What is the Federal Acquisition Regulation System?
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What is the Federal Acquisition Regulation System?
The Federal Acquisition Regulation System, commonly known as the FARS, is a collection of regulations governing the process by which the United States federal government purchases the goods and services that it needs to function. While the regulations are not laws (statutes enacted by Congress and signed by the President), they do have the full force and weight of laws. You are subject to the FARS and responsible for satisfying them if you are a federal prime contractor or do business with a federal prime contractor as a subcontractor.
The FAR is the primary body of regulations for use by Federal Executive departments and agencies in their acquisition of supplies and services with appropriated funds. It became effective on April 1, 1984, and is issued pursuant to applicable laws under the joint authorities of the Administrator of General Services, the Secretary of Defense, and the Administrator for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and under the broad policy guidelines of the Administrator, Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Office of Management and Budget.
FAR 1.101 states that "The Federal Acquisition Regulations System consists of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which is the primary document, and agency acquisition regulations that implement or supplement the FAR."
Why was the FARS created?
The FARS was created under the authority of the U.S. Congress to provide a unified set of rules governing the federal government's acquisition of goods and services. The intent was to create a single rulebook that could be used by all federal-level departments when purchasing what they needed (FAR 1.101).
This rulebook not only provides a framework of rules, but also provides procedures intended to "deliver on a timely basis the best value product or service to the customer, while maintaining the public's trust and fulfilling public policy objectives." (FAR 1.102) Among other things, the FARS aim to help the federal government use contractors who demonstrate the ability to perform by their past performance or their capabilities; promote competition; minimize operating costs; conduct business ethically and openly; and fulfill the government's objections (FAR 1.102).
What are the FARS supplements?
A single rulebook proved to be too simple for an organization as vast and complex as the federal government. Rules that might work for one department were too broad for another. Therefore, the various federal departments, as well as some sub-departments, were allowed to supplement the FARS with more specific rules tailored to their precise needs. They are not allowed to contradict the primary rules. The supplements tend to follow the same structure and patterns of the primary rules.
What kind of rules do the FARS create?
The FARS regulate many aspects of the contracting process. They determine proper and improper practices, the planning processes behind government purchases, and the competition required when making purchases. They cover the various types of contracts and requirements of contractors and subcontractors. They establish socioeconomic programs in contracting and describe the federal government's attempts to purchase from firms that it considers disadvantaged due to size of the company, ethnicity, location, ownership gender, veteran status, etc. It also describes certain rules for labor and materials. It describes what is to be done for special kinds of contracts and how to manage contracts of all types. Finally, the FARS contain contract clauses, which are special provisions that are referenced as needed in government purchasing actions for a variety of reasons, and forms. It should be noted, however, that as part of the government's efforts to reduce paperwork and improve efficiency, some forms are intended to be submitted online.
How do the FARS apply to the bidding process?
Potential contractors and subcontractors must demonstrate they can comply with the FARS, or that they are exempt from certain provisions (for example, small businesses are exempt from some of the regulations). Contracting officers and specialists are on the lookout for companies that offer the government the best value, and often the best value comes from companies that know the rules.
Since the FARS govern how you will do business with the government and possibly its prime contractors, it is in your best interest to know this rulebook. Not reading the rules sets you up for bid rejection and even civil and criminal penalties should you win the award.
Fortunately, the FARSmarterBids system gives you a quick and easy way to look up the rules referenced by the government in all its contracting operations. You can browse the rules at your own pace as well if you are trying to research the regulatory landscape to ensure that you can comply with the rules that apply to your company.
How does government contracting differ from civilian contracting?
There are many pros and cons to working with the federal government. The FARS and associated regulations and specifications form a large rulebook; however, these rules form a structure that ensures that both parties know what to expect and what is required.
The government posts its own criteria by which it will select contractors for awards - this is an open process not often found in the private sector. If you can navigate the rulebook (and subscribers to FARSmarterBids can do this easily) then you know a great deal about how to compete and what to expect. In some ways, there are fewer surprises in government contracting than in the private sector.
The government generally posts what it needs to buy. It is possible to simply search for the goods and services you provide, and find requests or solicitations that are a good match for you. The government gives valuable contact information to help prime and subcontractors network. Small business specialists, vendor outreach programs, and other such information all facilitate communications in the federal contracting world.
Lastly, the federal government is always buying goods and services, and many kinds of goods and services. The federal government is a huge entity that does many kinds of tasks, from humanitarian tasks to military operations; from environmental protection to space exploration. Since this is not likely to change in the foreseeable future, the federal government can be counted on as a reliable buyer of many types of goods and services.
How does FARSmarterBids help me to look up the rules and organize the information I find?
FARS citations may seem like strings of gibberish, and while there are conventions when citing the FARS, conventions are not always followed. Fortunately, the FARSmarterBids system was designed to accommodate the conventions - and non-conventions - of the FARS so that you can quickly and easily find the information you need to bid knowledgeably and efficiently.
Please see our article on FARS Structure for more information.