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What is the FAR?

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

We hear the term "FAR" all the time when it comes to Federal contracting, but what is it?

The Federal Acquisition Regulation, or “FAR”, is a set of rules and regulations that govern the acquisition of goods and services by the United States Government. The FAR is codified in Parts 1 through 53 of Title 48 of the Code of Federal Regulations (or “CFR”) and published by the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (FARC). While most federal agencies follow the FAR, some executive agencies are exempt such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Mint. The FAR does not apply to legislative branch agencies or judicial branch agencies, although agencies in the other branches of government, or otherwise not subject to the FAR, may adopt its use and many have.


How is FAR Policy Made? The catalyst for any FAR change is either a Presidential Executive Order or public law, as they are signed or enacted. FAR changes follow a distinct path through either proposed or interim rule, public comment (when required), to final rule. This process involves subject matter experts from across the civilian agencies and the Department of Defense (DoD), and can take months to years, depending on Administration priorities and the subject of the rule. While Federal Contracting Officers and acquisition personnel receive substantial training in the contents and interpretation of the FAR, it can be difficult for businesses seeking to do business with the Government to decipher requirements and intent between the various FAR parts and subparts.


How is the FAR Organized? The FAR itself is comprised of fifty-three parts which are further divided into subparts. The FAR’s basic regulations are the core rules and regulations that apply to all Federal acquisitions and include:

  • definitions of terms,

  • fundamental principles such as compliance with laws and regulations to protect the Government’s interests and promotion of fair and open competition, and

  • procedures that must be followed when conducting an acquisition during each phase of the procurement process.

Agencies may also have their own supplement to the FAR, as needed, to provide additional guidance and regulations applicable only to that agency. Agency supplements provide are used to further limit the FAR's authority or enact more strict limitations as required by that agency; they cannot grant more authority or waive limitations found in the FAR.


Is the FAR a Tool for Contractors? Yes. Just as it provides the principles and procedures to the Government to acquire goods and services, it provides prospective contractors with the basic procedures to be followed when bidding/offering on Federal contracts. Understanding where to find information in the FAR can help contractors better understand the rules and regulations that govern the particular type of contract action for which they are seeking an award.


A complete and current copy of the FAR can be found at acquisition.gov. Parts of the FAR that contractors may want to familiarize themselves with first are:

  • Part 2, Subpart 2.101 – Definitions

  • Part 5 -- Publicizing Contract Actions

  • Part 9 – Contractor Qualifications

  • Part 14 – Sealed Bidding and Part 15 -- Contracting by Negotiation

  • Part 19 – Small Business Programs

  • Part 22 – Application of Labor Laws to Government Acquisitions

Contractors should also familiarize themselves with FAR Part 52, Solicitation Provisions and Contract Clauses. In this section, above each provision or clause, a citation is noted for the FAR part or subpart that prescribes the circumstances for use of the provision or clause. That citation also provides guidance to prime contractors when a clause in their prime contract must flow down to subcontractors. (NOTE: Provisions and clauses differ in that provisions are applicable only to the bid or offer and clauses are applicable to contract performance.)


Have a question about the FAR or its contents? Contact us!

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