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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Unsolicited Proposal Policy

  1. Background
  2. Preparation and Submission
  3. Technical Information
  4. Proprietary Data


This guide sets forth the general policy and the procedures for submitting unsolicited proposals to PHMSA as prescribed under Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Subpart 15.6.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) usual practice is to develop its own requirements, solicit proposals, and contract with offerors whose proposals are deemed most advantageous to the Government. Yet we recognize that educational and other nonprofit institutions, commercial concerns, and individuals may offer valuable and innovative proposals relevant to PHMSA's current and long-range program requirements.


An "unsolicited proposal" means a written proposal to perform a proposed task or effort that is innovative and unique, initiated and submitted to PHMSA by a prospective contractor without a solicitation from PHMSA, with the objective of obtaining a contract. It should present the proposed work in sufficient detail to allow PHMSA to determine that support could be worthwhile and that the proposed work could enhance, benefit, and provide valuable input to PHMSA's research and development mission or to some other area of PHMSA responsibility. The following kinds of correspondence will not be considered as proposals: (1) written inquiries regarding PHMSA interest in research and/or development areas, (2) proposal explorations, (3) technical inquiries, (4) research descriptions, and (5) offers to sell commercial off-the-shelf equipment. Such communications rarely contain sufficient information to permit adequate review or to allow even a tentative decision regarding sponsorship. Requests for product endorsement or venture capital funds to bring a developed product to market are not considered unsolicited proposals.

An unsolicited proposal is the formal means by which innovative and unique ideas are brought to PHMSA's attention, submitted in the hope that the Government will contract with the submitter for further research on, or development of, the ideas it contains.

To be considered as a valid unsolicited proposal, a submission must:

  • Be innovative and unique;
  • Be independently originated and developed by the offeror;
  • Be prepared without Government supervision, endorsement, direction, or direct Government involvement;
  • Include sufficient technical and cost detail for PHMSA to determine that Government support could be worthwhile and the proposed work could benefit the agency's mission responsibilities; and
  • Not be an advance proposal for a known agency requirement that can be acquired by competitive methods.

Preparation and Submission

Any unsolicited proposal submitted for PHMSA consideration must be addressed to:

Department of Transportation
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
Director, Acquisition Services Division (PHF-20)

1200 New Jersey Avenue SE (Room E22-317)
Washington, D.C. 20590

PHMSA will not act on any unsolicited proposal submitted directly to other PHMSA elements (including regional offices) until the proposal is submitted to the Office Acquisition Services. One signed original and two copies of the unsolicited proposal are required. Proposals should be prepared in conformance with the guidelines set forth below. The submitter may determine the format as long as the required data are provided. E-mail submissions may be made provided a single, manually signed hard copy is mailed concurrently. E-mail should be addressed to


Proposals should be brief and concentrate on substantive material essential for a complete understanding of the project. Experience shows that few proposals exceed 15-20 pages. Any necessary detailed information, such as charts, should be included as an attachment rather than in the main body of the proposal. Proposals will not be returned to the submitter.


  1. Legal name and address of entity submitting the proposal.
  2. Type of organization (profit, nonprofit, educational, small business, other).
  3. Names and telephone numbers of the technical and business personnel whom PHMSA may contact for evaluation purposes.
  4. Identification of any proprietary data which is intended to be used by the agency only for evaluation purposes.
  5. Names of any other Federal, State, local agencies, or other parties to which the proposal has been submitted.
  6. Date of submission of the proposal.

Technical Information

  1. A concise title and an abstract (approximately 200 words) of the proposed effort.
  2. A reasonably complete discussion stating the objectives of the effort, method of approach, the nature and extent of the anticipated results, and the manner in which the work will help support the PHMSA mission.
  3. The names and brief biographical information of the key personnel who would be involved.
  4. The type of support, if any, requested of PHMSA; e.g., facilities, equipment, materials, or personnel resources.


