United States: Fourth Commandment Of Government Contractors: Thou Shalt Stay Informed

Henry Ford once said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether he's twenty or eighty." Those words, spoken in the early 20th century, ring true today, and they certainly apply to people involved in Government contracting, regardless of your position. Why? Because every contract or subcontract in which you are involved is just one part of a much bigger picture. The more you know about the big picture, the better you will be able to protect your organization.

Our business is governed by some daunting regulations, so knowledge and understanding of them is vital; but the very last thing I would tell someone is that they need to sit down and read the Federal Acquisition Regulation from cover to cover in order to understand our business. The Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, should prevent this from ever happening to you. For purposes of this discussion, I will assume that you are beyond the introductory stage of working with the regulations and would like to continue your upward path.

There are a number of periodicals that cover the world of Government contracts on a daily basis, and you should be reading at least one of them regularly. If you have a limited budget, I recommend you start with Bloomberg BNA's Federal Contracts Report. It is issued online Monday through Friday, and it contains a summary of breaking news from Congress, the Executive Branch and the courts, boards, and the Government Accountability Office.  It frequently contains white papers on a single current topic. As with any other publication, it is one thing to subscribe to it; it is quite another thing to actually read it. You have to discipline yourself to spend at least 30 minutes a week reading these periodicals. This investment of time will pay off in the long run because very few of the people you encounter will be doing the same thing. If you subscribe to too many of these publications, you will be setting yourself up for failure — pick one or two and stick with them. For purposes of daily reading in addition to Bloomberg's FCR, I recommend Law 360 Government Contracts or the Jerry Walz publication PubKLawList.

These subscriptions cost money, and it is tempting to opt for the freebies. In my experience, the quality of the free information is spotty and often unreliable. You are far better off using a reliable source with an established reputation. The money you will spend on a subscription will pale when compared to the costs of a protest or claim litigation that could have been avoided if you had been reading the right publications. I would much prefer learning about a disastrous protest argument by reading about it rather than finding it out on my own dime (and time).

In addition to the daily updates, there are a variety of publications that are published on a less-frequent basis and are valuable for obtaining a much broader view of a particular issue. The dean of these publications is "Briefing Papers," a monthly publication that deals in depth with a single topic in each issue. The Briefing Papers series dates back to 1963 and has covered nearly every possible topic in the field — some more than once. In terms of one-stop shopping, it cannot be surpassed.

In 1987, professors Ralph Nash and John Cibinic of the George Washington University Law School began to publish the "Nash & Cibinic Report," a monthly publication that is now published by Westlaw. Professor Cibinic passed away in 2005, but Professor Nash is joined by two regular contributors, Vernon Edwards and Karen Manos, both experts on Government contract matters, as well as other experienced guest authors. It is the most authoritative and analytical publication in the field today and covers current issues, generally using recent court, board, and GAO decisions to spark a lengthy discussion of the issues, how they have developed over time, and where things are headed. Professors Nash and Cibinic were and are prolific writers, and any article or book written by either of them will be a valuable addition to your bookshelf.

While there are a host of other publications available, you cannot go wrong with the ones I have mentioned; but you are mistaken if you think these are the only things you have to read. In addition to reading these specialized publications, you have an obligation to stay abreast of current events. Yes, that means reading a decent newspaper every day and at least one of the daily business newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal or The Financial Times. These publications will complete the "big picture" mentioned earlier. International, national, and local events can have an impact on projects your organization is working on or pursuing. For example, the current Mideast conflict might have an impact on your company's ability to complete a Corps of Engineers construction project in Israel, or the recent report of major computer hacking could seriously threaten several projects you are performing. In recent years we have also seen Government shutdowns and sequestration. Developments like these can have a significant impact on your cost structure, to name but one effect on your business, and you have to stay on top of them. In many cases, despite your efforts to stay current on things, you will find your company or agency reacting to what has happened; but in others, you will have the ability to revise your strategies and approaches based on what you have read and what you believe it portends for the future — that is when your reading really pays off.

Finally, you can learn something valuable from almost anything you read, oftentimes from the most unlikely publications. For example, you might learn something about negotiation strategy and tactics from the way a star quarterback negotiates with his professional football team or the way a company resolves its labor disputes with a union. Share that lesson with your team. Or you might learn something about leadership from a good biography; for example, Robert Caro's Pulitzer-winning series of books on LBJ does a wonderful job of describing the complex web of government and its relationships with the private sector, including Government contractors, as does David McCullough in his biography of Harry Truman. Arthur Miller's 1947 play, "All My Sons," later made into an award-winning movie, portrays the true story of a businessman in Ohio who colludes with Army inspectors to defraud the Government by shipping defective airplane engine parts, a decision that leads to tragedies on several levels. These books and the play might be about people who have been gone more than 50 years, but they still provide valuable insight into the nature of our business and will teach you lessons you will never forget.

Yes, ramping up your reading takes time, and spare time is something few people have. In our case, reading the right materials has to be a priority, and there is no time like the present to start making it part of your schedule.

(This article is part of a 10-part series for the blog of Public Contracting Institute called, "A Government Contractor's Ten Commandments.")

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.