Procurement Information Circular

August 30, 2002


PURPOSE:  To provide guidance on the acquisition training.


BACKGROUND:  Subpart 1837.70 of the NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) had provided that:


The Training Act of 1958 (5 U.S.C. 4101 et seq.) may be used as the authority for training of NASA employees by, in, or through non-Government off-the shelf training courses which are available to the public.  


On October 3, 2000, Procurement Notice (PN) 97-56 deleted Subpart 1837.70 based on legal opinion that, except for 41 U.S.C. section 5, the Training Act did not exempt procurement statutes from the acquisition of training.  In anticipation of the change contained in PN 97-56, a memo dated March 7, 2000, advised Procurement Officers and Training Officers that, unless current Center mechanisms for the acquisition of training are compliant with the requirement of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the NFS, they needed to put in place new mechanisms for the acquisition of training.  The memo then noted several different methods that could be used to acquire training such as the use of training authorization documents, purchase orders, and purchase cards.    


The guidance provided in the March 7, 2000, memo has resulted in some Centers requiring the use of purchase cards and other procurement actions to acquire training, which may be unnecessary and was not intended.



A.  Off-the-Shelf Training

      (1)  “Off-the-shelf” training is generally defined as training for an individual, which consists of a program, course, or instructional service offered at a fixed price at an announced date, time, and location by colleges, universities, professional associations, or groups, and individuals other than Government civilian or military personnel which are open to the general public.  Although “off-the-shelf” training is often referred to as classroom training, it can also be a self-study course that an employee completes at work or at home on his or her own time.  It can refer to internet courses that the employee completes at his or her workstation or at home.

      (2)  “Off-the-shelf” training can also refer to training acquired for a group. Like training for an individual, off-the-shelf training for a group also consists of programs, courses, or instructional services offered at a fixed price by colleges, universities, professional associations, or groups, and individuals other than Government civilian or military personnel which are available to the general public.  “Off-the-shelf training” for a group must currently exist, contain standard features, and have prices that are contained in catalogs or other printed material (hardcopy or electronic).  Tailoring or incidental changes, that the training provider normally makes to reflect the training participants, are permissible as long as these do not result in additional costs beyond the off-the-shelf published price. 

      (3)  “Off-the-shelf” training for a group can include courses that NASA arranges for a provider to conduct on-site, at no additional cost, to meet one-time or on-going needs, provided the option for on-site training is a standard service offered in the contractor’s catalog or other printed material (hardcopy or electronic), and available to the general public.  Unlike off-the-shelf training for an individual, ensuring that a course for a group is “off-the-shelf” is more difficult.  While tailoring and incidental changes are permissible, changes that go beyond focusing the course to the audience, that affect the standard features of the course, that require substantive content development to satisfy the organization’s need, or that result in an increase to cost will change the course from an off-the-shelf course to a training course specifically designed for NASA.  Training courses specifically designed for NASA must be acquired through the normal procurement process. When acquiring training for groups, caution should be used to determine whether the course is “off-the-shelf.”

B.  Acquiring Off-the-Shelf Training

      (1)  Use of Training Form:  Authorized Training Forms (OPM, HQ, or Center) must be used to request and authorize all off-the-shelf training.  Additionally, authorized training forms can be used to authorize, procure, and certify payment for “off-the-shelf training” under the following conditions:

            (a) The training cost for a single training event, program, or instructional service does not exceed $25,000;

            (b) The cost is of a fixed nature, e.g., price per student or price per course, program, or service;

            (c) The form is used only after a best value determination is completed and documented for a single training event, program, or instructional service that exceeds $2,500.  This documentation can be in the form of a separate statement attached to the training request or a statement on the training request that the course selected represents the best value to the Government and that other sources were considered.  (Centers using their own training forms should consider amending these forms to include an appropriate statement.); and

            (d) The form identifies appropriate accounting data.

Only those individuals delegated procurement authority by the Center Procurement Officer may use the training form to procure “off-the-shelf” training.  (See Paragraph C below.)

      (2) Best value determination.  The best value determination considers other factors in addition to price that will provide the greatest overall benefit.  Other factors can include, but are not limited to, quality, availability, location, timeframe, relevance, and past performance.

      (3) Applicability of the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA).  To determine the dollar amount of the training requirement relative to the applicability of CICA, centers should use --

            (a) The total cost of a course when training is acquired for a group; or

            (b) The cost per student when training is acquired for an individual employee.

      (4) Off-the-Shelf Training Less Than $25,000

            (a) When the price of the course does not exceed $2,500, the requestor need only          consider one source. 

            (b) When the price of the course is between $2,500 and $25,000, the requester must consider the maximum reasonable number of sources available (generally three), and document the basis for the best value selection made. This documentation should be the minimum necessary to demonstrate the basis of selection. See paragraph B(1)(c) above.

            (c) When the price of a course is expected to be greater than $10,000 but not expected to exceed $25,000, additional FAR requirements may apply.    

      (5) While an authorized training form can be used to acquire off-the-shelf training not exceeding $25,000, other procurement award instruments, such as a purchase card or purchase order, may be used, but are not required.

      (6) Off-the-Shelf Training Exceeding $25,000:  CICA applies to all training requirements including off-the-shelf training. Off-the-shelf training requirements exceeding $25,000, are subject to additional requirements, including synopsizing, and should be acquired through the procurement organization.


C.  Delegation of Authority

      Paragraph 5(j) of NPD 3410.2D on Employee and Organizational Development provides that NASA Center Human Resources Directors and/or Human Resources and Organizational Development (Training) Officers are delegated authority for the acquisition of off-the-shelf training. If requested, delegation of procurement authority to the Training Officer may be made by the Procurement Officer based on organizational need and consistent with the guidance in FAR 1.603. Procurement Officers must ensure that adequate training and oversight is maintained for monitoring the exercise of this authority.

D.  Training Specifically Developed for NASA  

      Training that has been specifically designed or developed to address a NASA training requirement is not off-the-shelf training, and must be acquired in accordance with the FAR regardless of the dollar amount.  Acquisition of NASA specific training requirements can be accomplished through various procurement instruments including purchase cards, purchase orders, and contracts depending on the value, source, and volume of activity.  Training should be acquired based on the best value to NASA and the basis for the decision documented.  Requiring organizations and procurement should work closely in developing the procurement strategy that will best satisfy the needs of the requiring organization within FAR guidelines.


EFFECTIVE DATE:  This PIC is effective as dated and shall remain in effect until canceled or superseded.


HEADQUARTERS CONTACT:  Celeste Dalton, Code HK, (202) 358-1645, email:cdalton@hq.nasa.gov.



R. Scott Thompson

Director, Contract Management Division