the subcontracting goals come into place. 

However, depending upon the requirements, there are firms that really don’t have to adhere to the subcontracting goals, especially if there’s no subcontractors out there that can perform that type of work.

This happens when the vendor or the offerors have done their market research and found that no small business can fulfill the requirements.  


In Harris’ experience, he had to disqualify a lot of small businesses because they did not even maintain the basic requirements needed. 

For example, in putting solicitations online, they use keywords that only certain companies know. Why? Because this shows the level of expertise that that company has.

Apart from that, contracting officers have specific requirements depending on the contract. So, if you don’t follow any of these, then you can certainly be disqualified. 

For instance, if it is written that you need to use an 8 1/2 X 11 size of paper, then you need to really send your proposal using this size.

These are just the little things people on the government side uses in order to eliminate companies that could really not fulfill the requirements.


The government usually receives two proposals: the technical proposal and the pricing proposal. 

The technical proposal is going to address how you are going to match or apply the requirements. Within this, the agency usually asks for your resumes, technical capabilities, resources, and past performance. 

Meanwhile, the pricing proposal is how are you going to price it. This includes what labor rates you are going to use and what labor categories you are going to use to accommodate these requirements.

Now, let’s say your technical proposal and your price proposal are both acceptable and you won a single award. Then, you will move to the negotiation, the final offer, and the kick off meeting about certain requirements. Lastly, you will start working.  

On the other hand, if it is going to be a multiple award, that’s when the agency will issue different task orders or requests for quotes towards you and other companies in the pool. 

What will happen in this kind of award is that you will price every time there’s a task order and that agency will choose the lowest bidder.  


If you want to learn more on how to navigate the government contracting market with retired military contracting officer Donnie Harris, then be sure to click the resources below.

You can also visit the GovCon Giant website or the new GovCon Edu where you learn everything about government contracting!

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