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What is the first day of contract performance period for a construction contract?
By Harley Hartley on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 07:33 am:

I'm looking for regulatory guidance or case law that will help me answer this question: Does the contract performance period start on the day the contractor acknowledges receipt of the NTP or does it start on the day after receipt?

By joel hoffman on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 08:27 am:

Harley, I'm not aware of any regulatory guidance or case Law. However, I have forwarded the following to the AAP Contract Law person for their consideration:

"I don't know if there is any written definition or any Case Law on this matter. The answer is that one literally reads ... "and complete it within XX calendar days AFTER receipt of the notice to proceed..."

The Policy within the Corps of Engineers is that you begin counting "performance days" beginning with the calendar day after receipt of the Notice to Proceed (or Date of Receiving Award, depending on which method is checked on the SF 1142).

Rationale. The date of receipt of NTP does not allow any meaningful progress that day. In addition, the Notice could be received at the end of the day. The period of performance is intended to allow full days. If the contract allowed one day for performance, it would be practically impossible to complete the project on the date of receipt of the NTP Therefore, the end of the next day after receipt is considered the first day. You calculate the completion date by adding the number of performance days to the day of the year that the NTP was received. Thus, if NTP for a contract with a performance period of 100 days was received on Day 10 (Jan 1), the project must be completed by the end of day 110 (April 20th, using the non-leap year Julian Date Calendar).

Happy Sails! Joel T. Hoffman, P.E.
US Army Corps of Engineers
Huntsville, AL.

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 08:31 am:

Since you mention an "NTP," which I take to mean notice to proceed, I assume that you are asking about a construction contract.

Fixed-price construction contracts should contain the clause at FAR 52.211-10, ommencement, Prosecution, and Completion of Work. That clause requires the contractor to start working within a specified number of days "after the date the Contractor recieves the notice to proceed," and to complete the work within a number of days "after the date the Contractor receives the notice to proceed."

So, if the contract contains that clause, the performance period begins on the day after the day on which the contractor received the notice to proceed. That's not necessarily the same date as the date on which the contractor acknowledged receipt.

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 08:35 am:

The proper title of FAR 52.211-10 is Commencement, Prosecution, and Completion of Work. Sorry for the typo.

By joel hoffman on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 08:51 am:

Harley posted a more detailed question at the "Contract Law" Topic at Ask A Professor.
The following was the focus of his question:

He said: Item 11 of SF 1442 says The Contractor shall begin performance within ___ calendar days and complete it within ___ calendar days after receiving __ award, __ notice to proceed..."

This is generally consistent with the FAR Clause 52.211-10, except that some Agencies use the date of award - a poor practice, in my opinion. happy sails! joel

By joel hoffman on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 09:20 am:

oops! a typo above in my 0827 post. "SF 1142" should read "SF 1442". happy sails! joel

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 09:36 am:

Agencies, and professors, should read the FAR, which, in this matter, prescribes a clear and unambiguous contract term regarding the period of performance of construction contracts. SF1442 and FAR 52.211-10 are consistent. (SF1442 allows for basing the start on the date after receipt of the award, rather than the date after receipt of the notice to proceed, in instances in which the government will not issue a notice to proceed; however, Harley's question was based on the issuance of a notice to proceed.)

There is no reason for confusion or doubt about when the clock starts. This is not a matter of case law or the policy of the Corps of Engineers; it is a matter of what the FAR says and the express terms of the contract.

When in doubt, read the FAR.

By joel hoffman on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 09:51 am:

Vern, the question is often asked - "Is day one the date of receipt or is it the day after the receipt?" To you and me, it appears to be clear. Yet, I've been asked this question countless number of times over the years. Yes, read the clause and the SF 1442 literally. It's XX days AFTER receipt... happy sails! joel

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 10:35 am:


I'm not surprised that you get asked the question many times, because it's clear to me that most of the people in our business don't read the FAR. At least 50 percent of the questions asked at Wifcon and at Ask A Professor are answered in the FAR. When you ask people why they haven't read the FAR they say they don't have the time to do so or that they don't know how to find things in it. New entrants to the contracting field receive no meaningful training about the organization and content of the FAR from their supervisors. But even most contracting officers are PWACs when it it comes to the FAR.

