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FAR and DFARS Regulations, Explained: How Automation Aids Compliance

Ben Allen, Vice President, Public Sector Solutions
March 23, 2023

As a federal agency employee looking to acquire goods and services to support your agency's mission, you need to plan acquisition properly and work with the contracting officer as early as possible in the planning process. (Read our related article: 4 key steps to prepare an acquisition strategy plan.) 

You also need to adhere to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which provides rules for the government and its suppliers to follow in federal procurements. And if you work for the Department of Defense (DoD), your acquisitions also need to comply with additional rules outlined in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS).

The goal of federal acquisitions.

To understand the Federal Acquisition Regulation and its supplements (e.g., the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement), it’s important to understand the goals of federal acquisitions:

  • Buy cost-effective goods and services that are the best fit for the purpose and are delivered on time.
  • Promote competition, including among small businesses.
  • Conduct business fairly and transparently.
  • Use trusted suppliers and government contractors.
  • Minimize operating costs.

[ Learn more about government acquisition strategy in Acquisition Planning: The Government Leader’s Guide. ]

The struggle: keeping up with FAR and DFARS regulations.

When agencies issue or modify federal acquisition regulations, they publish most (but not all) of these policies and changes in the Federal Register, a daily government publication, and in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), a catalog of rules divided by department and subsets. The CFR is updated each calendar year. The FAR and its supplements—including DFARS regulations—are large sections of the CFR that pertain to federal procurements. FAR and DFARS are divided into parts, such as FAR Part 12, which covers acquisition of commercial items, and FAR Part 13, which covers simplified acquisition procedures.

In addition to adhering to FAR and DFARS regulations, federal government procurements need to comply with other sections of the CFR, like OFPP Policy Letters, Small Business Administration, Cost Accounting Standards, and Labor.

What’s more, when amendments are made to the FAR, they are issued as federal acquisition circulars (FACs), which contain replacements for amended FAR pages. However, to make matters even more confusing, there isn’t a one-to-one correlation between FAR cases and FACs. Several FAR amendments may be combined in a single FAC, while some FAR cases are never incorporated into FACs.

Federal defense acquisitions should also adhere to procedures described in DFARS PGI (Procedures, Guidance, and Information), a dynamic resource for acquisition personnel that is easier to update than DFARS. Materials in DFARS PGI are frequently modified as well.

Clearly, it is no easy feat to stay abreast of all the evolving rules and regulations in the FAR and DFARS, not to mention all the other sources of information, rules, and regulations you need to comply with in Department of Defense acquisitions.

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How to automatically update your acquisition workflows.

Agile applications built with low-code software are the quickest and easiest way to update your acquisition workflows to meet changing compliance requirements. When regulations change, these apps let you update the rules in one place, and the relevant workflows adjust automatically as needed. 

Automatically enforcing policies ensures agencies remain compliant. And it makes the lives of program office users and contracting staff easier by eliminating the burden of needing to know every intricate detail of the FAR/DFARS. 

Appian’s Government Acquisition Management solutions, built on the Appian Platform for process automation, streamline and accelerate federal procurements. For example, the Appian Clause Automation solution pulls in the clauses from the FAR automatically and even tells the user when a clause they selected earlier has been updated. 

For more than 20 years, defense agencies have been relying on Appian process automation and low-code development tools to accelerate their digital transformation. Appian government customers are streamlining workflows and driving operational efficiency by connecting people, systems, bots, AI, and business rules in end-to-end processes—and they’re developing and deploying mission-critical apps 10x faster than with other technologies. 

Appian meets federal and Department of Defense security requirements with certifications including FedRAMP, DISA IL5, and FISMA, which certify the handling,storing, and processing of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), mission-critical information, and national security systems information. 

How can agency leaders automate and modernize the procurement experience? Get the eBook.