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What is DCAA Compliance?

Everything you need to know about DCAA compliance, types of DCAA audits, and whether your accounting system should be approved by DCAA, brought to you by Replicon, the Time Intelligence® platform.

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In this guide, you’ll embark on a comprehensive exploration of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) and the pivotal concept of DCAA compliance. To help you with this, we’ll delve into the agency’s core functions, the spectrum of contracts subject to its scrutiny, and the various audit types it employs. We’ll also try to demystify the regulatory landscape, focusing on Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) and the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR).

As we navigate the consequences of non-compliance, we’ll also address the fundamental question: Should contractors bring their accounting systems into DCAA compliance?

We’ll weigh the benefits against the challenges, offering practical insights for contractors seeking to align with these standards.

But first let’s begin with an incident that was one of the many to have reinforced the importance of a government entity like the DCAA.

In the 1980s, the U.S. Department of Defense sparked national concern when it was revealed that they had paid a whopping $7,622 for a coffee maker. This wasn’t just any ordinary coffee maker; it was specially designed for military aircraft, ensuring a fresh ‘cup of joe’ for pilots and crew during flights.

The sky-high cost garnered attention and became a symbol of extravagant defense spending. The $7,622 coffee maker became a touchstone for discussions on cost control and efficiency in defense contracts, reminding everyone that even the smallest components can come with a hefty price tag in the world of military procurement.

As the nation grappled with these eye-opening expenditures, the need for additional oversight became clear. DCAA compliance emerged as a critical mechanism for preventing wasteful spending and ensuring fiscal responsibility.

By meticulously scrutinizing the financial aspects of military contracts, the DCAA plays a crucial role in holding contractors accountable. The agency verifies that costs are not only reasonable and allocable but also strictly in compliance with federal acquisition regulations.

What Is the DCAA?

The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) is a government entity that plays a pivotal role in overseeing the financial aspects of government contracts, providing audit and financial advisory services to the Department of Defense (DoD) and other federal entities involved in acquisition and contract administration.

Operating under the direction of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)/Chief Financial Officer, the DCAA’s primary function involves conducting independent contract audits to evaluate the validity, allocability, and reasonableness of defense contractors’ financial representations.

This rigorous approach ensures optimal resource allocation for the DoD, thereby maximizing the value obtained from defense contracting expenditures. Additionally, the DCAA’s work serves to safeguard the interests of both American military personnel and taxpaying citizens, reinforcing financial accountability and transparency in defense acquisitions.

It’s important to note that the DCAA plays only a recommending role and operates independently. It does not function as an internal part of the DoD, ensuring impartiality in its audit and advisory functions.

What Is DCAA Compliance?

DCAA compliance refers to the adherence of government contractors to the regulations and guidelines outlined in government acquisition policies, particularly those set by the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). When contractors engage in agreements to supply goods and services to the government, they are required to operate within the framework of these regulations.

One crucial set of guidelines that plays a significant role in this context is the Contract Audit Manual (CAM). CAM provides guidance for DCAA auditors regarding contractor pricing proposals, incurred costs, and other related areas.

The DCAA plays a crucial role in evaluating and ensuring contractor compliance with these stipulations, tailoring its assessments to the specific requirements dictated by the nature of the contract established with the government. Through its comprehensive reviews, the DCAA seeks to encourage contractors to maintain the highest standards of financial and operational integrity, promoting transparency and accountability in government contracting.

What Type of Contracts Does DCAA Audit?

DCAA primarily audits contracts related to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Its focus is on ensuring that contractors and subcontractors comply with government regulations and contract terms when performing work for the DoD. DCAA audits various types of contracts, including:

Cost-Reimbursement Contracts

These contracts allow the contractor to be reimbursed for allowable costs incurred during the performance of the contract. DCAA audits these contracts to ensure that the costs claimed are reasonable, allocable, and comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

Fixed-Price Contracts

In fixed-price contracts, the contractor agrees to provide a specific product or service for a predetermined, fixed price or an adjustable price in appropriate cases. DCAA audits these contracts to ensure that the pricing is fair and reasonable.

Time and Materials (T&M) Contracts

T&M contracts involve paying the contractor for the labor hours (at fixed hourly rates) and materials used to perform the work. DCAA audits these contracts to ensure that labor rates and material costs are reasonable and allowable.

