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I know this is far from universal, but there’s a tradition in many organizations I’ve been a part of to build paper contract files with the actual contract document/modifications on the left-side of the file, and all other supporting documents on the right.  I’ve searched high and low, but can’t seem to find the genesis of this tradition in the regulations, defunct or current. I get the practical reasoning behind it since it allows quick and easy access to the actual contract, but as with many other best practices we’ve found some PCOs have adopted this as holy gospel without knowing where it came from. 

Given the move to electronic files, this question is becoming even less important than it is now, but just wanted to ask to see if anyone remembers how this started?

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As you know, the current Requirement is in FAR Subpart 4.8 - Government Contract Files.  I started reviewing contract files in the early 1970s, years before the FAR.  I remember mulitleaf folders with the solicitation, contract etc. on one side and supporting documents on the other.  Other relics here remember the same.  I always marveled at the consistency of different agency contract files.  

The laws and regulations before the FAR were the: 

  • Armed Services Procurement Act of 1947, Armed Services Procurement Regulation (ASPR), later the Defense Acquisition Regulation (FAR).
  • Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 and the subsequent Frederal Procurement Regulation (FPR) for civilian agencies. 
  • Sometime in the 1980s, and prior to the FAR in 1984, there was something called the FAR Crosswalk produced.  The Crosswalk showed where the old ASPR, maybe the DAR,  and FPR sections ended up in the FAR.  

I'm sure FAR Subpart 4.8 - Government Contract Files could be crosswalked from the ASPR or DAR, and FPR.  The requirement might have been in the 1947 and 1947 laws.  I no longer remember.  Now you can do some research and find your answer.

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Interesting question.  I go back a long way starting out as an Army civilian intern in the ASPR, pre-FAR days.  Putting the contract on the inside left of the multi-tab folder was standard practice then.  I just assumed It’s because the main thing anybody looks for is the contract and it’s the first thing you see opening.

Its also amazing how similar contract file organization is across the government as Bob mentioned.  It’s as if people recognized good practices and adopted it to their own.

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