Quite often our clients ask for guidance or research on a particular compliance or cost accounting topic. These types of requests generally result in a run through the usual suspects for guidance, like FAR and CAS; and the customer agency's acquisition supplement like DFARS or DEARS. What many people don't realize is that there is a wealth of other publicly available information that can shed light on some of the more subjective aspects of these regulations.
Here are a few additional sources of information that are maintained in the public domain, which I use when conducting client research.
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims (CofC) publishes legal opinions on this website. The search feature is not very effective in picking up on keywords and terms, so if I am looking for something specific, I will sometimes perform a general Google search first to identify the specific case and search for the case number/name at the CofC website.
The Boards of Contract Appeals (ASBCA and the CBCA) also publish legal decisions, and offer a wealth of guidance on a number of topics pertaining to matters of law and regulatory interpretation. The ASBCA hears and decides post-award contract dispute matters primarily for DOD, NASA and the CIA. You can find ASBCA decisions here. The CBCA functions in the same manner; however, as their name implies, they primarily decide civilian agency post-award contract disputes. CBCA decisions can be found here.
The use of legal decisions in research is particularly useful, as these cases generally offer specific interpretations of situations that may be analogous to the challenge you are facing. However, one note of caution: decisions can also be very case/fact specific, in which case the results may not be the same if applied to a slightly different set of circumstances.
The Federal Register
New regulations are published in the federal register daily, so tracking these can be quite cumbersome. How they get to this point is interesting, and offers many opportunities for further understanding the logic of the rule-makers. The formal rulemaking process for the addition of new regulation to the FAR (and other agency supplements) is beyond the scope of this blog. However, in a nutshell, there is quite a bit of back-and-forth between the rule makers, industry and other interested parties, and this is all preserved once the new regulation is published. Responses to comments from industry are not binding; however they are extremely useful in adding context to the regulation. Quite often the questions and responses are written in plainer English; thus helping one to decipher the formal regulations. A search of regulations and the public comment documentation can be found here.
CAS Preambles/Working Group Papers
The Cost Accounting Standards Preambles augment and respond to the specific concerns voiced by industry during the drafting of the Cost Accounting Standards from 1976 to 1981, and were formally incorporated into the regulation. The preambles themselves are organized in the same manner as the Cost Accounting Standards themselves, and provide a great deal of practical examples and acceptable practices. The CAS Preambles can be found here.
Similar to the Preambles, the CAS Board’s working group papers also provide some additional context; however these papers were not incorporated into the regulation, and thus do not represent formal instruction of the Board. That said, they are still useful in the interest of fully vetting an issue or concern in terms of how your cost accounting practices will be assessed by a government auditor; one who will predictably use relevant/topical working group papers as a supplemental basis for evaluating compliance. The working group papers can be a bit difficult to find online, so we've hosted them ourselves and can be found here.
These are but a few of the free sources of information that we use on a routine basis when researching matters for our clients, and there are many others out there that are beneficial in understanding an issue a client may be facing. If you are facing a challenging decision or need guidance on an existing situation, we are always happy to discuss how we can assist you.