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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Establishing Federal Government Compliant Small Business Systems



To effectively market a federal government contract a small business must sell on the basis of having a business system as well as technical performance infrastructure ready to run the job when a contract proposal is submitted. This dual requirement is where many small businesses fall short in their federal government contract start up planning.

Parallel thinking is required to plan for government project technical effort against a template of necessary business process infrastructure, driven by introducing Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) into the company. Key elements of the necessary business system infrastructure are discussed in this article which assumes that your are in the federal government services contracting business, that you plan to price your services at an hourly rate and sell them by labor categories with professional job descriptions to perform the government's statement of work and bill by the hour. This article also assumes that you are not contracting under FAR Part 12, "Commercial Contracting".

A. Labor Categories

Each skill set in the company must be specified and defined as chargeable directly to a contract, or indirectly to a cost center overhead, a material handling pool or a general and administrative pool. Each labor category must have a job description and a prospective salary range for proposal purposes.

B. Cost Center

A Cost Center is a single business entity within the company, organized for a group of business lines and clients with close similarities for technical and business management purposes. Cost centers are also driven by geographic location and the requirement to separate commercial from federal government business. Projects performed in government facilities may also require a separate cost center, since many of the associated expenses for such operations are born by the government. Cost centers usually have individual subsidiary ledgers, balance sheets and profit and loss statements and are summarized monthly to a company total. Each cost center must have job cost accounting for the contracts residing there and a cost center unique overhead rate.


Commercial Cost Center

Federal Government Cost Center

Government Site Unique Cost Center

C. Annual Overhead Rate

An overhead pool is made up of individual Cost Center indirect expenses projected for a given year divided by the projected Cost Center direct labor dollars for that year to determine a rate. Typical Cost Center Overhead general ledger expenses are those which cannot be effectively charged direct to contracts. These include Cost Center management, building lease, telephone, fringe benefits, electricity, capital equipment, depreciation, and the like.

THUS: 2018 Overhead (OH) =

2018 Gen Indirect Exp for cost center =          $459,800
____________________________________ ______ = 110% OH Rate
2018 Projected Dir. Labor $for cost center = $418,000

The estimated annual Cost Center Overhead Rate is applied to direct labor cost estimates to price labor cost through overhead for 2018 for the Cost Center. When a contract is awarded, actual overhead expenses are allocated monthly to direct labor by contract on the basis of direct labor dollars incurred. Projected overhead rates are adjusted based on actual total cost center experience as the year progresses.

D. Annual Material Handling Rate (if required) - Corporate wide expenses specifically associated with buying, storing and shipping material for a given year divided by the projected direct material dollars projected company-wide for that year. Not all companies have business that is material intensive enough to warrant a separate pool for material handling. Where extensive buying or subcontracting is conducted out of the corporate headquarters and inventory and shipping labor are high, a material handling pool is permitted by the government when it is not administratively possible to charge these expenses directly to contracts.

The estimated annual Corporate Material Handling Rate is applied to direct material cost estimates to price material for all Cost Centers. When a contract is awarded, actual material handling expenses are allocated monthly to direct material by contract on the basis of direct material dollars incurred. The projected material-handling rate is adjusted based on actual total company experience as the year progresses.

E. Annual General and Administrative Rate (G and A) is corporate indirect expenses projected for a given year divided by the total projected direct cost plus overheads for all cost centers for that year. Typical G and A general ledger expenses include costs which cannot be charged direct to contracts or to cost center overhead expenses such as corporate executive management, headquarters building leases, legal expenses, company wide insurance, corporate advertising, and the like.


A. Success will be determined by managing the numerator in each of the above equations and winning or maintaining the projected direct cost programs in the annual denominator. If expenses increase due to unforeseen events or if the company loses more projects than planned in the annual denominator base, the associated rate will go up for estimating purposes and under cost plus or time and material contracts the rate billed to the government will also increase. Existing fixed price contracts under these circumstances will become less profitable. Pricing for future fixed price contracts must reflect the increased rates being experienced to avoid further losses.

B. Correspondingly, if expenses decrease due to unforeseen events/good management or if the company wins or grows more projects than planned in the annual denominator base, the associated rate will decrease for estimating purposes and under cost plus or time and material contracts the rate billed to the government will also decrease. Existing fixed price contracts will become more profitable. Pricing for future fixed price contracts must reflect the decreased rates being experienced.

