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Modular procurement and modular design

(As part of the evaluation criteria) The offeror’s technical approach shall describe how the vendor will ensure loose coupling and separation of concerns, where appropriate.

The Clinger-Cohen Act, as amended by the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, and OMB guidance,require that CIOs use “incremental or modular contracting.” The FAR defines modular contracting as “us[ing] of one or more contracts to acquire information technology systems in successive, interoperable increments” and GAO has In fact, pursuant to FAR 39.103, agencies are advised “to the maximum extent practicable, [to] use modular contracting to acquire major systems [and] non-major systems of information technology.”

Fortunately, modern software architecture patterns naturally promote the use of incremental and modular procurement. Specifically, best practices in modern software development generally ensure “loose coupling” and “separation of concerns”, both of which ultimately hinge on the idea that individual components or subsystems can (and should) be built separately. In some instances, the use of a “service-oriented architecture” or “microservice architecture” can be used to implement modularity on more complicated systems.

Accordingly, when developing a new IT system, agencies can take advantage of modular contracting by using multiple contracts (whether successive or in parallel) for the development of different components or modules. Moreover, even when a single contract is used, agencies should be ensuring that vendors are using modular design practices to ensure the system’s long-term sustainability.