FARS Structure: How is the FARS organized?
The structure of the Federal Acquisition Regulation System (FARS) can be confusing to the uninitiated. The FARS is a subset of the Code of Federal Regulations, which is a body of regulations that has the force of law. Specifically, the FARS is known as Title 48 of the Code of Federal Regulations, abbreviated 48 CFR.
The body of the FARS is divided up into chapters. Usually there is one per federal-level department. However, there are some chapters for some sub-departments within the federal government, most notably the branches of the military. Chapter 1 is the primary part of the FARS rulebook, and applies to all departments. Chapters 2-56 are basically each department's addenda to Chapter 1. No chapter can contradict Chapter 1, but they can add to it.
Confusingly, Chapter 1 is often referred to as the FARS, when it is in reality only the initial chapter. The remaining Chapters typically have acronym names - most, but not all contain "AR" at or near the end, and an acronym for that department at the beginning. An example would be Chapter 2, the Department of Defense's supplement, which is commonly referred to as the DFARS (Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement).
Within each chapter, you will find subchapters. While subchapters are not usually referenced by federal government contracting officers or specialists, they are used when the government publishes 48 CFR in print version. We include the subchapters in our site out as part of our goal of providing completeness and because we feel it is a useful way to group the Parts that fall within each Chapter.
Parts are numbered groupings within each Chapter that also contain a heading. The first 1-2 digits of the Part number refers to the Chapter it belongs to. The second two refer to the Part number. So, Part 901 is the first Part of the 9th Chapter. Part 1410 is Part 10 of the 14th Chapter.
Confusingly, Parts in Chapters 1 (FARS) and 2 (DFARS) often omit the first two digits and simply use the acronyms FARS (or FAR) and DFARS to distinguish them. Sometimes, even the word FARS/FAR is omitted, and the citation uses only the word "Section."
It is not uncommon for the government to skip numbers when numbering Parts. This is sometimes because Part titles correspond across Chapters (e.g. Part 302 and Part 802 have the same title: "Definitions of Words and Terms"), sometimes because older parts were deleted, and sometimes because some parts are reserved for future use.
Subparts are divisions within parts. For example, Subpart 1 of Part 202. They are often references composed of the Chapter and Part number, then a dot, and then the one- or two-digit Subpart number. They often have titles, but not always.
Although subpart numbers are written like a decimal number, such as 202.10, they are not always treated as true numbers. For example, the citation 202.1 is different from 202.10, even though mathematically they would refer to the same number. When it comes to citations, Subpart 202.1 means Subpart 1 of Part 202, while 202.10 means subpart 10 of Part 202. This affects how subparts are sorted: 202.10 comes after 202.9, because 10 comes after 9.
It is not uncommon for the government to skip numbers when numbering Subparts, for the same reasons that Part numbers are skipped.
Sections are the actual content-bearing divisions of the regulations. They are where the majority of the text, clauses, and forms can be found.
Section numbers consist of a Chapter-Part-Subpart number, with an additional two (or more) digits tacked on at the end. For example, the first section of Subpart 901.1 might be Section 901.101. This is Section 01 of Subpart 1 of Part 901, although it will often be cited simply as Section 901.101. Sections usually have titles, as well as bodies of text (the actual text of the regulations).
It is not uncommon for the government to skip numbers. It is also possible to have "orphan Sections" that do not have a Subpart above them. So, a list of Sections after Subpart 909.4 could read 909.401, 909.402, 909.501, 909.502.
Subsections/Sections with dashes
Sometimes there are section numbers with dashes in them. These are sometimes referred to as "Subsections," although they follow essentially the same patterns as Sections. For example, Section 901.104 may be followed by the three Sections 901.104-1, 901.104-2, and 901.104-3. The Sections with dashes in their numbers may all be related to each other, or they may simply have been inserted in between Sections 901.104 and 901.105, in this example.
Once again, the government may skip numbers. It is also not uncommon to have these "dashed Sections" start with a number other than "-1". Sometimes there will be only one such Section, and it will have a -2 or -70 or some other number. This can occur for some of the same reasons that Part numbers are skipped.
To see these structural rules in use, click to view the FARS.