C. For time and material and cost plus contracts, monthly billing rates utilized are "Provisional Rates" that the contractor is free to change based on experience as long as he informs contracting officers and the local Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) of the changes and reasons for the changes can be demonstrated. Before time and material and cost plus contracts can be closed out, provisional rates must be adjusted to reflect actual rates experienced. The contractor will owe the government if provisional billings have been higher than actual cost history. Correspondingly, if the actual rates for cost plus or time and materials contracts have been higher than the provisional rates billed by the contractor, the government will owe the contractor at closeout. Firm, Fixed Price Contracts are not billed based on provisional or actual rates. They are billed at negotiated fixed prices by line item at contract award and paid upon final delivery and acceptance or through monthly progress payments based on incurred cost with a percent of payment retention by the government until deliveries are complete. Fixed rate contracts are billed on a monthly basis through hours incurred. The hourly rates are fixed for the contract term and do not change.


A. Consider an 12-month project priced in a hypothetical small business utilizing forward pricing "Provisional Rates." The contract begins in July of 2018 and continues to July of 2019. Direct labor rates are escalated between 2018 and 2019 by 3.5% based on the Consumer Price Index. The company decides to keep the indirect rates for Overhead and G&A the same for pricing purposes in 2018 and 2019. The company has no Material Handling Pool and charges purchasing, inventory and shipping costs direct to contracts.

B. This government contractor maintains Overhead and G&A rate databases in Excel by month by year to forward price projects such as the one in this example. The databases all utilize the same generic chart of expense accounts as a template for the Cost Center Overhead and G and A monthly expense forecasts (equation numerators). The project is priced in cost center 1 at an overhead rate of 110% and a corporate G and A rate of 10%.

C. Cost Center Direct Labor forecasts in the databases are projected by hours and salary dollars for each existing and anticipated project and then summarized to determine the equation denominator which when divided into the Cost Center Numerator B, above) yields the Cost Center Overhead forecast by month by year. Direct Labor is then burdened by the projected Cost Center Overhead and added to Material and Travel to yield a total Cost Center business summary through Overhead.

D. The G and A rate data base summarizes total direct labor through overhead, material and travel cost for all cost centers (equation denominator) and divides it into the total corporate G and A expense (equation numerator) The equation result yields the projected 
G and A rate by month by year. All cost center labor through overhead, material and travel are then summarized and burdened through G and A to forecast a total cost projection by Cost Center at "Provisional Overhead and G and A Rates.

E. A copy of the annual baseline projected rate database is adjusted with actual expense data each month in the numerator after closing. The denominator for the month is also updated with actual existing and new business developments at the cost center level and G&A monthly actuals at the corporate level. The resulting actual rate experience is then analyzed for trends as the year proceeds and utilized for making potential adjustments in provisional rates. When provisional rate changes are necessary, the government is notified in advance and provided with trend information justifying the rate change. Upon approval by the government, the baseline forecast is adjusted and utilized for billing on T&M and Cost Plus Contracts. The adjusted rates are also utilized to price all future projects. DCAA does not audit management decisions. They simply check the math.

F. Rate databases are usually fully detailed by month for the current year and 1-2 years into the future. Years 3-5 typically have summarized assumptions through use of escalation factors. Bids for out years 5-10 if required by the government definitely utilize escalation factors. Very few government contractors are willing to bid on a firm, fixed price basis beyond out year 5.

G. To comply with Cost Accounting Standards 401 and 402, this company must set up each new government contract on job cost accounting in the identical manner in which it was proposed; in effect identifying direct labor, direct material and other direct costs to each contract monthly and allocating overhead and G&A utilizing the same numerator and denominator relationships upon which the contract was originally estimated.

H. The larger the direct cost incurred on a contract in this company the greater the share of the cost center overhead and corporate G and A it will incur.

I. The entire content of this company's business system is subject to audit and verification by the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) against Cost Accounting Standards 401 and 402. DCAA validates company records by requiring "Incurred Cost Submissions" from this contractor. The submissions validate final rates for cost plus and time and material contract closeouts. Fixed price contracts are closed out when final delivery is received and accepted. Retention on monthly progress payments under fixed price contracts is released at closeout.


