Monday, April 15, 2013

What Are "Contract Briefs"?

We used the term "contract brief" in a conversation the other day and got a blank look from a Government contractor. Its a term we toss around so often that we assumed everyone knew and understood. Apparently not.

A contract brief is simply a summary of key portions of a contract. The purpose of a "contract brief" is to ensure that Government contractors fully understand the terms and conditions agreed to by the parties of the contract (the Government and the contractor). Contracts are usually very lengthy, complex to decipher, and cumbersome to read and understand. Contracts do not often contain the full text of all relevant terms and conditions but only references to clauses in FAR Part 52. To fully grasp everything in a contract, you need the FAR as your companion. Frankly, we doubt that very few contracts are ever read and studied - even by the Government folks that write them. The process of writing a contract is pretty much automated - the contracting officer answers a few questions and out pops a contract.

A contract brief is a summary of the contract - it cuts through all the clutter, extracts and organizes the most pertinent and relevant parts of a contract into one or two pages. Typically, contract briefs include

  • A brief statement of work to be performed
  • Contract funding, including limitations, ceilings and fees
  • Special contract requirements
  • Waivers of any regulations
  • Contract administration information
  • FAR (and Agency FAR Supplement) clauses that are relevant to Government oversight (e.g. whether the contract is CAS covered, subject to TINA, whether it has EVMS requirements, etc).


A sample contract brief can be found in DCAA's Information for Contractors starting on Page 95. An electronic copy is included in DCAA's ICE (Incurred Cost Electronically) Excel Model. Some accounting software designed specifically for Government contractors have an integrated contract briefing system.

Auditors consider the absence contract briefs to be some sort of deficiency - a contract briefing system enhances the overall management effectiveness of the organization - although we have never seen the lack of one called out in an audit report. We think briefing cards are most useful in ensuring that billings do not exceed the funding limitations of the contract and to alert contractors when to notify contracting officers when they've spent 75 or 85 percent of the funds available on the contract.

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