FAR clauses, or Federal Acquisition Regulation clauses, play a crucial role in government contracting. They establish the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of the U.S. federal government and government contractors throughout the contract lifecycle.
FAR clauses cover a wide range of topics, including contract administration, pricing, intellectual property rights, labor standards, and dispute resolution. They ensure consistency and compliance in government contracts, promoting fairness, transparency, and accountability. Contractors must carefully review and adhere to the applicable FAR clauses to ensure successful and compliant contract performance.
You must carefully review certain FAR clauses for compliance, especially those concerning OCI (Organizational Conflict of Interest), Security, and Intellectual Property.
Prime contractors also need to manage any flow-down clauses that apply to their sub-contractors. And sub-contractors need to clearly understand what flow-down clauses apply. Contract managers manually comb through and review the clauses. While many FAR clauses are benign, a good number need careful review. All told a very time-consuming but critical process.
NOTE: For the rest of this post, we’ll just refer to FARs, but the same concepts apply to DFAR and AFARS reviews. We’ll also just refer to Contract Managers, but Proposal Managers and Proposal Coordinators also review FARs.
To do this, contract managers will create a type of FAR requirements matrix, often using a spreadsheet. This allows you to track compliance with the FAR mandates. The FAR requirements matrix is a critical tool. It often dovetails into a responsibility matrix, sometimes called a RACI matrix.
Contract managers can spend days during larger contracts extracting, updating, and maintaining the FAR requirements matrix by hand.
Can you automate this process? And move from several hours to a few minutes to create the matrix? It turns out you can, and our customers are doing it. Here are some considerations:
- How are FAR clauses manually identified?
- Can these clauses be automatically flagged?
- What kind of time savings can you expect?
If you’re a contract manager, program manager, or proposal manager, automation will change how you do things. It drives dramatic efficiency and helps avoid missing critical clauses that could damage your organization.
1. How are FAR clauses manually identified?
When it comes to checking FAR clauses by hand, you’ll likely follow these steps:
- Open the doc in PDF or MS Word
- Search for the specific FAR clause using standard ‘find.’
- Check if any hits are using the search box. If you find any, copy and paste the relevant paragraph of text into a spreadsheet.
- Repeat steps 2 & 3 until you’ve checked all the clauses.
Many FAR clauses are standard and tend not to change. Or they may simply be benign. These are typically pretty easy to identify as they have a fairly uniform structure in the RFP paperwork.
However, contractors pay particular attention to certain clauses, including;
- Conflict of Interest FAR clauses,
- IP (Intellectual Property) FAR clauses,
- Security-related FAR clauses,
- Any flow-downs.
These same considerations apply to DFARs and AFARS too. So in your spreadsheet, you likely have a column titled ‘Must Review’, which serves to communicate any requested changes to these types of clauses. For example, when one of our customers sees “52.227-14” connected with Rights in Data, they always request Alternative IV.
2. Can these clauses be automatically flagged?
Yes, VT Docs does this in three simple steps. Let me walk you through them:
- Upload your contract document to VT Docs
- Use a FAR search dictionary. NOTE: In the context of VT Docs, a search dictionary allows you to specify multiple search terms. For example, let’s say you want to find all FAR clauses, and you define a search term of “52.*”.
On the left, you can see which contract document has been chosen to be analyzed. You can see 206 FARs and 56 DFARs in total (Catch All) in this document. Already, VT Docs has marked 36 as ‘Must Review’ and 1 as ‘Non-Compliant High Risk’ You can view a list of all FARs and DFARs in the preview.
3. Export to Excel
When you choose to export it to Excel, you will receive a spreadsheet like this:
The yellow highlighted lines are FAR and DFAR clauses. Each line outlines exactly which requirement you are tackling. Watch the full video here.
In just three clicks you have created a FAR requirements matrix. You have not only saved time but by eliminating the manual tasks, you have reduced the risk of missing vital requirements.
What kind of time savings can you expect?
We defined earlier 4 manual steps contract managers take today:
- Open the doc in PDF or MS Word
- Search for the specific FAR clause using standard ‘find’.
- Check if there are any hits using the search box. If you find any, copy and paste the relevant paragraph of text into a spreadsheet.
- Repeat step 2 & 3 until you’ve checked all the FAR clauses.
To quantify time savings, let’s consider 2 scenarios;
1.) checking for 15 OCI (Organization Conflict of Interest) clauses
2.) checking the full set of FAR/DFAR clauses
Time savings scenario 1: Checking 15 OCI clauses
So let’s assume you want to extract OCI (Organizational Conflict of Interest) FAR clauses from a 106-page document. You need to search for 15 specific OCI terms; including ‘9.501’, ‘9.502’ etc. Then if you see hits, you need to copy/paste to the FAR matrix. Assume the RFP contains hits for 5 of the 15 terms.
If done manually here’s an estimate of time required =
- Open the doc
- 15 x 30 seconds = 5 minutes (450 secs) . Assumes it takes 30 seconds to enter the term and determine if there are occurrences or not.
- 5 x 2 minutes = 10 minutes. Assumes it takes 2 minutes to identify and copy/paste the various clauses found for each FAR term.
This gives us a total of 17.5 minutes for a single 106-page doc with just 15 terms to check.
With the automated approach, steps 2 and 3 took 1 minute. Recall that we found 5 terms occurring in the doc immediately and at a single click we had the output in a spreadsheet.
So for this scenario, it’s:
17.5 minutes (for manual) vs. 1 minute (for automated).
Time savings scenario 2: Checking 672 FAR clauses
Using the same approach as scenario 1 but this time with the full FAR, it’s a lot more time consuming. For our 106 page RFP doc, assume we have 155 hits, and we need to check for 672 FAR clauses.
So, here’s how our calculations play out.
Time taken =
- Open the doc
- 672 x 30 seconds = 336 minutes or 5.6 hours (20,160 secs) . Assumes it takes 30 seconds to enter the term and determine if there are occurrences or not.
- 155 x 2 minutes = 310 minutes or 5.1 hours. Assumes it takes 2 minutes to identify and copy/paste the various clauses found for each FAR term. NOTE: 155 of the 672 clauses had hits.
This gives us a total of 646 minutes or 10.76 hours for this 106-page doc.
If we use the automated approach then steps 2 and 3 become extremely fast. In our case, in fact, it was 2 minutes. We were able to extract in the output to a spreadsheet in a single click.
So for this 2nd scenario, it’s:
10.76 hours (for manual) vs. 2 minutes (for automated).
The value of reliably extracting the full content is that it dramatically shortcuts the time-consuming copy/paste process to populate the FAR spreadsheet.
- Tracking FAR and DFAR clauses and creating matrices is critical but time-consuming.
- You can safely automate the extraction process saving you days of effort per contract.
- You can reduce the risk of manual/human error and therefore the risk of missing vital requirements.
- Reducing effort and risk allows you to concentrate on winning the contract.
Acknowledgments: I am very grateful to a number of 3rd parties who helped my understanding of the FAR and clarified many of the challenges for contract managers. In particular, big thanks to Maxine Tolbert of SBC Solutions, Carl Gouaux of CWG and associates, Melissa Howell of Government Acquisitions, and Bridget Anderson of Deltek. Thanks, guys for your insights.