The software tools discussed in the December, 2017 posting at this blog DCAA AUDITS AND SMALL BUSINESS JOB COST ACCOUNTING SYSTEMS are designed to assist you in running the above process from a job cost accounting perspective. However, these tools must be set-up to reflect the unique way you are organized and they must reflect your specific business plans as discussed in this article. They will not do that for you.

Illustrations of the the rates, pricing and the long range plan utilized in the above example are available in Chapters 45 and 51 through 53 of my free book, "Small Business Federal Government Contracting" and appendices A and B. You may download the book and related documents from the "Box Net" Cube in the right margin of this site.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

What is a "Compliant" Federal Government Contracting Small Business System?

It seems the single word, "Compliance" in small business federal government contracting business systems implies many different things:

  • Small Business wishes to know about compliance to assess the cost of doing business with the government, assure readiness and business system capability.
  •  Software Suppliers maintain they have compliant tools to achieve government contracting business management and wish to sell them.
  • The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) has the mission to insure compliance with Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) under the Federal Acquisition Regulation.
  • Defense Contract Management Agency Fact Finding Teams wish to observe small business systems to determine if an enterprise is capable of pricing, job cost accounting and billing consistency.
  • Prime Contractors wish to know if a subcontractor is compliant with FAR and CAS so related flow down clauses can be made part of contractual agreements.
The criteria for determining government contracting small business system "Compliance”, as discussed above, is met when:

1. The business system is unique to the company, and recognizes the way the firm is organized and the way it manufactures or delivers products, supplies or services. Each company does business in a slightly different way, performs services or delivers products with organizations that function in various manners and yet all ultimately meet Modified US Government Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) objectives by live data demonstrating consistency with regard to cost allocation to contract objectives in pricing, job cost accounting, billing and closeout.

2. The business system meets Modified Cost Accounting Standard (CAS) Coverage defined by the government is as follows:

Standard 9904.401, Consistency in Estimating, Accumulating, and Reporting Costs

Standard 9904.402, Consistency in Allocating Costs Incurred for the Same Purpose

Standard 9904.405, Accounting for Unallowable Costs

Standard 9904.406, Cost Accounting Standard—Cost Accounting Period
Modified, rather, than full, CAS coverage may be applied to a covered contract of less than $50 million awarded to a business unit that received less than $50 million in net CAS-covered awards in the immediately preceding cost accounting period.

The following article contains practical business system guidance regarding building a Modified CAS Coverage Small Business System for federal government contracting:

Read the above government requirements and business system development guidance, and then give your selected method of business management the Modified CAS litmus test. Make a judgment that it is the best for your company and try it out on DCAA. If they have problems with the approach you can adjust it.

The bottom line objective is that you wish government approval going forward so that your rates are accepted in proposals, your audits have a satisfactory outcome and you get paid when you submit a billing. Without those critical success factors the business cannot operate.

Friday, January 19, 2018

What is a Government Contract Stop Work Order?

                                                   Photo Courtesy Eyebeam dot Org


During the Federal Government Shutdown of 2013 many enterprises received stop work orders on contracts.  This article will specify the purpose of a stop work order, actions that must be taken upon receipt of the order and the relationship of the order to resumption of effort, funding constraints, contract terminations and associated business risk.


The purpose of a stop work order is to immediately bring to a halt the effort on a contract and any further performance and related cost against that contract. 

It is usually necessary when unforeseen circumstances necessitate the action, such as the government shutdown or similar exigencies. An example of a clause that appears regularly in most government contracts, reserving the government's rights to stop work, is as follows:

