Skip to Main Content

Government Contracts: A Beginner’s Guide

A research guide on the laws, regulations, and decisions regarding obtaining and maintaining a government contract.


According to, the past decade of government contract spending has been somewhat of a roller coaster ride--"federal spending on contracts increased from fiscal year 2007 through 2010," suffered a contraction after the "Recovery Act tapered off in 2011," and then began to rise again in fiscal year 2015. Despite any fluctuations in spending from year to year, government contracting is a big business nationwide, with a total contract spending value of approximately $510 billion in fiscal year 2017 alone. The multitude of laws and regulations that control a company’s ability to successfully obtain and maintain a contract with the government can largely seem a maze, however. To help our patrons who are interested in contracting with the federal government (or even those who are simply interested in the consequences of such a contracting relationship), we turn our attention to the law surrounding government contracts.

Like we have with some of our other Beginner’s Guides, we will provide information about the paper-based secondary and primary sources in the area, and then refer to some internet-based sources that may be of some assistance.

Harris & Ewing, photographer. Pan American awarded New York-Bermuda airmail contract. Washington, D.C. 1938. Harris & Ewing Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.