The procurement process used by the U.S. government (or its contractor) can follow one of several different paths. Usually, an equipment specification is written that contains performance criteria and other requirements. A solicitation is then released and potential sellers competitively bid for the work. Eventually, a contract is issued to the lowest bidder. The seller is then held accountable for meeting the requirements contained in the specification.
However, the design details are left to the seller. The buyer monitors the progress of the seller’s design using a cumbersome process of official communiques, which are called submittals. These submittals contain valuable design information that was previously identified in the specification as being important, and it provides the specification writer (usually a designer or engineer) an opportunity to review the seller’s design. The submittals pass through official channels, eventually reaching the engineer. After review, the engineer has the authority to approve, make comments, or halt the process if problems are identified. Unfortunately, during government procurements, the engineer and seller are forbidden from making direct contact with each other. Instead, they must communicate through official channels throughout the life of the project.