"Stop-Work Order (Aug 1989)
(a) The Contracting Officer may, at any time, by written order to the Contractor, require the Contractor to stop all, or any part, of the work called for by this contract for a period of 90 days after the order is delivered to the Contractor, and for any further period to which the parties may agree. The order shall be specifically identified as a stop-work order issued under this clause. Upon receipt of the order, the Contractor shall immediately comply with its terms and take all reasonable steps to minimize the incurrence of costs allocable to the work covered by the order during the period of work stoppage. Within a period of 90 days after a stop-work is delivered to the Contractor, or within any extension of that period to which the parties shall have agreed, the Contracting Officer shall either—
(1) Cancel the stop-work order; or
(2) Terminate the work covered by the order as provided in the Default, or the Termination for Convenience of the Government, clause of this contract.
(b) If a stop-work order issued under this clause is canceled or the period of the order or any extension thereof expires, the Contractor shall resume work. The Contracting Officer shall make an equitable adjustment in the delivery schedule or contract price, or both, and the contract shall be modified, in writing, accordingly, if—
(1) The stop-work order results in an increase in the time required for, or in the Contractor’s cost properly allocable to, the performance of any part of this contract; and
(2) The Contractor asserts its right to the adjustment within 30 days after the end of the period of work stoppage; provided, that, if the Contracting Officer decides the facts justify the action, the Contracting Officer may receive and act upon the claim submitted at any time before final payment under this contract.
(c) If a stop-work order is not canceled and the work covered by the order is terminated for the convenience of the Government, the Contracting Officer shall allow reasonable costs resulting from the stop-work order in arriving at the termination settlement.
(d) If a stop-work order is not canceled and the work covered by the order is terminated for default, the Contracting Officer shall allow, by equitable adjustment or otherwise, reasonable costs resulting from the stop-work order.
(End of clause) "


A stop work order is to be taken literally.  Under a stop work order the government makes no guarantees it will take any further deliveries whatsoever, regardless of the contract type. A stop work order means just that.  Stop work and stop incurring cost. 

Upon receipt of a stop work order you have no guarantee of payment for any transaction date-stamped in your accounting system after the date of the stop work order (or the commencement date of a stop work order specified in a Contracting Officer's Letter).

 I suggest clients receiving these orders close the charge numbers applicable until the stop work order is lifted with an order to resume effort and immediately notify any effected suppliers and subcontractors to do the same.

To the degree the government has made progress payments or has any other form of payment invested in the product to date it has ownership rights in the product. If that is the case treat the physical material work-in-process as government owned, store it as such without performing any more effort on it and await further disposition.

To the degree the government has not paid anything on the contract or delivery order they have no ownership rights to the product and you are free to complete it and sell it to another customer (commercial or government) that has not stopped work. If the government recommences the order, quote a new price and delivery from ground zero.

At the bottom line a stop work is blunt and to the point.  Treat it as if you will never hear from this customer again to manage the risk.  

To the degree you do hear from the CO again and he or she has the funding to recommence work, be prepared to submit a proposal for what it will take to start the effort and a realistic delivery schedule to complete the it, but do not build any retroactive costs incurred during the stop work period into your logic and expect to bill them; they may not come to payment fruition. 


Note that in the above cited clause the government discusses resumption of work and contract terminations as options.

Hypothetically at some future date the government could terminate the  contract without taking delivery and the contractor will then submit a termination proposal for recovery of costs and disruption. 

When a stop work order is lifted  the contract or the delivery order is open to negotiation on both price and delivery under the equitable adjustment and changes clauses in the FAR provisions of the contract.

At that time, you should inform the government that you are pleased to resume work, but under revised price and delivery conditions as specified in a proposal for equitable adjustment

You should not resume work until a contract or work order amendment is received granting the price and delivery relief to contract requirements commensurate with negotiation results under your proposal for equitable adjustment.

In short, time is money.

If your contract was adequately funded and remains so when work commences and assuming you negotiate acceptable terms and conditions you can proceed with low risk.  If the funding on the contract is low at the time of recommencement, it is recommended you request additional funding and handle that matter in accordance with the article linked below.


Stop work orders are serious matters and require special handling to comply with government direction and to manage risk.  This article has discussed the principal options and equitable adjustment terms and conditions available to you if you undergo a stop work on a government contract.

Continuing effort on a contract after receipt of a stop work is high risk.

Astutely managing your options is a far better approach. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday, December 1, 2017


DCAA Audits And Small Business Job Cost Accounting Systems

By Ken Larson

IntroductionSmall Businesses typically have a learning experience growing into government contracting. Part of that process is undergoing reviews by the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). It takes knowledge of the requirements and strategic focus to set up the type of business processes required for accommodating government contract job cost accounting and fit those processes into the way your company does business.

