Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The "Red Book" - GAO's Principles of Federal Appropriations Law

Researching Federal Contract law is not easy and is usually left to the professionals. Contract disputes are complicated as well because the law and the regulations that were in effect when the contract was created govern its applications. This means going through many books, current and superseded.

Today online sources make research a bit simpler but finding the laws, regulations, and case law is only the beginning. Interpreting the laws, and regulations requires a legal mind and a whole lot of experience in this highly specialized field.

Today there are a lot of online resources, many of which we have referenced from time to time. Online resources certainly make research easier and if you are inclined to perform your own legal research, there is a great free resource at the GAO.

Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, also known as the Red Book, is GAO's multi-volume treatise concerning federal fiscal law. The Red Book provides text discussion with reference to specific legal authorities to illustrate legal principles, their application, and exceptions. These references include GAO decisions and opinions, judicial decisions, statutory provisions and other relevant sources.

The Red Book's 2,500 or so pages is organized into fourteen chapters (chapters 1 through 15 with chapter 4 "coming soon". Chapter titles include:

  • The legal framework
  • Availability of appropriations: purpose
  • Availability of appropriations: time
  • Availability of appropriations: amount
  • Obligation of appropriations
  • Continuing resolutions
  • Liability and relief of accountable officers
  • Federal assistance: grants and cooperative agreements
  • Federal assistance: guaranteed and insured loans
  • Acquisition of goods and services
  • Real property
  • Claims against and by the government
  • Miscellaneous topics
GAO publishes a new edition every few years (currently its on edition 4) which represents a complete update and involves hundreds of hours of research and verification on the accuracy of every cited work. GAO also publishes an annual revision, which refreshes the Red Book content with new GAO appropriations law decisions or opinions that have been released in the preceding year.

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