It's pathetic. Would you go to a tax accountant who doesn't read the tax code and can't find things in it?

By Harley Hartley on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 10:47 am:

Mr. Edwards: As the question would suggest, it does indeed relate to construction contracts. I agree there is no conflict between the SF 1442 and FAR 52.211-10. Thanks for the "read the FAR" advice; however, please be assured that I have read the FAR.

Joel: Thanks for your input. I agree with your rationale that the performance time is intended to be measured in full days.

By formerfed on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 10:47 am:


I'm curious whether you think eliminating the paper based version of the FAR makes ths matter worse or not.

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 10:54 am:


No, I don't think that's the problem. The contracting people that I meet have a copy of the FAR on their desk -- either the three-ring version that they have downloaded from the ARNET or the Commerce Clearing House paperback. They have it; it's just that most of them don't read it.

By Anonymous on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 12:48 pm:

You experience contracting people really, let us beginners have it. Share your knowledge in a pleasant way. Gosh, Vern I am really surprised at your furstation regarding a simple questions. I really do not submit to this chat line, becuase you knowledgeable guys really put it to the beginners.

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 01:45 pm:


The beginners aren't the problem. They have an excuse.

Go ahead and submit questions. Change your moniker to Beginner or Novice. No one will give you a hard time.


By Harley Hartley on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 02:01 pm:

Anonymous: Just to put your mind at rest, Mr. Edwards' jabs are not limited to newcomers. I've worked in contracting since 1978. And, even though I've read my share of the FAR, sometimes things come up that you think you know the answer for but you aren't quite sure. Such was the case with this question. Anyway, after getting Joel's reasonable input, I took a look at ASBCA's and the US Court of Federal Claims' rules to see how they compute time. In both fora they start the clock on the date after receipt of whatever triggered the action. I agree with Mr. Edwards' position that the FAR (and supplements) is the first place to look. After you've done that, feel free to ask your questions and feel free to ignore gratuitous responses.

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 02:41 pm:

Harley and Anonymous Beginner:

My jabs are never aimed at newcomers, but I do aim and hit old-timers who should have read their contracts before asking a question that's answered by one of the clauses in their contracts. I would be mortified to ask a question the answer to which is in my contract, thereby showing that I hadn't read the %$#@*& thing.

One should never go looking at case law until one has done his or her homework in the contract that they're administering and in the FAR. It's that kind of thing that has led to the lawyer-dominance of the contracting process and to the general decline in the status of the GS-1102.

I want to point out that I did not criticize Harley Hartley in my answer to his question. I didn't say anything critical until Joel mentioned the "professor" for the second time.

By alexreb on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 03:44 pm:

Is there anything wrong with issuing a NTP for the contractor to begin work on a specified future day, instead of just issuing a NTP as discussed above? For example, "...work shall begin on Monday, December 2, 2002".

I realize it's not in accordance with clause 52.11-10 or Item of 11 of the SF1442, but it seems to help in coordinating a start date with our CORs and contractors.

By webmaster on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 07:16 pm:

I would like your opinions on my adding a new topic that is set aside for questions from those who are new to contracting. For example, the topic for this thread is called

"Contracts--Questions & Answers"

A new topic might be "Contracts -- For Beginners" or something like that. I think our experienced posters would be happy to help those individuals who are new to contracting.

I am going to remove one or two topics anyway in the next month or so. Please let me know your thoughts.

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 07:39 pm:


FAR provides no detailed guidance on the format or content of a notice to proceed. FAR 36.213-4(e) says that a notice of award may either (1) specify the date of commencement of work or (2) state that a notice to proceed may be issued.

Generally, the reason for telling a contractor to wait for a notice to proceed is that the owner wants to get the contractor's certificates of insurance and bonds before allowing it on the worksite. Once the contractor presents the owner with the certificates and bonds, the owner issues a notice to proceed.

