Most contracts with the Federal Government are governed by the regulations set forth in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). While most government contractors have heard of the FAR, and may have some familiarity with it, many do not know where these regulations came from and why they are important. The FAR was created following a statue from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy within the Office of Management and Budget in 1979. The purpose of this statute was to create and implement a uniform procurement system. The FAR became effective in 1984 (a mere 5 years later), again proving that most things take time, especially related to the government. The actual FAR regulation is contained in Title 48 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 1 through 53. This regulation is used by all Federal Executive agencies in their acquisition of supplies and services using appropriated funds.
The FAR generally provides contracting officers with direction for the acquisition of goods and services. There are 4 basic areas of guidelines covered:
- The Government's basic policy
- Requirements agencies must meet
- Any exceptions to the requirements
- Any required or optional clauses to be incorporated into the solicitation or contract
In addition, the FAR also provides guidelines for satisfying requirements such as cost, quality and timeliness - the intent is to make sure the government gets the best value for their money. The regulations also insure that the procurement process is conducted as fairly and open as possible with the upmost integrity.
There are two basic places to find the FAR. The first is to visit the Acquisition Central webpage and view the FAR directly. The other location is to locate the FAR within the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 48, Chapter 1 within the Government Printing Office website.
As we mentioned above, the FAR itself is contained in Chapter 1 of Title 48 of the CFR. Other chapters within this Title 48 contain supplemental regulations that apply to specific agencies and departments. For instance, the supplemental requirements for the Department of Defense are contained in Chapter 2. These are commonly referred to as Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations Supplement or DFARS. There are currently 35 chapters in Title 48 covering most of the major agencies. The supplemental regulations are not designed to replace the FAR but to add further requirements or clarification that would be important to that procuring agency.
Finally, there are usually other regulations and/or policies that reside elsewhere that can come into play on a Federal Contract. For instance, many OMV circulars, guides, memoranda and policy letters may come into play. Most of these requirements are either supplemental to what is already in the FAR or provide regulations that are not covered in the FAR.
As you can quickly see, this can become complex rather quickly. This is why Federal Contrating is so tricky. It pays to have someone who is experienced in not only the regulations but also in what they mean and where to find them.