Indefinite Delivery Contracts

These contracts allow for an indefinite quantity of supplies or services during a fixed period. DCAA may audit these contracts to ensure compliance with regulations and contract terms. A minimum quantity is required to be ordered and furnished for this contract.


DCAA may also audit subcontractors working on prime contracts to ensure that their costs are allowable and reasonable.

DCAA audits focus on evaluating a contractor’s accounting system, cost proposals, incurred costs, and other aspects of contract performance to ensure compliance with applicable regulations. The goal is to promote transparency, efficiency, and accountability in the use of government funds.

Infographic showing the various contracts that are audited by DCAA

Types of DCAA Audits

DCAA conducts various types of audits to ensure compliance with regulations and promote fiscal responsibility in defense contracting. Some of the different types of DCAA audits include:

Pre-Award Audits

Definition: Pre-award audits are conducted before the government awards a contract to a contractor.

Purpose: To serve as a proactive assessment of a contractor’s capabilities, evaluating not only their accounting system but also estimating practices and overall financial capability to fulfill the contract.

Additional Information: The examination of the contractor’s financial capability extends to assessing their overall financial health, liquidity, and ability to meet contractual obligations. This process helps the government make informed decisions regarding contract awards and ensures that contractors possess the necessary financial resources to fulfill their contractual obligations.

Post-Award Audits

Definition: Post-award audits are conducted after a contract has been awarded.

Purpose: To review incurred costs, pricing proposals, and compliance with contract terms and regulations.

Additional Information: Post-award audits go beyond financial aspects, also verifying compliance with applicable laws and regulations governing the contract. This comprehensive review ensures that – contractors adhere to contractual terms and the pricing remains fair and reasonable throughout the contract’s performance.

Incurred Cost Audits

Definition: These audits focus on verifying the actual costs incurred by contractors during the performance of a contract.

Purpose: To ensure that claimed costs are allowable, allocable, and reasonable.

Additional Information: In addition to assessing the reasonableness and necessity of incurred costs, auditors examine the contractor’s cost accounting practices to confirm alignment with established standards, including FAR Part 31 requirements. This process aims to prevent overcharging and ensures that taxpayers’ funds are used efficiently.

Forward Pricing Rate Audits

Definition: Such audits examine the rates proposed by contractors for new and modified contracts.

Purpose: To ensure that proposed rates are reasonable, compliant with regulations, and reflect the contractor’s cost structure.

Additional Information: Beyond rate examination, auditors assess the contractor’s pricing strategy for future contracts, emphasizing the importance of accurate forecasting. By evaluating the reasonableness of proposed rates, these audits contribute to preventing the submission of overly optimistic rates that may result in cost overruns.

Accounting System Audits

Definition: Accounting system audits evaluate the adequacy and compliance of a contractor’s accounting system with government standards.

Purpose: To ensure that the system can accurately track costs and comply with regulatory requirements.

Additional Information: Beyond compliance, these audits may also assess the efficiency and reliability of the accounting system in producing timely and accurate financial information. Ensuring the accuracy of cost tracking is crucial for preventing errors and providing reliable data for decision-making.

Cost Impact Audits

Definition: Cost impact audits review changes to contracts and assess the impact on costs.

Purpose: To ensure that the costs associated with modifications are reasonable and the changes are appropriate.

Additional Information: Auditors scrutinize changes to contracts to assess their impact on costs, promoting transparency and preventing unauthorized modifications. By evaluating the appropriateness of cost impacts, these audits contribute to maintaining the integrity of the contract modification process.

Floor Checks

Definition: Floor checks involve physical verification of the existence of assets, materials, or labor.

Purpose: To ensure that claimed costs correspond to actual resources expended.

Additional Information: Floor checks may include examining inventory levels, inspecting equipment, and validating labor hours reported. The goal is to provide tangible confirmation that claimed costs align with actual resources utilized during contract performance.

Special Audits

Definition: Special audits are conducted in response to specific concerns or circumstances.

Purpose: To address unique issues or areas of interest in contract performance.

Additional Information: Special audits are tailored to address specific risks or challenges, such as allegations of fraud or other irregularities. They contribute to maintaining the integrity of the contracting process and provide a focused examination based on particular concerns.

System Audits

Definition: System audits focus on specific business systems (e.g., estimating, purchasing, billing) to ensure they meet regulatory requirements.

