The U.S. Government and the government contracts industry are a lot like a married couple. They need one another. Rely on one another. And generally put a lot of trust in one another. Usually they are on the same team and want things to work out for the best. But sometimes they bicker. And sometimes they fight and break-up. As in most successful relationships, the key is communication.

A proposed rule published in the Federal Register on November 29, 2016 by DoD, GSA, and NASA would implement the mandate in Section 887 of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act to make clear that “agency acquisition personnel are permitted and encouraged to engage in responsible and constructive exchanges with industry…” The proposed rule, titled “Federal Acquisition Regulation: Effective Communication between Government and Industry” takes the NDAA’s mandate a step further and would amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to state that government officials “must not hesitate” to communicate with industry “as early as possible in the acquisition cycle to help the Government determine the capabilities available in the commercial marketplace.” The “must not hesitate” language would extend FAR 15.201(a), which now provides that exchanges “are encouraged.” Of course, these exchanges must be “consistent with existing law and regulation” and must “not promote an unfair competitive advantage to particular firms.”

The goal of the proposed rule is to benefit both the government and industry by ensuring a more efficient procurement process for both parties — the “revision will better equip Federal acquisition officials with the information needed to issue high-quality solicitations” while “industry, including small business, will [also] benefit from better communication with the Government.”

The proposed FAR rule stems from two 2011 procurement policy memos that discussed “misconceptions commonly held by industry and Government regarding the role of communication during the acquisition process in order to encourage early, frequent, and constructive engagement with industry to achieve better acquisition outcomes.”

Suggestions from the public to further enhance open communication between industry and the Federal acquisition community are welcome. Comments are due by January 30, 2017. The proposed rule is at 81 Fed. Reg. 229 (Nov. 29, 2016).