This post was co-authored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, Legal Reference Librarians.
Despite the federal government’s recent reduction in spending—according to Bloomberg, federal “government spending on contracts fell 3.1 percent last year, the biggest one-year decline since 1997”—government contracting is still a big business nationwide. The multitude of laws and regulations that control a company’s ability to successfully obtain and maintain a contract with the government can largely seem a maze, however. To help our patrons who are interested in contracting with the federal government (or even those who are simply interested in the consequences of such a contracting relationship), we turn our attention to the law surrounding government contracts.
Like we have with some of our other Beginner’s Guides, we will provide information about the paper-based secondary and primary sources in the area, and then refer to some internet-based sources that may be of some assistance.
We often advise patrons to use a legal treatise when beginning legal research in a new area of law. This advice is particularly important when dealing with the law regarding government contracts.
For True Beginners
- Government Contracts in a Nutshell, by W. Noel Keyes (2004)
- Government Contract Guidebook, by Steven Feldman (2011-2012)
- The Government Contracts Reference Book, by Ralph Nash, Steven Schooner, and Karen O’Brien (1998). This book allows you to look up a term, find a definition, and locate a summary of where that term is used in statutes, regulations, and procurement decisions.
- Keyes Encyclopedia Dictionary of Contract and Procurement Law, by W. Noel Keyes (1992)
- Getting Started in Federal Contracting: A Guide Through the Federal Procurement Maze, by Barry McVay (2009)
- Government Contracts Dictionary, by Robert McGhee (1996)
- Government Contracts: Cyclopedic Guide to Law, Administration, Procedure, by John McBride and Thomas Touhey (1962-present)
- Government Contracting Manual, by Timothy J. Healy (1931-present)
- The Essential Guide to Federal Contracts, by Barry McVay (1996-present)
- Government Contract Law, by the Section of Public Contract Law of the American Bar Association (2007). This deskbook is based on the contract attorney’s course at the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s School.
- Government Contracts: Procedure and Forms, by Lawyers Cooperative (1992). This resource features explanatory text, sample forms, and reprints the text of selected statutes from the United States Code Service.
- Federal False Claims Act and Qui Tam Litigation, by Joel Androphy (2005-present)
- Elements of Government Contracting, by Richard Lieberman and Karen O’ Brien (2004)
- Guide to Government Contracting, by Commerce Clearing House (C.C.H.) (1991-present). This looseleaf provides a topical index. It does not reprint law, but provides citations.
- Privatizing Governmental Functions, by Deborah Ballati (2001-present)
- Cost-Reimbursement Contracting, by John Cibinic and Ralph Nash (2004)
- Contracting with the Federal Government, by Margaret W. Worthingham and Louis P. Goldsman (1998)
- Federal Procurement Law, by Ralph Nash and John Cibinic (1977). This two-volume set may be used as a textbook as well as a practitioner’s deskbook.
- Federal Contracts Report, by BNA (1964-present). This periodical is published on a weekly basis.
- Government Contract Costs and Pricing, by Karen Manos (2009)
- Cost Accounting Standards Guide, by C.C.H. (1972-present)
- Guide to Government Contracting, by C.C.H. (1991-present). This resource is published monthly and provides summaries of decisions and rulings.
Before the Contract/Negotiation
- Competitive Negotiation, by John Cibinic, Ralph Nash, and Karen O’Brien-DeBakey (2011)
- How to Review a Federal Contract, by James F. Nagle (2000)
After the Contract
- Government Contract Compliance Handbook, by Seyfarth Shaw, LLP. (2006)
- Federal Contract Management, by Norman A. Steiger (1982-present)
- Administration of Government Contracts, by John Cibinic, Ralph Nash, and James Nagle (2006)
- Alternative Dispute Resolution for Government Contracts, by Don Arnavas (2004)
Statutes and Regulations
The treatises above should provide a good amount of context for the federal statutes and regulations regarding government contracts. To further examine the statutes and regulations that most interest you, please note the sources below.
Most federal statutes regarding government contracts can be found in Title 41 of the United States Code (U.S.C.), “Government Contracts.” The notable exceptions to this general rule are the Anti-Deficiency Act and Armed Services Procurement Act statutes, which can be found in Title 31 and Title 10, respectively.
- Federal Property and Administrative Services Act (63 Stat. 377), Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act (88 Stat. 796), and Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (108 Stat. 3243) – 41 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.
- Anti-Deficiency Act – 31 U.S.C. § 1341 et seq.
- Armed Services Procurement Act – 10 U.S.C. §§ 2301-2314
Regulations are an essential component of legal research, and are of vital importance in the area of government contracts. Please find some of the most frequently utilized regulations in this area of law listed below.
- Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs)
- Title 48 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations – found at the Government Printing Office’s FDSys site
- Federal Acquisition Regulation, by C.C.H. This is a recompilation of the FARs.
- Federal Procurement Regulations, by C.C.H. This looseleaf features the FARs, agency FAR supplements, and related regulations.
- Armed Services Procurement Regulations
- Defense Acquisitions Regulation System (DARS) – DARS “develops and maintains acquisition rules and guidance” regarding defense acquisitions
- DFARS: Department of Defense F.A.R. Supplement as of January 1, 1995, by C.C.H.
Court and Agency Decisions
In addition to reviewing the statutes and regulations that control government contracts, it is important to look to decisions made by courts and agencies regarding specific contract-related issues. Fortunately, there are several frequently-updated collections of these decisions, including:
- Government Contracts Reporter, by C.C.H.
- Comptroller General’s Procurement Decisions by Thomson-West. This includes an index of decisions by B# and subject matter.
- Contract Appeals Decisions, by C.C.H. This provides an index by topic and includes decisions of Contract Appeals Boards, which resolve disputes between government procuring agencies and private contractors.
Many recent decisions regarding government contracts can also be found on the websites of the judicial and administrative courts that have jurisdiction over these issues. Some of the most widely-used of these websites are:
- U.S. Court of Federal Claims
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
- Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals
In addition to the resources listed above, the internet offers a great deal of material that may be of assistance with research on government contracts. Please find research guides, forms, and even classes linked below.
- Federal Government Contracting, from the Library of Congress
- Government Contracting Classroom, from the Small Business Administration
- Federal Acquisition Jumpstation (includes links to several government agencies’ contracting websites)
- Forms Library, from the General Services Administration
- Federal Procurement Data System and the Federal Procurement Report (1981-2007)
- Electronic Records Pertaining to Federal Expenditures, Contracts, Grants, and Awards, from the National Archives
- Government Contracts, from the Cornell Legal Information Institute
- Small Business Open Mic – How Do I Get a Government Contract?, from the United States House of Representatives Committee on Small Business
- Government Contracts News and Recommendations, from the Administrative Conference of the United States
We hope you found this guide helpful. Do you have a favorite resource related to government contracts? Please let us know in the comments section. If you have any questions, please contact the Law Library of Congress.
Decisions of the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals are another good resource. They can be found at http://cbca.gov/decisions/index.html