FAR Fundamentals: What Every Government Contractor Should Know About Federal Acquisition Strategy

Federal acquisition strategy is one of the most critical elements in successful planning for the growth of your government contracting business. Federal acquisition strategy in both the defense and civilian agencies is mission-critical to not only the success of acquisition itself, but also to the ultimate results of a given program.

Here are key fundamentals every government contractor should understand about how federal agencies approach acquisition strategy:

What is an Acquisition Strategy?

At the federal level, acquisition strategy details the management approach and acquisition model for a specific agency program or procurement. It describes the project manager’s plan to achieve programmatic goals and summarizes the program planning and resulting program structure. It includes cost, schedule, and system performance trade-offs that may also be required.

Additionally, an acquisition strategy gives insight into the business, technical overview and strategies that will help manage both program risks and meet program objectives. It includes multiple components that create the overall strategy that both agencies and contractors rely on to successfully partner and deliver results on federal contracts (MITRE). When developing a strategy, agency program personnel often focus on questions such as:

• What are the agency’s strategic needs and objectives?
• What parameters and priorities do we need to establish for the program?
• What are the operational costs associated with this strategy?
• How much time do we need to ensure results?

What is FAR?

One important law to be aware of as you research and monitor acquisition strategies is the Federal Acquisition Regulations or FAR. FAR governs the overall federal government acquisition process.

It is divided into 53 parts, each part dealing with a separate aspect of the acquisition process (BizFilings) that divides into a further three sections. Parts 1-51 provide guidance to agencies and contractors through acquisition planning; Part 52 highlights provisions and clauses within contracts; and Part 53 includes information regarding forms associated with FAR detailing the contracts administration (University of Pittsburgh). Its ultimate goal is to ensure that the acquisition strategy meets agency needs related to cost, schedules, public policy and quality.

Who Approves the Acquisition Strategy?

For defense agencies, the acquisition strategy is required by DoD Instruction, 5000.02, enclosure 2, paragraphs 5 (c) and 6 (a) (Department of Defense Instruction). The acquisition strategy allows senior leadership and the Milestone Decision Authority or MDA to assess whether the strategy makes good business sense, effectively implements laws and policies and reflects management’s priorities (Defense Acquisition Guidebook).

Before the release of a solicitation, the MDA approves the Acquisition Strategy. Approval usually precedes each decision point, except at program initiation, when the acquisition strategy is usually approved as part of the milestone decision review.

These are some of the basics on federal acquisition strategy to give you a jumpstart on planning a successful approach for your government contracting business. Getting to know and understand the terminology, the processes and requirements is essential in developing a successful plan as you pursue your next contract opportunity.