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The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) first went into effect on April 1, 1984. For many of us, hitting age 40 is a time to take stock of our lives and evaluate our accomplishments and choices. On this 40th birthday of the FAR, we’re taking this opportunity to give a brief rundown of the regulations and how they impact the work of engineers and engineering firms.

First, a quick overview. Enacted late in the first term of the Reagan Administration, the FAR is a set of rules and guidelines governing the federal government’s acquisition process for goods and services, providing a uniform framework for agencies and contractors to follow. That uniformity and consistency for procurement, contracting, auditing, and accounting guidelines is very important for A/E firms working for federal agency clients and for state agencies that incorporate certain parts of the FAR. Compliance with the FAR is mandatory for contractors doing business with the federal government. The FAR is also the mechanism through which the Brooks Act requirement for Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) is administered by federal agencies hiring A/E firms.

There is no perfect policy, no one-size-fits-all legislation; the FAR is no exception. Because nothing in Washington is immune to politics, both Democratic and Republican administrations have used amendments to the FAR to advance policy agendas and priorities. These mandates can be disruptive to firms when it’s not well-suited to contract work.

And it is that disruption that reflects the larger implications of the FAR: for many firms it can be seen as a labyrinth of cost, complexity, inflexibility, and compliance risk that is on its face a barrier to entry. Although the FAR plays a crucial role in ensuring transparency, accountability, and fairness in government contracting, its requirements can present challenges that affect contractors’ ability to compete, comply, and succeed in the federal marketplace.

That said, ACEC highlighted the benefits of a uniform compliance system when lobbying Congress to apply the FAR cost principles to State Departments of Transportation and local agencies when they manage federally funded highway and transit projects. This promotes fairness, accountability, and transparency and eases the regulatory burden on firms, especially when working across multiple jurisdictions.

Today’s 40th anniversary is another reminder of the role of ACEC in advocating member firm interests, including proposed amendments and changes to the FAR, and educating and equipping executives for navigating its many requirements.

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April 1, 2024



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