DCAA or other agency representatives do not approve job cost accounting software packages. They approve contractor job cost accounting practices in compliance with Federal Cost Accounting Standards (CAS). If you are a small business, you are probably going to come under modified CAS Coverage that you can read about at the following link:

Cost Accounting Standards Compliance

Perhaps you have already examined the above background, but I would encourage you to review it again in connection with planning for your business system. Perhaps you have discovered that CAS compliant job cost accounting effects your estimating structure, your long range planning for indirect rates, as well as your general ledger, overhead and G&A structure. You may have discovered as well that DCAA wants to see your government contracts accounted for in a separate cost center from your commercial work and that there are certain unallowable costs that cannot be charged directly or indirectly to government contracts.

Proposal AuditsProposal audits are performed by DCAA on your cost proposal at the request of the Procurement Contracting Officer (PCO) and verify your direct and indirect rates against your long range plan, your labor category pricing, contingent hire agreements, vendor quotes, subcontractor proposals and all other data related to the cost volume of the proposal. Results go to the PCO. Arithmetic checks are made. No opinion is offered on the merit of the pricing, only that it has been documented in a long-range plan or a vendor or subcontractor quote and it is accurate.

Progress Billing Audits under Firm Fixed Price ContractsThis type of audit is on live data from your billing system. It is triggered by your submitting a progress payment under a firm, fixed price contract. Progress payments can be allowed in long-running firm, fixed price contracts that are front-end loaded with material and labor investment and have lengthy schedules for delivering the end product.

The DCAA Auditor will get the audit request from the contracting activity and will ask to examine the complete set of job cost records in your accounting system for incurred cost on the fixed price contract and tie those records out to the progress payment requested amount (usually 85-90% of the incurred cost to date - they hold some billed amount in retention). Records audited are at the time card and expense report level, as well as purchase orders, travel vouchers and any other transactions that are booked and billed in your accounting system to the fixed price contract. They will want to see the time cards and other documents and will trace them back through the system.

If you do not have a progress billing clause in your firm, fixed price contract, it is unlikely you will be audited. The contracting activity or the Defense Finance Accounting System (DFAS) will simply compare the final amount you bill to the firm, fixed price amount in your contract and pay if the item or service has been accepted and delivered. (Usually a sign-off by the PCO, Contracting Officer's Technical Representative (COTR) or a DD Form 250 signed by a government inspector on product deliveries)

Cost Plus and T&M Contract Billing AuditsBilling audits are performed by DCAA, again at the request of the contracting activity. The auditor will go into all actual cost records submitted with your billing. Cost plus and T&M billings must have all the billing detail behind them or they will not be paid. The detail must be at the transaction level and the audit is identical to the one discussed above for progress payments.

Incurred Cost Audits (Often referred to as "Rate" audits)These audits are conducted when you are closing out contracts with the government and they have been billed at provisional rates, or the government needs to establish that you are billing accurately from a rate standpoint. If the contract is fixed price with progress payments, cost plus or T&M in nature and has been billed over a long period, particularly if it has crossed more than one government fiscal year, then a system-wide incurred cost audit will be necessary to verify the rates that were charged to the government and determine the difference between the provisional rate billed and the actual rate incurred (where applicable).

In addition it is periodically necessary for the government to establish that no unallowable costs have found their way into government contract billings.

The government allows provisional billing rates for the convenience of the contractor based on his long-range plan and mix of business. The government holds a retention amount on each billing and then at closeout determines with the contractor through an incurred cost audit the final amount due on the contract, releases the retention accordingly, and the contract can then be closed if all other obligations have been completed. At closeout the government pays the final bill.

A rate audit determines the compliance of the job cost system if it occurs while the contract is in process. If an incurred cost audit occurs on contract closeout actions, results will directly impact final contract billing approval and amounts.

Job Cost Accounting Software
My experience with job cost accounting software tools is that complete packages are pretty expensive. COTS accounting packages such as Quick Books do not provide job cost accounting. I have installed JAMIS, which is the 'Cadillac', DELTEK, which is the 'Fairlane 500', and SYMPAQ, which is the 'Volkswagen'. They are all expensive, even for single user licenses. You can go to these and other product sites on the web and examine their capabilities:




Here are some products especially designed for small business:

ERP-GOV is a new product that appears to be economical and fairly high quality:


ICAT is an add-on tool for Quick Books that some small companies are using:


PROCAS is an offline and online, on-demand approach that is relatively new and shows promise:


All of the above suppliers are used to long sales cycles and competing against each other. They will do remote demos for you and bend over backwards to show you their products. You can learn much about government contract job cost accounting just by taking the time to go through a demo. For companies whose direct job cost records are growing fast, these tools offer the utility to manage data volume and efficiently handle requirements such as changes to existing records driven by rate changes, fiscal period closing or contract closeout.