The Commencement, Prosecution, and Completion of Work clause tells the contractor that it must begin work within a certain number of days (usually between five and ten) after receiving the notice to proceed, rather than on a specific calendar date, in order to allow some flexibility. A specific date might make things needlessly complicated.

By New2this on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 10:44 am:

The body of our NTP letter reads as follows: "You were awarded contract number XXXXXXXXXXX in the amount of $XXXXXXX for work on the referenced project. In accordance with the terms of the contract you are hereby notified to begin work. The contract performance period will begin on December 2, 2002. Work shall commence within five (5) calendar days and be completed within twenty-six (26) calendar days from December 2, 2002. Please sign, date and mail back."

This format is working well for us. It answers all the questions (1)When does performance time start? (2)How many days before works must commence? (3) When must job be completed?

By Susan Marie Paolini on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 01:49 pm:

To our webmaster,

I think I like having "beginners" and "old-hands" questions in the same place, rather than categorized separately.

I think many of us, even those with significant experience, are beginners in some areas - Government contracting is a big field. I like reading questions about areas I do not work in - often gives an idea or an approach or thought that can translate into my daily job.

By alexreb on Friday, November 29, 2002 - 12:46 pm:


It really makes sense to make things less complicated. Along those lines, what's the purpose of giving a contractor 5 or 10 days to begin work after receiving the NTP? Is just to allow time for mobilizing to work site, or are there other reasons?

By Vern Edwards on Friday, November 29, 2002 - 02:22 pm:


The main reason is to give the contractor time to organize and mobilize.


By joel hoffman on Sunday, December 01, 2002 - 09:45 pm:

Some more reasons.

The Government usually requires a post award ("pre-construction")conference before allowing the Contractor to start work. Getting the attendees together requires some time. We also require that the Contractor obtain performance and payment bonds and provide proof of liability and automobile insurance. This all usually takes a week to 10 days. We don't expect this time to count toward the performance period. happy sails! joel

By Vern Edwards on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 09:49 am:


Axelreb wanted to know why the government gives the contractor five or ten days to begin work after it receives the notice to proceed. Doesn't your agency, the Corps of Engineers, require the contractor to present bonds and insurance certificates before issuing the notice to proceed?

By alexreb on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 06:13 pm:

We usually require the contractor to submit other required documents (insurance certs., schedule, superintendence appointments, etc.) prior to or with his bonds, which are typically due 10 days after contract award. That way we can make a review of those documents prior to actually meeting with the contractor. We have the NTP ready at the precon or we issue it shortly thereafter.

We have a controversy with our engineers over the length of time a contractor should have to begin work after issuance of the NTP. The engineers feel such time should conincide directly with the number of days in the performance period for mobilization. For example, if 3 days is required to mobilize then the NTP should require the contractor to begin work within 3 days of receipt.

On the contracting side we feel we should provide time for the contractor to mobilize plus time for the contractor to tie up loose ends and compelete the necessary preparations, such as, ordering materials, organizing labor force, entering into subcontracts, obtaining equipment or supplies, etc.

Our disagreement occurs most with contracts that have short mobilization times (5 days or less). What's the proper gage of time to use for determining when a contractor should start work?

By Vern Edwards on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 07:54 pm:


Keep in mind that when the Commencement, Prosecution, and Completion of Work clause requires the contractor to "commence work," that does not necessarily mean commence work at the jobsite. "Work" includes hiring labor, obtaining permits, ordering materials, awarding trade subcontracts, and transporting equipment. Just because a contractor is not working at the jobsite doesn't mean that it has not commenced work. Do your engineers understand that?

By alexreb on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 08:21 pm:

No. Our agency's policy is that work starts only when something physical occurs on the site, i.e., starts when the shovel of dirt or when ground is first broken. This may be a carry-over from our old way of accomplishing our construction work, when all our work was performed by non-federal contracts through state and local sponsors (locally-awarded contracts accomplished through city and county government). I'll check into this a bit more because now our work is predominantly accomplished via federal contracts.

