The book Federal Acquisition Regulation in Plain English by Christoph Mlinarchik is a must-read resource for anyone working as a government contractor, as it presents the “FAR” in an easy-to-understand manner, accessible to anyone. It’s also a revelatory work that breaks many assumptions about the FAR, and clears up common misinformation.
Mlinarchik presents the material in a question-and-answer format, similar to a traditional FAQ. If that sounds like it could lead to chaos, it doesn’t: the questions are sectioned into chapters related to themes such as “Contractor Qualifications” and “Application of Labor Laws.” Even then, Mlinarchik stays true to his book’s title, and presents the questions (and answers) in simple English. For example, a question related to “Bonds and Insurance” reads as follows:
Q: What does “bid” mean within FAR Part 28, Bonds and Insurance?
A: Bid means any response to a solicitation, including a proposal or offer. So, your bid is what you send to the government to win a competitive contract.
The structure of the book makes it easy to read either cover to cover, or as a reference book to flip through when you encounter a specific question related to a specific FAR clause or confusing requirement. The book is also organized in the same sequence and numbering as the FAR clauses, making it even easier to find a given requirement.
Given that, however, I urge folks to read through the four introductory chapters no matter what. These initial chapters include information on key terms and definitions, ethics & conflicts of interest in government contracting, and basic information on how government contracting works. For example, a key takeaway is that the FAR clauses apply to government contracting officers, and not companies who work as government contractors; the FAR instructs the government to add things into contracts, and only after you sign a contract do they fall under your responsibility. (This fact was lost in the recent noise about CMMC, where senior DoD officials repeatedly claimed that the FAR was somehow a legally-binding requirement — or even a law! — that applied to private companies who did not even have a government contract.)
As for my readers who might approach this from an ISO 9001 perspective, remember that standard requires you to ensure you understand and comply with all customer requirements. A common ISO 9001 auditor trick is to pull your customer’s PO or contract and then scan the fine print for FAR clause callouts, and then test your ability to prove you comply with them. This book will help in that aspect.
For anyone working in the government contracting space — and, yes, that means you, too, government employees — I urge you to have a copy of this book on your desk as a go-to reference.
One caveat: the book does not cover the DFARS (for the defense industry); it only discusses the DFARS in passing. But by teaching you how to navigate the FAR, carrying that knowledge over to the DFARS is a simple trick.
[Disclosure: Oxebridge has no relationship whatsoever with the author, and receives no compensation for this review.]
About Christopher Paris
Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.