Growing Your Job Cost System
Many small companies doing government work start out with a rudimentary direct job cost accounting software package such as Peach Tree or the add-on tool for Quick Books mentioned above and crutch it with manually maintained records on spreadsheets for indirect cost allocation, time keeping, expense reporting, purchasing and supplier commitments. There is nothing wrong with such an approach as long as you can supply job cost (individual contract) records complying with modified CAS Coverage and demonstrate such things as:

Time Cards and time keeping process by worker and labor category by contract or indirect cost pool

Expense Reports and expense report process by worker by contract or indirect cost pool

Purchase Orders with job cost accounting data traceable thru invoices to contacts or indirect cost pools after payment

Overhead Allocations in a Government-unique cost center to individual contracts at month end based on individual contract direct labor cost

G&A Allocations in a Government-unique cost center to individual contracts at month end based on individual contract total cost

A semi-manual approach gets burdensome as the company grows and the number of accounting transactions at the direct and indirect cost level increase in volume.

If you do not have a good job cost software, I recommend you begin looking for one and plan strategically to implement it if progress billings and service contracting to include time and material and cost plus contracts are in your future. Implementing a government compliant job cost system is a sensitive matter and must be planned. I was never able to pull it off in a small company in any less than a year with some delicate timing, particularly during cut-over from the old system to the new.

As companies grow and get involved in larger programs they come under full CAS Coverage that requires a disclosure statement and considerably more controls on the structure of the business system. You can read about full CAS coverage at the link contained in the introduction to this article.

If you have the investment budget available, you may wish to consider the job cost accounting system software suppliers I mentioned above and compete them against each other for a price. Installing one of these packages is critical from an accounting period standpoint. I recommend a new year starting point and running in parallel on your old system for at least a quarter.

Keep in mind that DCAA does not approve COTS job cost accounting system software. Buying the software will not make you "DCAA Compliant" or "CAS Compliant" That objective is achieved through careful process development, specific to your company, utilizing software as a tool to operate your own unique business processes. Your processes will include long range planning, pricing, job cost accounting, indirect cost allocation, time-keeping, expense reporting, purchasing and commitments and billing - all geared to accurate job cost records at the individual contract level.

To the extent that you cannot demonstrate the above features to DCAA when they audit your business you CAN demonstrate that you are aware of the necessity to set these things up, lay out your plan to do so, and specify a time frame within which DCAA can expect to see you complete your compliant government contract pricing and accounting structure.

I have found that DCAA auditors are reasonable people who understand small companies must grow into government business systems. Showing them your accounting structure and your business system plans will display knowledge they will appreciate and assure them you understand the requirements, even if you cannot demonstrate all the processes at the point in time that the government initially audits your company.

Chapters 45 and 51 through 53 of my Book, "Small Business Federal Government Contracting" provides further detail and examples on establishing CAS-Compliant small business planning, pricing and job cost accounting. The book is free as a download in the right margin of this site in the "Box Net" cube.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017






The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) contains provisions for contractors and the government to resolve contract disputes.  The disputes often arise due to events during performance, many times surfacing weaknesses in the original contract work definition, technical parameters, schedule factors or related terms and conditions that can lead to change implications effecting cost, schedule and delivery.

In short, when the understanding the parties thought they had at negotiation and execution of the contract is in dispute, there must be a resolution. 

These conditions open the baseline of the contract to further clarification and negotiation. The FAR recognizes that a fair and equitable process is necessary to settle disputes and re-establish a mutually agreeable contract baseline.


Contract baseline management has been discussed previously in the following article:

The above article offers six (6) rules of thumb:

1. KNOW - The contract value and its ceiling amount
2. KNOW - The incurred cost to date and commitments
3. KNOW - The scope of work and whether or not your current efforts are supporting it or some other objectives
4. KNOW - The estimated cost at completion based on where you are at today
5. KNOW - Your customer and who among the customer population is prone to direct out of scope effort.
6. KNOW - WHEN TO SAY "NO" to "Scope Creep" and say it officially in writing to the contracting officer specified in your contract.