By joel hoffman on Tuesday, December 03, 2002 - 10:34 pm:

Vern, I just saw your post. I've been out of town, this week. Alexreb, it's my recollection from construction contract management training years ago that the reason that we require the Contractor to start work within a reasonably short period after receipt of NTP is related to historical performance problems. When a contractor delayed the start of performance, it often endangered satisfactory completion. It became a question of determining whether or not the Contractor would complete the project - at what point could one decide that the Contractor wouldn't finish on time - when should the Government start corrective action? So, they required performance to proceed within a short time after NTP.

They didn't have the benefit of Primavera, network analyses or other critical path methods to determine how long it should logically take or know the logical activity flow/restraints/relationships back then, to use as proof that the Contractor had delayed too long to complete the project on time. happy sails! joel

By joel hoffman on Tuesday, December 03, 2002 - 10:41 pm:

Vern, in response to your question, yes - we usually allow the Contractor a few days to obtain bonds and proof of insurance during the period that the post award ("pre-construction") conference is being coordinated, prior to issuance of NTP. Many Districts issue the NTP on or about the day of the pre-con (as long as the paperwork has been taken care of). happy sails! joel

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, December 03, 2002 - 11:54 pm:


How does the Corps interpret "commence work"? Does it interpret that phrase to mean work at the site?


By Harley Hartley on Wednesday, December 04, 2002 - 09:57 am:

I can't answer for the entire Corps but I can answer for the Jacksonville District. When we are doing dredging, we add a paragraph to our specifications to say that commence work means commence dredging because we want the contractor to get on with it. For other kinds of construction, we don't require on-site activity by a certain date. We do, however, review the contractor's progress schedule and take action when on-site activity lags behind the schedule.

By AFRetired on Wednesday, December 04, 2002 - 03:58 pm:


I TOTALLY agree with your comment about knowing where and how to look things up in the FAR. It seems today that people are growing "lazy" and trying to find the easy way out.

When I was with DoD (Go Air Force!) contracting as a supervisor/CO I made people come to me with possible solutions or with areas of the FAR they looked at for help before I gave them an answer or direction. This forced them into the books. They moaned and complained but found it very helpful when they became the CO and had to make the decisions. Thats the way I was taught and found it effective.

By Eric Stice on Wednesday, December 04, 2002 - 05:54 pm:

If they ever make a movie (or TV sitcom) about this chatboard, Vern and Joel will have to be played by Tony Randall and Jack Klugman (anyone remember what show I am jokingly referring to???)

By Eric Stice on Wednesday, December 04, 2002 - 06:02 pm:

By the way, just KIDDING with that friendly jab at these two very experienced, knowledgeable, and helpful members of our profession. I really do love to follow the various discussions on this site, and Vern in particular helped me directly via email with a very specific yet esoteric question, responding almost immediately even when he was on the road. And I agree with Susan above about keeping the "experienced" and "novice" participants in the same discussion... that way any readers can learn about the issue as well as offer their own experiencial advice for all levels of participants to see.

By joel hoffman on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 09:26 am:

Here is the 'official' COE policy, From Engineer Pamphlet 415-1-260 "Resident Engineer's Management Guide". I also checked a recent COE training manual for their "Construction Contract Administration" course, but it didn't cover the topic.

6-4 b. (1) notice to proceed
"...the day following acknowledgement of the NTP by the contractor is considered the first day of the contract." (when this EP was issued - 6 Dec 1990 - the common method was to "...deliver by certified mail, return receipt requested.")

