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General Services Administration

Better tools for better research

Blue bar graph of various wage estimates

Project details

The General Services Administration plays a central role in helping the rest of the federal government hire contractors to perform professional services. This process requires contracting officers to research past federal contracts to determine a fair hourly rate, which often involves manually searching through stacks of paper contracts to find old labor rates.


  • 18F gathered thousands of documents used in contracting research and extracted their data.
  • We conducted user interviews and followed other best practices of human-centered design to build the Contract-Awarded Labor Category tool (CALC), a website that allows anyone to search past government contracts for fair hourly rates for various types of labor.


  • GSA contracting officers say the tool is much more efficient and accurate than the previous method, and has allowed them to save on labor rates by an average of .1 percent. At the scale of federal contracting, that little number means possible savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars for the government each year.
  • Local governments, like the City of Boston, are making use of CALC as well.

WOW — I saw your blog post announcement for the Contract Awarded Labor Category Tool (CALC) and all I gotta say is WOW! I am not sure why trumpets are not blaring, horns are not tooting and bells are not ringing! This is truly a great day...This tool will make the whole process a whole lot more accurate, easier and faster.
—Email from CALC user

Agency partner

General Services Administration

See our work

See the code on GitHub

  • Mark Trammell: Unlocking the true potential of public service

    All throughout the summer, we’ll be profiling members across the 18F team. Mark Trammell joined 18F in May 2016 after stints at Twitter, Sonos, Digg, Paypal, and Obama for America. He currently works on CALC, a tool that helps the federal contracting community make faster, smarter buying decisions.
  • What happens when the whole team joins user interviews

    The CALC team is an agile team of four — six if you count the Scrummaster and the Product Owner — building a simple means to load price data into the original CALC tool. They’re an Agile team, which means everybody pitches in on everything to some degree, and here, in their own words, is some reflection on what happened when they all scrubbed in on the discovery phase.
  • How the City of Boston is using GSA’s CALC tool

    We hoped CALC, a powerful labor category and pricing research tool from GSA and 18F, would save federal contracting officers time and money. Turns out, it’s also saving cities time and money. In August, we found out the City of Boston has been using CALC to vet pricing they receive in response to a request for proposals.