Purpose: To assess whether the contractor’s systems contribute to accurate financial reporting and compliance.

Additional Information: These audits may extend to evaluating the effectiveness of information systems in supporting business processes. Auditors assess whether the contractor’s systems contribute to accurate financial reporting and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Contract Closeout Audits

Definition: Such audits review the financial aspects of a contract upon completion.

Purpose: To ensure that all costs are accounted for and that the contract is closed appropriately.

Additional Information: Contract closeout audits contribute to the timely and accurate closure of contracts, preventing financial loose ends and facilitating the overall contracting process. Auditors verify that all incurred costs are properly accounted for and that the necessary procedures for closing out the contract are followed in compliance with regulations.

Progress Payment Audit

Definition: A Progress Payment Audit involves an examination of a contractor’s progress payment requests to ensure compliance with government regulations. It focuses on validating the accuracy of costs claimed for reimbursement and assessing the contractor’s fund usage for materials and labor.

Purpose: The purpose of the audit is to protect the government’s interests by verifying that progress payments are based on allowable and properly supported costs. It ensures that the contractor is making satisfactory progress in meeting contract objectives.

Additional Information: DCAA’s examination ensures that the progress payment request aligns with the contract terms and FAR requirements. This audit helps prevent overpayments and ensures that the government only reimburses costs directly related to the contract’s progress.

Procurement System Audit

Definition: A Procurement System Audit evaluates a contractor’s purchasing and subcontracting practices to ensure compliance with FAR and other applicable regulations. It assesses the effectiveness of internal controls within the procurement system.

Purpose: The audit verifies that the contractor’s procurement practices promote fair and open competition, prevent conflicts of interest, and provide the government with the best value for goods and services.

Additional Information: DCAA examines the contractor’s policies, procedures, and documentation related to subcontracting and purchasing. A compliant procurement system helps ensure that contractors obtain goods and services at fair and reasonable prices.

Cost Allowability Audit

Definition: A Cost Allowability Audit reviews and verifies costs incurred by a contractor to ensure they are allowable, allocable, and reasonable under government contracts in accordance with FAR and CAS.

Purpose: The audit assesses the accuracy and legitimacy of claimed costs.

Additional Information: DCAA examines the contractor’s accounting practices, cost allocation methods, and documentation supporting claimed costs, including time records, invoices, travel documents etc. This audit helps prevent the submission of unallowable costs, ensuring that the government is billed appropriately for contract performance.

Timekeeping System Audit

Definition: A Timekeeping System Audit evaluates a contractor’s timekeeping processes to ensure accurate recording of labor hours. It verifies compliance with FAR and DCAA guidelines for charging labor costs on government contracts.

Purpose: To ensure that accurate and reliable time and attendance records support the labor costs charged to government contracts.

Additional Information: DCAA examines the contractor’s timekeeping policies, procedures, and systems for tracking labor hours. Accurate timekeeping is necessary to allocate labor costs properly, and this audit helps maintain the integrity of labor cost data submitted to the government.

Other Audits

In addition to the previously mentioned audits, the DCAA conducts a variety of other audits as well to ensure the integrity, compliance, and effectiveness of government contracts. Here’s a summarized list:

  1. Business Systems Audit
  2. Casualty Loss Audits
  3. Claim Audit
  4. Compliance Audits
  5. Compensation and Benefit Plan Audits
  6. Estimating System Audit
  7. Financial Capability Audits
  8. Fiscal Year Indirect Rate Proposal Audits
  9. Indirect Rate Proposal Audit
  10. Material Management and Accounting System (MMAS) Audit
  11. Overhead Rate Audits
  12. Performance Audits
  13. Proposal Adequacy Audit
  14. Safe Harbor Indirect Cost Rate Audit
  15. Small Business Administration (SBA) Subcontracting Plan Audit
  16. Subcontracting System Audit
  17. Truth in Negotiations Act (TINA) Audit
  18. Voucher Audits

While some of these audits, such as Compliance Audits and Business Systems Audits, may occur before the contract term during the pre-award phase, others, including Progress Payment Audits and Incurred Cost Audits, typically take place during or after the contract term to assess ongoing performance and incurred costs. The timing of these audits varies based on the specific requirements outlined in the contract and applicable regulations.

CAS and FAR in the Context of DCAA Compliance

Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) are two pillars of the DCAA regulatory framework that are pivotal in shaping and ensuring adherence to financial standards in defense contracting. CAS and FAR are designed to complement each other.

