back to blog

Why Can’t I Use the FPLOE Contract Type Whenever I Want?

Read Time 5 mins | Written by: Patrick Shields


Why Can’t I Use the FPLOE Contract Type Whenever I Want? 

FAR Part 16 describes types of contracts that may be used in Federal government acquisitions.  One little-known and seemingly often misunderstood contract type is the firm-fixed-price, level-of-effort term (FPLOE) type contract, defined at 16.207, which provides that FPLOE is suitable for investigation or study in a specific R&D area.  The characteristics and limitations for using the FPLOE contract type include: 

  • specified level of effort, stated period of time, work definable only in general terms; for which the Government pays a fixed dollar amount. 
  • FPLOE type is allowed only when- 
  • the work required cannot otherwise be clearly defined; 
  • the required LOE is identified/agreed upon in advance; 
  • the reasonable assurance that the intended result cannot be achieved by expending less than the stipulated effort; the contract price doesn’t exceed the simplified acquisition threshold (SAT - $250k or higher for various contingency, emergency and overseas situations)  
  • BUT can be used for similar-purpose R&D requirements above the SAT if approved by the chief of the contracting office. 

In the first two-thirds of FY22, reported 349 instances of FPLOE type contract actions, although only 82 (24.5%) of these actions had a total contract value at/below the standard SAT.  While this confirms that FPLOE represents an extreme minority of the tens of thousands of Federal contract actions during this timeframe, were these instances truly R&D-purposed actions that conformed to all of the FAR characteristics and constraints?  What about the 75% of FPLOE actions in the 1st 8 months of FY22 that exceeded the basic SAT value?  Those actions averaged over $25M each, with 2 actions individually valued over $1B!  How many of these actions were wrongly coded as FPLOE?  Or how many of them may have been an incorrect usage of the very-limited-purpose contract type?  It has also been known to happen that FPLOE type contracts have been coded as Firm Fixed Price in (formerly FPDS-NG). 

Are you new to working on an acquisition team?  Could you use help in assessing alternatives and deciding on the best contract type for your acquisition? One source of assistance is the video tutorials available in our acquisition planning app called Facilitated Intelligent Needs Development (FIND).  These short tutorials help you to decide which type of contract may be most suitable based on your objectives and acquisition circumstances.  The FIND Library also has many Templates, Formats and Guidance documents to assist you in documenting your contract type choice, each of which is tailorable for your agency’s needs.  

Check out our video that provides an overview of FIND.  Or better yet, request a demo at or contact us at (301) 392-1895 or    

Make it an enlightened day,  

Pat Shields  

Director – Acquisition Practice  

Seventh Sense Consulting  


Would You Like to Know More?

Still have questions or would you like to learn more about our software?
Patrick Shields

Mr. Patrick Shields has over 45 years of experience as an acquisition and contracting professional and innovative leader. Since 2016 Mr. Shields has served as the Seventh Sense Consulting LLC (SSC) Director of Acquisition Practice in which his extensive knowledge pf Federal Government acquisition and contracting, plus his passion for innovation and enlightened efficiency enable him to serve SSC’s clients, both directly through consulting engagements and indirectly, both as a “reachback” resource for all SSC personnel and by providing subject matter expertise (SME) for the development and support of SSC’s suite of Enlightened Solutions intelligent products. Prior to joining SSC, Mr. Shields was the Senior Manager for Research Services for ASI Government (ASI) (2012-2016), where he led a team of acquisition experts within ASI’s Virtual Acquisition Office (VAO) who researched and developed responses to inquiries on acquisition/ contracting topics that spanned the acquisition lifecycle plus various acquisition organization and policy-related topics. Also, Mr. Shields authored, co-authored or contributed content to dozens of VAO educational/advisory publications. Inquiry responses and VAO’s publications were provided to over 25,000 acquisition professionals within the numerous VAO subscriber agencies. Prior to joining the VAO, Mr. Shields served as a senior subject matter expert within ASI’s consulting division, providing expertise to various clients, including DoD and Intelligence Community agencies, GSA, and numerous other civilian agencies. Mr. Shields’ consulting efforts included development of acquisition-specific documents, agency-specific policies, and requested topical training materials and presentations. While at ASI, he earned ASI’s Masters Certificate in Performance Based Acquisition and was selected as an ASI Research Fellow. After a short time as a high school and collegiate level mathematics teacher, Mr. Shields began his acquisition and contracting career at the Naval Air Systems Command (1987-2004), advancing to serve in various Division Head level assignments for over 10 years before retiring from civil service. During this tenure, he executed and/or oversaw over $10B in contracts spanning the full major systems acquisition cycle for some of the most consequential major weapon systems programs in Naval Aviation. Mr. Shields earned numerous certifications, awards and recognitions, including DAWIA Level III in both Contracting and Program Management, was a Charter Member of the Navy Acquisition Corps, and a Meritorious Civilian Service Medal. Mr. Shields holds a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics Education from Virginia Tech, plus master’s degrees in Mathematics from Virginia Commonwealth University, and in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.