MATOCs – know them and love (?) them

The government certainly likes acronyms.  Have you ever taken a look around to see what is out there?

  • Google “federal government acronyms” = 2,870,000

The first couple results can be staggering. provides the Reference Center and General Government including a link to “Abbreviations and Acronyms” referred to as GovSpeak from the United States Government Manual.  The Appendix to this manual has abbreviations starting with ABMC (American Battle Monuments Commission) and ending 6 pages later with WHD (Wage and Hour Division).  In the grand scheme, a small number of acronyms is shown in that manual, but one specifically mentioned in the title of this blog is MATOCs.

  • Google “MATOCs” = 26,300 (thankfully)

My favorite find for "MATOC" using Google image search.

Multiple Award Task Order Contracts have recently become a trend.  If the government ran a specific Twitterverse on contracting vehicles, this would certainly be in the top 5.  I have personally seen 3 come across my desk over a period of 2 years.  These are HUGE contracts that help the government define a list of vendors that can perform on task orders required throughout the agency for one or many types of tasks.

Over the past few years, MATOCs have risen over 30% – outpacing the overall government contract spending increase during the same timeframe.  The main reason for this increase in MATOCs is the relative ease with which they can be managed.  The government acquisition workforce has remained basically flat during the same time, meaning agencies have to spend more money with the same resources.

MATOCs allow agencies to set up a master contract through which individual task orders can be made.  There is normally a limit to the number of contract holders, which limits competition for each task order to a pre-qualified set of vendors. Task orders can then be issued and awarded within a matter of weeks instead of months-long government solicitation processes.

I have been the bearer of a lot of the “bad side” of things in the GC environment:

  • Winning a place generally requires a large investment and plenty of patience.
  • Winning a position on a MATOC doesn’t guarantee success.
  • Winning only means a company has won the right to bid again for each task order. 

There are many examples of companies that have won a seat, but actually received less than $100,000 as their competitors pulled in millions.

To succeed on a MATOC, companies are having to be “lean and mean.”  Traditionally, a modestly complex procurement could afford the BD team MONTHS to determine whether to bid, put together a team and develop a lengthy proposal.  MATOCs usually require proposal submission in 14 or fewer DAYS.

Once you win or lose the MATOC competition, you are then faced with a strange paradigm.  Companies without a prime position on a MATOC have limited options. They can subcontract to one of the prime contractors or try to convince agency officials their solution is so essential the agency should use an alternative contract vehicle on which the company has a seat.  This certainly creates a problem for small or mid-size companies lacking a compelling differentiation.

However, despite all of the challenges associated with them, MATOCs have become well entrenched as a preferred strategy for the government.  My best advice?  Good luck.

About Marty Herbert

With 13 years of government contract administration, analysis, finance, and audit experience, I have established a firm baseline in ethics and a specialization in government contracts that has prepared me to become a subject matter expert in my field. I am currently working on enhancing government contracts management and compliance through workflow tools and product offerings - attempting to make the process proactive as opposed to reactive.
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