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Most often referred to as the "FAR," the Federal Acquisition Regulation is a resource guide for government rules and procedures. If you're doing business with the federal government or hope to, you should have a basic understanding of the FAR.

The FAR is like the Bible for government contracting rules, processes, and contract forms and clauses. It comprises 53 parts and more than 1,000 pages. General government acquisition matters are explained in the first six parts, and acquisition planning is featured in the next six. The remaining parts cover a range of topics, such as labor laws, simplified acquisitions (small purchases), contract administration, large-dollar-value buys, and applicable clauses and forms.

Although the FAR is the primary resource for acquisition regulations, each government agency may submit supplements to it. These supplements, which can total more than 1,000 pages, aren't meant to be standalones. Be sure to read the supplements in conjunction with the FAR so that you know the full scope of the regulations. Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of the FAR supplements may apply to the contract at hand. That's why it's important to ask the contracting officer to identify the FAR regulations that govern the agency's acquisition procedure for the contract — it's critical to verify this before you bid or quote. Never assume anything — it could cost you the contract!

If you're new to government contracting or a small business, you'll want to read parts 19 and 52, which cover the standard terms and conditions contained in a government contract.

Interested in working with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA)? This agency has its own set of acquisition regulations and doesn't have to comply with the FAR, thanks to authority granted by Congress. Though the FAA has excerpted and adapted many FAR regulations for its own use, you should be careful to refer to the FAA's version in all cases, just to be safe.

Getting a Copy of the Federal Acquisition Regulation

You can obtain a copy of the Federal Acquisition Regulation from the Government Printing Office (GPO) by paying a fee. Be sure that the price includes any updates so you'll have complete details before you send in your bid or quote.

If you'd rather read the FAR online, visit https://www.acquisition.gov/far/index.html.