The remainder of this article will discuss the three most common processes that contract disputes undergo when the baseline is in dispute and selecting the best method considering the circumstances that exist on the contract. 


An REA is most often the first and the least formal step undertaken by a contractor when there has been a clear and recognizable departure from the contract baseline in terms of events that warrant cost, schedule, technical performance or terms and conditions parameter modification.  It does not start the formal claims process under FAR with associated interest implications.

Submitted in the form of a proposal for contract change, the REA cites the "Before and After" conditions of the contract baseline and the details regarding the delta.  Implicit in the submission are actual cost records, documents regarding government actions and guidance, an estimate of the new baseline impact in terms of cost, schedule or technical modifications to the agreement and a request for contract change. 

The government agency may approve or deny the proposal, further negotiate the details with the contractor and may or may not modify the contact.  The following article is an excellent guide to use and preparation of REA’s:


ADR takes advance planning on the part of the government agency and the contractor.  Not every government contracting office chooses to place an ADR clause in contacts they execute.  Not every contractor is willing to accept one at contract award.

ADR is intended to be an alternative to the REA and formal claims process, whereby the government and the contractor agree in advance to place an ADR clause in the contract and subject any dispute that arises to the ADR process for resolution.  

Below is a quote from the FAR on the use of ADR:

33.214  Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
(a) The objective of using ADR procedures is to increase the opportunity for relatively inexpensive and expeditious resolution of issues in controversy. Essential elements of ADR include—
(1) Existence of an issue in controversy;
(2) A voluntary election by both parties to participate in the ADR process;
(3) An agreement on alternative procedures and terms to be used in lieu of formal litigation; and
(4) Participation in the process by officials of both parties who have the authority to resolve the issue in controversy.
(b) If the contracting officer rejects a contractor’s request for ADR proceedings, the contracting officer shall provide the contractor a written explanation citing one or more of the conditions in 5 U.S.C. 572(b) or such other specific reasons that ADR procedures are inappropriate for the resolution of the dispute. In any case where a contractor rejects a request of an agency for ADR proceedings, the contractor shall inform the agency in writing of the contractor’s specific reasons for rejecting the request.
(c) ADR procedures may be used at any time that the contracting officer has authority to resolve the issue in controversy. If a claim has been submitted, ADR procedures may be applied to all or a portion of the claim. When ADR procedures are used subsequent to the issuance of a contracting officer’s final decision, their use does not alter any of the time limitations or procedural requirements for filing an appeal of the contracting officer’s final decision and does not constitute a reconsideration of the final decision.
(d) When appropriate, a neutral person may be used to facilitate resolution of the issue in controversy using the procedures chosen by the parties.
(e) The confidentiality of ADR proceedings shall be protected consistent with 5 U.S.C. 574.
(f)(1) A solicitation shall not require arbitration as a condition of award, unless arbitration is otherwise required by law. Contracting officers should have flexibility to select the appropriate ADR procedure to resolve the issues in controversy as they arise.
(2) An agreement to use arbitration shall be in writing and shall specify a maximum award that may be issued by the arbitrator, as well as any other conditions limiting the range of possible outcomes.
(g) Binding arbitration, as an ADR procedure, may be agreed to only as specified in agency guidelines. Such guidelines shall provide advice on the appropriate use of binding arbitration and when an agency has authority to settle an issue in controversy through binding arbitration.”


A formal contract claim is a significant step in the relationship with your customer.  It acknowledges that the REA and ADR (if applicable to the contract) processes have not been effective in resolving the dispute and refers the matter to a formal claim which has the potential for adjudication.  It also starts the interest clock in terms of government payment liability in the event the agency loses the claim during adjudication. 

Below are the major clauses regarding formal contact claims and the certifications by the contractor that apply.  They have significant legal implications.


When contract disputes or the potential for claims and appeals arise it is best to view each instance uniquely in deciding which of the three avenues discussed in this article may be appropriate. 

Contract disputes are serious matters. In the event the impact to the company from a risk perspective is substantial, it is best to involve a law firm that specializes in government contract claims for advice on how to proceed.