Laxity in Lexicography
In acquisition we have a tendency to use a number of “nonexistent" words and terms. Well, that might be overstating the issue somewhat, so let’s try again. In acquisition we have a tendency to use a number of terms that are not defined in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), but are in the FAR. I have no particular problem with that. However, I do have a wee bit of a problem when people in our business use terms as if they were in the FAR, even though they are not there. My concern is compounded by the fact that the people who use the terms don’t even realize that they are not in the FAR. I often wonder whether this is some strange twist of thinking based on the Christian Doctrine.
Independent Cost Estimate (ICE) – Appears zero times in the FAR. The terms used in the FAR, in descending order are: cost estimate(s) (27 times), independent Government estimate (4 times), and independent Government cost estimate (3 times). Of the 27 cost estimate references, 15 are to contractor or subcontractor cost estimates. The only requirements on the Government to actually create estimates are for independent Government estimates at FAR 36.203(a) and ( b ) and FAR 36.605(a).
Splitting Requirements, as used in avoiding the simplified acquisition threshold – Appears zero times in the FAR. The term used in FAR 13.003©(2) is break down
Source Selection Plan – Appears zero times in the FAR. The only reference to a related document in the regulation is at FAR 15.303( b )(2), where the source selection authority shall “Approve the source selection strategy or acquisition plan, if applicable, before solicitation release.”
Neutral, as used in past performance – Appears zero times in the FAR. The term used in FAR 15.305(a)(2)(iv) “may not be evaluated favorably or unfavorably on past performance.”
Warrant, as used in contracting officer authority – Appears once, incorrectly, at FAR 33.210 Contracting officer’s authority. The term used in FAR 1.603 and elsewhere is “Certificate of Appointment.”
The good news, such as it is, is that the vast majority of the people involved in acquisition don’t even realize that the words and terms are not in the FAR. And, if both the sender and the receiver are ignorant, well, they say ignorance is bliss. Those who do know, try, usually unsuccessfully, to correct the errors.
On occasion, the FAR Council will address the issue, through capitulation. For instance, in what was called the FAR Part 15 Rewrite, “Greatest Value” was changed to “Best Value,” and “Work Statement” was changed to “Statement of Work.” These are what we generally refer to as happy-to-glad changes, but they did align the FAR with current usage. But, don’t necessarily count on it happening for your pet term any time soon. For example, the term “neutral” was eliminated from the FAR in 1997, in favor of complying with the statute. Imagine that. And, as for the venerated “warrant,” the term “Certificate of Appointment” goes back to the Armed Services Procurement Regulation (ASPR) 1-405 Selection, Appointment, and Termination of Appointment of Contracting Officers. Under the ASPR, contracting officers were appointed using a DD Form 1539, Certificate of Appointment. Now, under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), contracting officers are appointed using a SF 1402 Certificate of Appointment. Having lasted over half a century, I suspect it is here to stay.