6-4-c. "Commencement of work. ...For the record, the resident engineer informs the district, in writing, of the date on which the contractor begins work on the jobsite. Should the contractor fail to commence the work, as provided for in the contract, the resident engineer immediately files a report giving all essential facts to the contracting officer." happy sails! joel

By formerfed on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 09:42 am:


Too bad more CO's don't take your approach. The disturbing thing I see over the last ten years is a move to "ask the lawyer." For some reason, lawyers are more receptive to research and answer questions where the 1102 haven't even done the basic research themselves. I'm not sure why 1102's want to turn to the lawyer without checking themselves first. But the bottom line in many agencies is the lawyer is the procurement expert and the one senior mangers and program officials turn to first. I think that happened only due to the lack of personal knowledge of the 1102.

By Vern Edwards on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 09:47 am:


I haven't found any case law, but I think that it would be difficult to legitimately find a contractor in breach merely because it didn't commence work at the jobsite within the time specified in the Commencement, Prosecution and Completion of Work clause, unless the contract stipulated that "work" meant "work at the jobsite."

By Vern Edwards on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 09:56 am:

formerfed and AFRetired:

I just spent two days teaching a procurement regulations course to an agency's contracting officers. Most of them had simply never read the regs and were often startled to find out what they said. These were warranted people!

Some of them claimed that although they didn't know what the regs said, they knew how to find answers in the regs when they needed them. I was ready for that response and gave them some questions that required them to find the answers in the regs. Many of them were shocked at how hard it can be to find things if you are not already familiar with the organization and content of the regs. Indexes and on-line searches are not always helpful.

Moreover, even if you know what the regs say, you may not know what they mean. Consider the discussion we've been having: what does "work" mean?

Too many contracting people go to their supervisors and lawyers for answers before doing their own research because they think and act like clerks, instead of acquisition professionals.

By Anon2U on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 11:38 am:

The longer that I am in our contracting office the more I believe that COs need an advanced degree but it needs to be a Law degree, not an MBA. I say this because the program office technical experts, who have much more time to conduct market research, have usually already reviewed all the vendors, products and prices and have made up their minds that only their chosen product or vendor will suffice. They are the ones who need MBAs. We in contracting are involved in making sure it is legal and making sure the decision can hold up at GAO and in court. As evidenced at this web site, we also debate the legal definitions of words, phrases, and paragraphs.

By alexreb on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 01:18 pm:

Here's what my agency's training manual says concerning work commencement:

"Bona Fide Work Commencement

A. Must be genuine effort on part of contractor in discharging one or more items of work.
B. Placing of orders for materials or delivery of equipment on site does not, alone, constitute work start.
C. Neither does taking a spade and turning a few shovels of dirt satisfy as a bona fide work start."

On the other subject, I don't find reading the regs to be that difficult. It's like Vern says, it's the research in finding the answers that's difficult. Sometimes [when performing research] you exhaust all avenues and must find the answers elsewhere, or at least ask where to find the answers. I find Wifcon to be an aid in that category.

On a somewhat related matter I am finding that there are a lot of procurement issues that only seasoned veterans can provide adequate explanation of. For example, Joel begins his 12/3 10:34 p.m. response with "...it's my recollection from construction contract management training years ago". The historical information Joel presents in his message is historical information that I was never aware of. I've been involved in federal construction contracts for almost 15 yrs. and never new the reasons behind what that time was for. I recently had a similar experience talking with a senior attorney with our agency. She explained the history of a procurement law to me to help me better understand a point.

Many of our procurment regulations have gone through an evolution process and there are only a few veterans out there that realize this. I've have always been the type of person that understands things better when I know the whole story. And more often than naught, the whole story is usually not presented in the training courses I attend. I guess that's why I like the Cibinic & Nash books. They provide the reader the background of how clauses came to be in their present state. Maybe we need a new 1102 core course ["History of Procurement"] to give us a better understanding of the evolutionary changes that have taken place in federal procuement.

By formerfed on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 01:24 pm:


Why not save the government money by getting rid of 1102's and give lawyers warrants? Therefore we eliminate the middle person (the CO).

Seriously a good CO provides a lot more than just making sure an action is legal. They bring a whole lot of expertise and talent to the acquisition process. I've seen very few program offices that don't want a good CO in on an acquisition from the very start. In fact good CO's often complain that program offices start seeking their advice and help on more than acquisition matters.