Contractors must navigate through a harmonized set of standards, where CAS provides specific guidance on cost accounting practices, and FAR provides a comprehensive framework for the entire contracting process.

DCAA auditors, therefore, scrutinize contractors to ensure adherence to CAS principles for cost accounting and FAR requirements for overall contract compliance. CAS and FAR strike a delicate balance between providing specific standards for compliance and allowing contractors some flexibility in implementation. This balance is essential to accommodate the diverse nature of contracts and industries involved in government procurement.

DCAA Compliance for Cost Accounting Standards (CAS)

CAS compliance is grounded in the foundational principle of standardizing cost accounting practices among contractors engaged in government contracts. The standards aim to achieve uniformity, comparability, and reliability in financial reporting.

DCAA Compliance with CAS is mandatory for contractors whose government contracts surpass specific threshold amounts. This ensures that larger contracts, where the stakes are higher, adhere to stringent cost accounting standards.

DCAA auditors scrutinize contractors to ensure the consistency and conformity of their cost accounting practices with CAS. This verification process involves a detailed examination of methodologies used for estimating, accumulating, and reporting costs. When DCAA notices any deficiencies, contractors are provided with recommendations for corrective actions. This proactive approach aims to rectify issues before they escalate.

DCAA Compliance with CAS significantly influences the allocability of costs. Auditors scrutinize whether costs are allocated to contracts in a manner consistent with CAS principles, preventing misallocation and ensuring that each contract bears its fair share of costs.

DCAA’s focus on CAS compliance contributes to promoting fair competition among contractors. Standardized cost accounting practices ensure that contractors compete on an equal footing, fostering an environment where financial transparency is paramount.

CAS compliance is intricately integrated into the broader regulatory framework governed by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). The intersection of CAS and FAR ensures that compliance is not siloed but contributes to the overall adherence to regulations governing government contracts.

DCAA Compliance and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) traces its origins to the late 20th century when a need arose for a unified set of regulations to govern federal procurement. The evolution of FAR reflects a concerted effort to streamline processes, standardize procedures, and address inconsistencies in acquisition practices.

FAR is structured into parts, subparts, sections, and clauses, providing a hierarchical framework that covers the diverse facets of federal acquisition. It provides guidelines on the formation, administration, and termination of government contracts and outlines the procedures for soliciting, awarding, and managing contracts.

This ensures that the government’s interests are protected and that contractors adhere to specific standards. It also includes provisions related to ethical conduct in federal contracting, outlining standards for contractor integrity, conflicts of interest, and other ethical considerations to maintain the public’s trust in the procurement process.

The DCAA, as the audit and oversight arm, plays a vital role in enforcing compliance with FAR. Auditors scrutinize contractors to ensure adherence to FAR’s myriad regulations, verifying that procurement actions align with established guidelines. Amendments and updates are routinely made to address emerging issues, improve efficiency, and incorporate legislative changes.

Consequences of DCAA Non-Compliance

In a stark illustration of the consequences of non-compliance in federal contracting, in 2017, a defense contractor settled allegations of violating the False Claims Act by agreeing to pay $27.5 million. The settlement emanated from the contractor knowingly overbilling the government for work performed by employees lacking the required qualifications, shedding light on the serious repercussions for contractors breaching contract terms.

This case serves as a poignant reminder of the imperative need for contractors to adhere to regulations and ethical standards, emphasizing the potential for substantial financial penalties and even suspension or debarment in cases of non-compliance — a crucial aspect in the landscape of federal contracting efficiency and cost control.

Wooden blocks with law, rules, standards mentioned and compliance written in red colored block

Here are some key consequences that contractors may face in the event of DCAA non-compliance:

Contractual Consequences

Non-compliance with DCAA requirements can jeopardize existing contracts. Contracting officers may take corrective action, impose penalties, or, in severe cases, terminate contracts.

Financial Implications

Contractors found in non-compliance may face financial repercussions, as shown in our earlier example. This could include fines, repayments, or the loss of payments for claimed costs that are deemed non-compliant.

Suspension and Debarment

Serious and repeated instances of non-compliance can lead to suspension or debarment from government contracting. This can significantly impact a contractor’s ability to secure new contracts.

