Mastering the Art of Government Contracting —Why You Need the FAR

One of my favorite movies in recent times is Julie and Julia.  I loved it because I love to cook and it told a wonderful story about a woman who decided to engage in a journey to cook every single recipe in Julia Child’s famous cookbook —  Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Cook books are fabulous things. They provide step by step instructions on how to make delicious meals but many folks are intimidated by them. I personally think, if you can read, you can cook, and once you learn to cook, you learn to improvise and become creative in what you prepare for friends and family.

A Cookbook for Government Contracting

If there is a “cookbook” for government contracting, it’s certainly the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”). Like Julia Childs’ famous cookbook, the FAR is filled with, step by step instructions on how to properly form or administer a government contract. At times, however, what’s missing is the why. Why are these steps important? And even more importantly what discretion do contracting officers have to be creative/innovative when doing their jobs – like the master chefs on my favorite show “Top Chef.”

I’ve been asked many times by junior contracts professionals, “Do I really have to read and understand the FAR to be successful in my job?” My answer is always, “Absolutely, Yes!” You can’t, however, just sit down and try to read the FAR in its entirety. It’s over 2000 pages long (the CCH edition), and the agency supplements are even longer. The only way to learn it is to break it down into manageable pieces and develop an understanding of how the FAR is interpreted and used and what it means for you as a government contracts administrator, buyer, attorney, [insert your title here]. That’s exactly what the Public Contracting Institute (“PCI”) has done in its outstanding new course, Fun with the FAR.℠  PCI will teach the FAR in a series of 27 live classes/webisodes (yes the class will be available “virtually” on the web) facilitated by expert instructors. Each webisode will tackle a different thematic section of the FAR, sometimes covering multiple Parts in a single session. For example: If you are interested in buying or selling IT under a GSA FSS Contract you have to attend the webisode that covers FAR Parts 8, 38, 39 & 51 on October 9th. Want to learn about negotiated procurements? There will be a webisode covering that topic on December 4. Subcontracting? A webisode on that topic is scheduled in 2014.

By attending these sessions, you will get a holistic understanding of how all of these Parts work together, like ingredients in a fine French pastry. Will you become a master after attending Fun with the FAR? Probably not, but you will become much more familiar with the FAR and gain greater confidence in your ability to reference it in your work. Furthermore, you will gain an appreciation for the process that it takes to form and administer a successful contract, kind of like appreciating a great soufflé after trying to do it at home and watching it fall flat out of the oven.


One of the primary goals of Fun with the FAR℠ is to help contracting professionals become more comfortable with the FAR and understand its importance through open dialogue, collaboration, and, as will be revealed throughout each session, “Fun.”  If you are interested in registering or learning more about the Fun with the FAR℠ series click here

Related Post