By AFRetired on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 01:55 pm:


You bring a good point to the knowledge, experience and training arena. As more courses are directed to being conducted via the Internet, we will be losing vital classroom interactions and sharing of experiences. I just completed an E-Commerce course on-line and found it not as enjoyable because classroom interaction is way better and open than chatroom talk.

Because experienced CO's are disappearing I think there is a move on to rely more on the legal interpetations which may not always make the most "business sense".

I have nothing personally against lawyers, but I think we are in an era where we have so many laws and interpretations that they are getting in the way of efficiently conducting business.

Look at the question on this discussion. We give an NTP to show what period of time the contractor has available to accomplish the work. So what if the contractor doesn't start on the site the day of or the day after the NTP. Is the work accomplished by the end of the period? If the completion date is questionable by just one day, is it worth arguing or disputing?

By al on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 02:05 pm:

This is in response to Alexreb's comments about knowing and learning the history and evolution of the law, regs., etc. While I do not disagree with what he says, and it is true that knowing the whole background of how and why a regulation got to where and how it is can be helpful, it can be something of a two-edged sword.

Sometimes the people with long experience know what the rules were, and focus too much on that, even if the rules have been changed. When I first became involved in contracting it was just after the 1997 re-write of FAR Part 15, and toward the end of most of the 1980's & 1990's "reform" in the laws and regulations. Sometimes this made it easier for me to understand the rules as they were then, because I did not have a lot of knowledge of how the rules used to be cluttering up my mind and trying to lead me astray.

Ideally, it's best to know all the old rules and history, as well as the current rules. But it is more important, generally, to know how the rules ARE, rather than how the rules WERE.

By Anon2U on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 02:09 pm:


I think it all depends on what agency you are with. If all the program managers at your agency think they are little emperors, then they are not interested in what someone outside thier department thinks. COs are viewed as getting in the way with all those regulations, laws and social programs.

Some programs are staffed for over a year, decisions made, and then the order sent to contracting. They don't want to hear how it wasn't done right, they want you to just make it work. Yes, a CO should have been included in the process but they are not.

I have friends who left my agency trying to find greener pastures and found it as bad or worse at the new agency. It would seem that the situation you describe is the execption and not the rule.

I used to be in the AF active duty and I know that it was a lot different in DoD. But they always talk of downsizing the DoD 1102s. I guess they want to make DoD as bad as the rest of the government.

By AnotherAnon on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 02:17 pm:


Returning to an earlier point in the thread (your question of 11/26)... I agree with previous posts that it's a good idea to keep "novice" and "experienced" participants in the same discussion. I have seen some (apparently) simple questions posted here which, through the input of experienced respondents, evolved into very interesting and thought-provoking debates about the finer points of contracting. It would be a shame if these debates, which are in some ways the most valuable part of the forum, were buried in a topic labeled "Contracts for Beginners."

By Eric Stice on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 02:28 pm:

Regarding AFRetired's last comment on whether a day makes an arguable difference... Probably only where there are substantial liquidated damages (significant daily rate) stipulated in the contract, and presumably the L.D. rate has been properly determined by the detrimental impact to the Government for delays in completion. When a contractor faces a delay situation that incurs liquidated damages, it will often scramble for any reasons to mitigate and excuse the L.D. amount, and sometimes that may come down to "splitting hairs" over the number of days in the required performance period.

By Vern Edwards on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 05:54 pm:

Regarding the notice to proceed issue, think about it this way:

The default clause for fixed-price construction contracts, FAR 52.249-10, paragraph (a), states only two bases for the T for D of a construction contract: (1) refusal or failure to prosecute the work "with the diligence that will insure its completion within the time specified," and (2) failure to complete the work on time. Now suppose that the contract requires the contractor to "commence work" within five days after receipt of the notice to proceed, but that by the tenth day the contractor has not yet begun working at the site, although it has been ordering materials, hiring workers, awarding subcontracts and arranging for transport of earth moving equipment. Suppose further, that based on the progress schedule the contractor submitted to the contracting officer in accordance with the clause at FAR 52.236-15, Schedules for Construction Contracts (APR 1984), the contractor is not behind schedule.

