CALL title banner
Handbook 09-48
September 2009

Chapter 1

Introduction to Performance Work Statements and Statements of Work

Getting statements of work (SOW) or performance work statements (PWS) correct is no easy task in a combat environment; however, nothing is more fundamental to the success of a contract. If the PWS is too vague, too broad, or too generic, it can leave room for wild and varied interpretations in a less than ideal business environment. These various interpretations can lead to mission failure.

Often the requiring activity (typically your unit) gives little thought to developing the PWS. Frequently the project along with a poorly written PWS with vague requirements makes its way to a contracting officer who knows little or nothing of the history and importance of the requirement. Remember, any contract starts with a PWS, and PWS development is the requiring activity's responsibility. Who else knows best what they want?

There are two major categories of acquisitions: supplies and services. A service contract directly engages the time and effort of a contractor whose primary purpose is to perform an identifiable task rather than to furnish an end item of supply. In order to communicate what tasks the contractor is to perform, the requiring activity (your unit) must develop the PWS or SOW.

For the purposes of this handbook, the term SOW is used to refer to the document completely describing the contractual work requirement. Unless otherwise noted, SOW also encompasses the term PWS.

Performance-based PWS means that the government describes its requirements and lets the contractor determine how it will meet them. The contract is based on performance rather than methodology as in a SOW.

SOW for baking one dozen chocolate chip cookies


1 cup (c.) butter (or ¾ c. butter and ¼ c. butter-flavored Crisco)

2 ¼ c. all-purpose flour

1 c. dark brown sugar

½ c. granulated sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons (tsp) real bourbon vanilla extract

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 c. shelled walnuts

1 tsp milk

½ tsp water

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt


Preheat your oven to 325° Fahrenheit.

Use an electric mixer to mix sugars and butter in a large bowl. Add the other wet ingredients, mixing well. Then mix in flour, baking soda, and salt. Finally, mix in chocolate and nuts.

Place tablespoon-sized balls of cookie dough on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 11 minutes (cooking times may vary). The cookies will be extremely soft when removed from the oven. Carefully lift the cookies with a spatula and place them on a rack to cool. Ensure there is protection from flies and rodents.

Packaging should provide adequate moisture protection so that the cookies remain fresh and no more than five percent of the delivered cookies experience breakage.

Delivery must be made not later than 7 days after contract award at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Diamondback, Building 171, in the 5th floor lobby. Acceptance will be made by the COR after tasting a random sample.

PWS for baking one dozen chocolate chip cookies


Bake one dozen delicious chocolate chip cookies.


One week from today.


FOB Diamondback, Building 171, 5th floor lobby.

How many?

1 dozen (12 cookies).

How well?

Must taste good and not be broken.

In developing the PWS, the development team should keep in mind a shared vision of the project and consensus on the end state. The team must be willing to compromise without losing sight of the answers to three key questions:

1. What do I need?

2. When do I need it?

3. How do I know it is good when I receive it?

Using the PWS approach encourages efficiency and innovation on the part of the contractor. At the same time, developing a PWS requires substantially less research and work for the team developing the requirement.

Benefits of a PWS

The PWS:

  • Provides better value. The government pays for results, not activity.
  • Maximizes performance. The contractor and the government focus on results, not procedure. The contractor delivers the required service or goods but follows its own best practices. Provided that the delivered service (outcome) remains in accordance with the contract, contractors can adjust their processes, as appropriate, throughout the life of the contract without the burden of contract modifications. The use of incentives further motivates contractor performance.
  • Detailed processes are not required, which allows the contractor flexibility in proposing the best solution and the option to follow standard industry procedures. In addition, the government is relieved of the burden to provide detailed processes. However, detailed specifications may be required in some cases.
  • Promotes the use of commercial services. The ability to use commercial services allows the government to take advantage of existing industry practices and reduces the use of government-unique contract clauses and requirements.
  • Maximizes competition. Competition is maximized not just in the areas of cost and price, but also when it comes to ideas and innovation. The PWS approach allows for greater innovation and has the potential to attract a broader industry base to a project. Encouraging innovation from the supplier base by using performance requirements maximizes opportunities for competitive alternatives in place of government-directed solutions.

Other potential benefits include an increased likelihood of meeting mission needs; increased focus on intended results, not processes; and contractor buy-in and shared interests. Additionally, shared incentives permit innovation and cost effectiveness; surveillance is less frequent, but more meaningful; and the government can choose from a variety of solutions.


          |   Privacy and Security Notice   |     |   Accessibility Help   |   External Link Disclaimer   |   No Fear Act   |
|   U.S. Army   |   Tradoc   TRADOC   |   iSALUTE   | Ft. Leavenworth   |   Site Map   |   FOIA   |   USA.GOV   |   This is an official U.S. Army Site   |