Contractor Evaluation

Definition: Contractor evaluation is an activity to assess the contractor's technical and programmatic progress, approaches, and deliverables. The purpose of contractor evaluation is to provide insight into risks and the likelihood of meeting program and contractual requirements [1].

Keywords: contractor evaluation, contractor performance, milestone reviews


Contractor evaluation is a component of performance management. It is a process for making course corrections that uses performance information to adjust resources and activities to achieve an organization's end goals. The focus of performance management is on the future: What do you need to be able to do, and how can you do things better? Managing performance is about managing for results.

MITRE teams frequently are asked to lead and participate in contractor evaluation activities because the characteristics of Federally Funded Research and Development Centers [FFRDCs], as chartered under Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 35.017 [2], promote independence, objectivity, freedom from conflicts of interest, and technical expertise. These characteristics enable the MITRE team to provide findings and recommendations that might reduce risk to the government program and increase the probability of a favorable outcome.

MITRE SE Roles & Expectations: MITRE systems engineers (SEs) support contractor evaluations and milestone reviews, influence sponsor/customer decisions during those reviews, monitor the contractor's continued performance, and recommend changes based upon their performance [1]. MITRE systems engineers are expected to apply strong domain and technical expertise and experience and perform with objectivity consistent with the FFRDC role.

This topic contains three articles. The first, Data Driven Contractor Evaluations and Milestone Reviews, provides guidance to MITRE SEs who monitor, assess, and recommend improvements to a contractor's technical and programmatic approaches, work packages, prototypes, and deliverables before and during reviews. The other two articles —Earned Value Management and Competitive Prototyping— provide guidance and lessons learned on key specific techniques for monitoring contractor performance. Earned Value Management (EVM) integrates data on project scope, schedule, and cost to measure progress, and is required in many government programs. It gives the MITRE SE insight into potential program risks and can form the basis for making recommendations to mitigate those risks. Competitive prototyping (CP) is an approach in which two or more competing organizations develop prototypes during the early stages of a project. In a number of recent acquisition reform initiatives, the U.S. government has encouraged or required CP to be used as a tool to assess technology maturity and reduce program risk. The CP article provides guidance on when to recommend competitive prototyping and offers best practices and lessons learned for monitoring and evaluating contractor competitive prototyping technical efforts. 

Related information is also available in articles under the MITRE FFRDC Independent Assessments topic in this section of the SE Guide.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

  • Maintain positive and professional relationships with all contractors. The contractor and government teams will be more receptive to MITRE findings and recommendations if they are developed and presented in a positive, professional atmosphere. In addition, occasionally MITRE SEs find themselves working with the same contractor or government team members on different projects. In that situation, the shared experience of a professional encounter can prove helpful in making progress with the new project.
  • Planning for roles and activities is essential. The government team, MITRE, and the contractor all have specific roles and responsibilities, and frequently MITRE is asked to lead the government team efforts in defining the technical components. MITRE also usually drafts the technical evaluation plan. The best practices and lessons learned sections in the articles under this topic provide guidance on both roles and responsibilities and planning.

References & Resources

  1. The MITRE Institute, September 1, 2007, MITRE Systems Engineering (SE) Competency Model, Version 1.13E, pp. 39-40.
  2. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), accessed February 2, 2010.

Additional References & Resources

The MITRE Corporation, "Customer and Contractor Interaction," MITRE Project Leadership Handbook.

The MITRE Institute, TSE501, Leading an Independent Review Team.

The MITRE Institute, TSE518, Introduction to Enterprise Business Strategy, Module 3, Performance Management.


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