  1. A cost estimate for the proposed effort sufficiently detailed, by element of cost, for meaningful evaluation (including subcontractors).
  2. Period of time for which the proposal is valid (minimum of six months).
  3. Proposed work schedule.
  4. A statement, if applicable, regarding proposed cost sharing.
  5. Identification of any organizational conflicts of interest.
  6. A brief description of the organization and previous work or experience in the field of the proposal.
  7. Any required statements of environmental impact of the effort, human subject or animal care provisions, conflict of interest, or such other topics as may be required by the nature of the effort and current statutes, executive orders, or other government-wide guidelines.

Proprietary Data

Whenever possible, a proposal should be submitted without restrictions on the use of technical data provided. A proposal must indicate whether or not it contains proprietary information.

  1. If an unsolicited proposal includes proprietary data which the submitter does not want disclosed for any purpose other than evaluation of the proposal, the title page must be marked with the following legend:

    This proposal contains proprietary data that is not be disclosed outside the Government and is not to be duplicated, used or disclosed in whole or in part for any purpose other than to evaluate the proposal; provided, that if a contract is awarded to this offeror as a result of or in connection with submission of this data, the Government will have the right to duplicate, use, or disclose the data to the extent provided in the contract. This restriction does not limit the Government's right to use information contained in the data if it is obtainable from another source without restriction. The data subject to this restriction are contained in Sheet(s) ________.

    The submitter must also mark each restricted sheet with the following legend:

    The following proprietary data is subject to the restriction on the title page of this proposal.
  3. An unsolicited proposal will be returned to the submitter if it is marked with a different legend than that provided in paragraph (a) above.


Preliminary Review. Prior to making a comprehensive technical evaluation of a document submitted as an unsolicited proposal, PHMSA (PHF-20) will determine that the document contains sufficient technical, staffing, and cost information to enable meaningful evaluation. If the document lacks certain information, the submitter will be notified and given the opportunity to submit the needed information. A comprehensive technical evaluation cannot begin until the needed information is received.

If PHMSA determines that the submission does not meet the criteria for consideration as an unsolicited proposal, PHMSA will inform the submitter of the reason(s) for not considering it an unsolicited proposal.

Comprehensive Evaluation. Once an unsolicited proposal is accepted for evaluation, PHMSA's Acquisition Services Division will convene a panel of PHMSA experts to perform an independent evaluation. The panel will assess the potential contribution of the proposed research to the objectives of the PHMSA program under which it might be funded. A decision on whether to proceed with the proposal will be based on this assessment, whether a sole source procurement can be justified under the circumstances, and whether funding is available which may be used to fund the particular unsolicited proposal. PHMSA may approach other Federal agencies to share in the evaluation and consideration of the proposal.

When the technical evaluation has been completed, PHF-20 will inform the submitter of the results of the evaluation and whether or not negotiation of a contract on the basis of the proposal is contemplated.

PHMSA will not return an unsolicited proposal. Proposals are retained in a secure location for a period of time and then destroyed.


Once a proposal is accepted, PHMSA's Acquisition Services Division will handle the negotiation and award. PHMSA will use the unsolicited proposal as the basis for negotiation with the original submitter and will request additional information specific to the contractual process (certifications, cost and pricing data, facilities information, etc.) as the procurement progresses. The award instrument (contract, grant, or cooperative agreement) will be determined during the negotiation process.

For unsolicited proposals that result in a contract, the submitter must be a "Responsible Prospective Contractor" who meets the standards of FAR Subpart 9.1. The submitter must disclose all conflicts of interest and propose mitigation measures if a conflict exists. (see FAR Subpart 9.5).

An unsolicited proposal that results in an award becomes part of the record of that transaction and may be available to the public on specific request; however, information or material that PHMSA and the recipient mutually agree to be of a privileged nature will be held in confidence to the extent permitted by law, including the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).


A majority of rejections of unsolicited proposals are the result of relative priorities in the context of PHMSA's current or projected mission goals. The number of awards resulting from Unsolicited Proposals also may be restricted by a limitation of available funds. A notification letter, citing the reason(s) for rejection, will be sent to the individual who made the submission.


Organizations or individuals desiring more specific information relative to unsolicited proposals should contact the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Acquisition Services Division (PHF-20), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, D.C. 20590.

Last updated: Thursday, July 28, 2022