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FFP vs. CPFF Contracts: Which is Better?

Whether you are going to bid a job as Firm Fixed Price (FFP) or as Cost plus Fixed Fee (CPFF) is the single most important decision you need to make in the SBIR/STTR world. These are two very different contract types and the decision to use one contract type over the other is very important to the overall success of a program. If your sponsor gives you a choice on the matter, the decision to go with one contract type over the other should be well thought out prior to submitting your proposal.

A Firm Fixed Price (FFP) contract is a lot like the tag price you would find on a pair of sneakers. If the price tag on the sneakers is $54.99, then the consumer will pay $54.99 for those sneakers. No more. No less. Fixed. Price. The profit margin of those sneakers to the manufacturer is built into that price and is transparent to the buyer. Likewise, if a FFP contract to research XYZ, is $99,999, then the Government is going to pay you $99,999 for that body of research. They will not pay you any more and they will not pay you any less.

It is critical in this kind of contract to nail down exactly what you are and are not going to do for that price. You do this by writing a specific Statement of Work and by carefully reviewing your deliverables during contract negotiations. It also means that you have to manage the contract more carefully. You can't make changes in the middle and charge accordingly. With an FFP contract, you can only afford to deliver exactly as it says in the contract, so you better make sure that the contract covers everything.

You alsoo can't put a proposal together to do XYZ in which your cost is $50,000 and sell it to the Government for $99,999. That could be considered defective pricing in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) guidelines and it also exceeds the statutory maximum profit you can make on a contract such as this.

A Cost plus Fixed Fee (CPFF) contract is a contract type that reimburses you for fair and reasonable expenses up to a certain amount (a ceiling of some sort) and then pays you a prenegotiated fixed fee above any beyond your expenses. Accordingly, your profit margin or "fee" as one should call it, is exactly that renegotiated fixed fee. No more. No less. Depending on the billing method, your fee may be paid to you as one lump sum, or on some prorated basis where you earn a portion of the fee each billing cycle. In the end, if the job is done satisfactorily, the entire fixed fee amount will have been paid or will be payable to the contractor. If your total cost on the job is less than the ceiling, then your fee will not change, if your cost on the job is more than the ceiling, then your fee will not change either. It is essential to remember that you will not receive any more or any less fee than the renegotiated amount hence the terminology "fixed fee." So, for example, if your cost ceiling is 90,000 and your fixed fee is $9,000 for a total contract value of $99,000, you will be reimbursed for your cost incurred up to, but not exceeding, $90,000 and you will receive $9,000 as a fee. If you spend more than $90,000 (and this doesn't get you in hot water with your sponsor - i.e. a default situation) you may not be reimbursed for the amount that you go over $90,000 but you will get your $9,000 fee. If you only spend $80,000 you will be reimbursed for $80,000 and you will still receive $9,000 since your fee is, you got it… fixed!


Written by LisaDeMaio of Virtual Contract Manager.



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