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Farparts

Clearance vs Approval

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Is there a formal difference between "clearance" and "approval"?  To me, approval means that some authority concurs with the rationale behind a plan or course of action (COA), whereas clearance grants permission to proceed with the plan or COA).   

Do I have it backwards or am I not even close? 

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1 hour ago, Farparts said:

Is there a formal difference between "clearance" and "approval"?  To me, approval means that some authority concurs with the rationale behind a plan or course of action (COA), whereas clearance grants permission to proceed with the plan or COA).   

Do I have it backwards or am I not even close? 

Depends upon the context.  

To me “clearance” would entail coordinating with various parties before proceeding. “All Clear” in sailing, shooting, crossing the street, etc. means that you check before you act. 

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4 hours ago, Farparts said:

Is there a formal difference between "clearance" and "approval"?

Not that I know of.

The word "clearance" appears in 143 places in the FAR System (Title 48 of the Code of Federal Regulations). The word "approval" appears in 1,605 places. The terms are used in a variety of contexts. I presume that you mean "clearance" and "approval" in the senses in which they are used in FAR 1.602-1(b):

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(b) No contract shall be entered into unless the contracting officer ensures that all requirements of law, executive orders, regulations, and all other applicable procedures, including clearances and approvals, have been met.

I presume that your question about "clearance" does not encompass uses such as "security clearance" and "plant clearance," but, instead, refers to clearances by some authority of decisions, plans, or acts of the contracting officer. 

I presume that your question about "approval" does not encompass uses such as "OMB approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act" or "Approval, as used in this subpart, means the contracting officer's written notification to the contractor accepting the test results of the first article," but, instead, refers to approvals by higher authority of decisions, plans, or acts of the contracting officer.

4 hours ago, Farparts said:

To me, approval means that some authority concurs with the rationale behind a plan or course of action (COA), whereas clearance grants permission to proceed with the plan or COA). 

Good for you. But there is no official definition of either word anywhere in the FAR System in the senses in which they are used in FAR 1.602-1(b) . Each word must be interpreted in the context of its use.

If I were using the words in something I was writing I would probably say that "clearance" means that some person or office has determined that a proposed plan, decision, or act complies with the rules and that "approval" means a go-ahead from higher authority. But I have seen no evidence that the many authors of the FAR System have used the words consistently over the course of the more than 30 years in which the FAR has been written. "Clearance" and "approval" as used in the FAR over its 33 years of existence are not like the terms nihil obstat and imprimatur as consistently used by the Roman Catholic Church over the course of centuries.

 

 

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In my experience, a clearance is a document setting out a plan of action and supporting information. The document can be prepared as an Acquisition Plan, as a Pre-negotiation plan, as a Post-negotiation summary and source selection or as an explanation/ justification of a contract administration action (e.g. option exercise). The approval or disapproval of the clearance is made by a contracting officer, an SSA, or another reviewer/review board within or above the contracting office.   

The degree of detail contained in the clearance varies by contracting office.

Some agencies address clearances in their FAR supplements. 

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The Navy calls such a  document a "Business Clearance Memorandum." The following is from the NMCARS Annex 2, "Business Clearance Memorandum":

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[Note: A business clearance documents compliance with law, executive orders, regulations, and policy (FAR 1.602-2). It will become the record showing good business judgment was exercised throughout the procurement process. The business clearance should document the principal elements of a negotiated agreement for the contract file (FAR 15.406-3).] 

 

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