Would any contracting officer in his or her right mind terminate this contractor for default merely because it has not started working at the jobsite?

By AFRetired on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 06:08 pm:

Eric, That is the point I was making on the completion date. The CO/Government has to evalaute the cost of "splitting hairs" when the actual completion date may be over the allowed date by only one day. If you look at it based on law, yes they were late they owe us, but a business decision may be; yes they were late but it will cost us $2,000 in overhead to retrieve $1,500 in LD's so, not assessing LD's is in the best interest of the Government.


I like your last statement. I have known some people that definitely would try to T4D contractors for not starting work at the job site. I've also known some go as far as draft a Show Cause notice for the CO to sign!

By Vern Edwards on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 06:25 pm:

Concerning Anon2U's comments about contracting officers needing a law degree:

I don't think that either a law degree or an MBA will necessarily prepare a person to do contracting officer work well, although neither would necessarily be a drawback.

Degree credentials show that a person is good at going to school, which requires the ability to read, write, calculate and communicate in certain ways. A degree presumably shows that a person knows some things to some degree, but not necessarily all things that a person must know, and not necessarily all things as well as they ought to know them.

Law school teaches a person to think in a certain way about the law, while also teaching them about what some laws say. This knowledge would certainly be of some help to a contracting officer, but in and of itself it would not be enough help to enable a person to do well as a contracting officer in all things which a contracting officer must do.

An MBA degree presumably teaches a person some of the knowledge and skills that he or she would need to manage some kind of business--knowledge about business leadership and about financing, marketing and production. But planning, negotiatiating and administering a variety of government contracts awarded under the FAR is not the same as managing a business. In order to do contracting work well, a person must possess a wide range of knowledge and possess a variety of traits and skills that do not necessarily come with a degree of any specific kind.

I find that too many contracting people, with and without degrees, do not know the FAR well and do not: (a) read deeply and analytically, (b) reason well, (c) write clearly or persuasively, or (d) design contracting processes that are effective and efficient.

It may be that a degree in philosophy, history, economics, or political science would help a person do those things as well as a person with a law degree or an MBA, maybe better. And some people will do those things well with no degree at all.

Bill Gates did not graduate from college.

By Anon2U on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 08:59 pm:

Vern, you are right about needing or not needing college depending on the individual but we have had education requirements mandated on the 1102 field that require a degree and 24 hours of business credit in order to get promoted. There has been waivers for a few favored personnel but not much guarantee any one person will have theirs approved. (no sour grapes, I have my MBA and warrant)

I think congress should have mandated a certification program instead of the degree requirement. It should have covered the FAR, appropriations law, pertinent labor laws and other basic regulations and laws. NCMA already has a body of knowledge and certifications. This would go a long way to ensuring COs have some understanding of their jobs. If you cannot pass the exam, you cannot get your warrant to be a CO. Lawyers have a BAR exam for practicing law so why not CO practicing contracting. Most of the knowledge is already out there in various DAU or commercial contracting classes.

I had to score high on a knowledge test in the Air Force in order to get promoted. The more you knew, the faster the promotions. It should be that way in the Civilian Service as well.

By Vern Edwards on Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 10:08 pm:


I agree with you that a person should have to pass a written exam (essay-type, no multiple choice or true and false questions) in order to be eligible for CO appointment. I think that COs should also have to earn a certain number of educational credits annually.

I'm surprised (but happy) to hear that you had to pass a test to get promoted. I didn't think the civil service rules permitted agencies to establish such test requirements. Is that an Air Force-wide policy, or was it a local policy within your command?

By Anon2U on Friday, December 06, 2002 - 01:15 pm:

Vern, I was active duty in the AF before I retired and went civil service. I meant that it is too bad they don't have knowledge tests for GS workers. Sorry for the confusion.