Searchable Web site offers acquisition rules and regs

A searchable World Wide Web site that allows acquisition specialists access to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) as well as acquisition rules and regulations from specific Defense Department commands has recorded over 10 million hits since going online in May 1996.

Farsite (farsite.hill.af.mil) developed by the Air Force Contracting Lab at Hill Air Force Base Utah is "the one-stop-shopping site on the Web for people who need procurement information.... We have not found anyplace else that even gets close to us " said Webmaster James Soderquist. "The [General Services Administration] has the FAR but they don't have all the other information we have " he added.

Farsite offers much more than just the FAR providing online searchable access to the complete texts of the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations (DFAR) Air Force Federal Acquisition Regulations as well as bodies of acquisition rules and regulations from all major Air Force commands such as the Air Force Materiel Command the Air Force Space Command the Air Combat Command the Air Mobility Command and the Pacific Air Force.

Farsite also hosts Energy Department and NASA regulations Soderquist said. Both agencies "had an initiative to put their regulations online and when they saw what we were doing asked us to host them." Farsite is in a constant state of evolution he added with the Contracting Lab staff striving to post FAR updates as they are released.

Farsite grew out of an earlier effort at Hill Air Force Base to produce an online version of the FAR in WordPerfect documents but with the development of the Web the Contracting Lab worked quickly to convert Farsite to a Hypertext Markup Language-driven site. Farsite presents a plain-Jane face to the world with a simple graphic and a clickable chart that allows users to zoom in on the relevant set of procurement regs. But according to Soderquist the "real power of this site lies with the search engine."

Based on Livelink 7.1 from OpenText Inc. the search engine allows users to search the entire FAR and related documents from just one Web page. The page also allows one-click searches of manuals administrator guides and policy letters and it allows searches of the entire FAR or of individual parts such as DFAR only.

Steve Ryan a partner with the law firm of Brand Lowell & Ryan said a searchable FAR provides users with easy entry into a complex and growing set of documents and offers money-saving opportunities as well. The FAR is so large that it makes paper-based searches time-consuming and difficult. The search engine should save users money because "legal research is the most expensive form of research you can do " Ryan said.

To ensure that multiple users can easily tap into Farsite the Contracting Lab hosts the system on a powerful four- processor server from Compaq Computer Corp. with a 20G disk array capable of expansion because as Ryan pointed out even in the era of procurement reform the FAR keeps growing.

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