7 Best Practices of Successful Contracting Officer’s Representatives (CORs)

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) defines the COR as someone “… designated and authorized in writing by the contracting officer to perform specific technical or administrative functions.”  Less formally, the COR serves as the “eyes and ears” of the contracting officer, functioning as such throughout contract performance and closeout. 

Some agencies have established practices in which the COR’s role is essentially the “administrative functions” cited in the FAR definition, i.e., coordinating contractor personnel clearances, property management and invoice processing.  However, far more often, the COR serves as a more involved member of the acquisition team, as defined within the FAR Guiding Principles (@ FAR 1.102).  That is, the COR is fully involved in the technical aspects of contractor performance oversight by leading/coordinating all Government performance oversight (or performs all, depending on contract complexity).


  • Historically, the role of a COR was generally conceived for oversight of services procurements.
  • The FAR only mandates appointment of a COR for non-firm-fixed-price (FFP) type contacts, although most agencies require COR appointments for all contracts with COR assignments to simpler-to-manage FFP-type actions helping to develop CORs’ knowledge and experience for the future.

The services origin and FAR focus on other than FFP are not coincidental; oversight of services requirements is generally more complex and judgmental than procurement of well-defined measurable, inspectable or testable “widgets” that can be to confirm they meet the contract requirement.  Similarly, the FFP contract type is more easily aligned with non-services.  Thus, the best practices below may look like they apply to services, but they really are suitable for materials/equipment requirements.

COR Best Practices

  1. The individual planned to serve as the COR should be an active acquisition team member as early as feasible, i.e., throughout acquisition planning, requirements formulation, and the source selection evaluation processes to ensure full understanding of the contract performance requirements as well as the selectee’s strengths and potential risk areas inherent in the firm’s solution.
  2. Understand the contract type — the business arrangement under which the government and contractor have become “partners” in achieving the common goal.  Avoid an “us vs. them” mentality — agency mission needs depend on the parties meeting their mutual responsibilities.
  3. Plan and run the Post-Award Orientation Meeting (kick-off meeting).
  4. Run all regular in-process status/progress meetings — don’t just sit in.  
  5. Create Quality Assurance Surveillance Plan (QASP), then execute and document the results of QASP surveillance activities to avoid surprises for the Contractor Performance Assessment and Reporting System (CPARS).
  6. Track/manage funds expenditures, along with the technical performance progress; consider cost management measures, e.g., pre-consent procedures for Travel & Purchases.
  7. Create and diligently maintain the COR file; document completed QASP activities and results, communications with the contractor, etc.

Some with different perspectives and experiences will disagree with this choice of most important practices. Others will insist on adding more — and I will likely agree with their additions. But all of these will greatly enhance the likelihood of the COR’s success — and the contract’s successful achievement of the agency’s mission needs.

As the Seventh Sense Consulting LLC (SSC) Director of Acquisition Practice, Mr. Patrick Shields has over 45 years of experience as an acquisition/contracting professional and innovative leader.  As a Navy Department civilian, he was a major weapons systems contracting officer and manager.  Since his civil service retirement, with 2 firms he has provided subject matter expertise support to numerous Federal civilian and DoD organizations, including acquisition strategy/ documentation support for key acquisitions, policy development, and personnel training.  He also managed a subscription “ask the expert” response team and authored numerous topical publications for over 25,000 professional employees of subscribing agencies.

Photo by Jopwell at pexels.com

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