What Qualifies as a Commercial Item?

Question

Are items used on a government ship ever commercial?  I’m thinking of food, laundry etc.  But what about racks that house military systems?  It seems that they would never be commercial.

Answer

The whole commercial item acquisition is a bit confusing – there are items that are clearly commercial (COTS, off-the-shelf) types of items such as food, laundry, even computers, printers, or anything the government could purchase at Sears, Walmart, Office Depot, etc.  There is a clear and identifiable market for those item, it’s easy to find multiple sellers, and pricing is usually readily available.
The other side of commercial items are those defined in FAR 2.101 that are “of a type…,” meaning that there are commercial use equivalents.  These items are the ones that have come under greater scrutiny in recent months because their commercial/military use is not as clear.
As far as racks for military equipment – If you could buy computer racks from Dell (or another commercial vendor) to house your military computer equipment, they should be commercial items.  That could come into question if you are making certain modifications to the equipment that would render the equipment only useful to the government.  It is possible to have both commercial and military items being used in conjunction.

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