Reputational Damage

DCAA non-compliance can tarnish a contractor’s reputation. Negative publicity may affect relationships with government agencies and other potential clients, impacting the contractor’s competitive standing.

Loss of Competitive Advantage

Contractors with a history of non-compliance may find it challenging to compete for new contracts. Government agencies may prioritize contractors with a proven track record of adherence to DCAA regulations.

Increased Regulatory Scrutiny

Non-compliance may lead to heightened regulatory scrutiny. The DCAA may increase the frequency and depth of audits, placing additional administrative burdens on the contractor.

Legal Action and Liability

Contractors may face legal action for non-compliance. This can result in liability for damages, legal fees, and potential legal challenges that may further strain financial resources.

Should You Bring Your Accounting System in DCAA Compliance?

The decision to bring your accounting system into DCAA compliance is a strategic one, with implications for contract eligibility, financial oversight, and overall business efficiency. Here are key considerations to help you assess whether aligning your accounting system with DCAA standards is the right move for your organization:

Contract Eligibility

DCAA compliance is often a prerequisite for eligibility to bid on and win government contracts. Ensuring your accounting system meets DCAA standards enhances your competitiveness and expands your access to a broader range of contract opportunities.

Financial Oversight and Control

DCAA compliance provides a framework for robust financial oversight and control. Implementing DCAA-compliant accounting practices can enhance transparency, accuracy, and accountability in your financial processes, offering a more comprehensive view of your organization’s fiscal health.

Risk Mitigation

DCAA compliance helps mitigate the risk of audits and the potential consequences of non-compliance. By proactively aligning your accounting system with DCAA standards, you reduce the likelihood of regulatory issues, financial penalties, and contract terminations.

Competitive Advantage

Demonstrating DCAA compliance can serve as a competitive advantage. Government agencies often prioritize contractors with a proven track record of adherence to regulatory standards, positioning your organization favorably in the competitive federal marketplace.

Efficiency and Accuracy

DCAA-compliant accounting systems are designed to meet rigorous standards, promoting efficiency and accuracy in financial processes. Implementing these systems can streamline workflows, reduce errors, and facilitate smoother audits.

Adaptability to Growth

DCAA-compliant accounting systems are scalable and adaptable to the evolving needs of your organization. As you grow and take on larger contracts, having a system that can accommodate increased complexity and reporting requirements becomes essential.

Collaborative Relationships

Collaboration with government agencies and other contractors is integral to successful government contracting. DCAA compliance fosters positive relationships, as it signifies a commitment to transparency, integrity, and adherence to regulatory standards.

Comprehensive Cost Tracking

DCAA compliance ensures comprehensive cost tracking, a critical element in government contracts. Accurate tracking of costs allows for better decision-making, compliance with contract terms, and the ability to demonstrate the reasonableness of claimed costs during audits.

Magnifying glass with focus on the word audit written in golden letters and other accounting words over black background

While the decision to bring your accounting system into DCAA compliance involves initial investments in technology, training, and processes, the long-term benefits often outweigh the costs. It positions your organization for success in the government contracting landscape, enhances your financial management capabilities, and instills confidence among stakeholders and regulatory bodies.

As you weigh the pros and cons, consider consulting with experts in DCAA compliance to tailor the approach to the unique needs and goals of your organization.

Technology Solutions for Simplifying DCAA Compliance Processes

Several technology solutions can simplify DCAA (Defense Contract Audit Agency) compliance by streamlining processes, enhancing accuracy, and ensuring adherence to regulatory standards. Implementing accounting software designed specifically for government contracting ensures that financial processes align with DCAA requirements. These solutions often include features such as project accounting, time tracking, and cost allocation, facilitating compliance with government standards.

Robust time and attendance tracking systems automate the collection of labor hours, ensuring accurate and real-time recording of employee work hours. These systems often integrate with project management tools, linking time entries to specific contracts or tasks, a crucial aspect of DCAA compliance.

Mobile applications that enable employees to track time and expenses on the go enhance flexibility and accessibility. DCAA-compliant mobile solutions ensure that accurate records are maintained, even when employees are working remotely.


The landscape of DCAA compliance is multifaceted, demanding a holistic understanding of regulations, meticulous financial practices, and a technological infrastructure aligned with government standards. After going through this article, we hope your organization can now embark on this journey, armed with knowledge, strategic choices, and a commitment to excellence.

In the ever-evolving world of government contracting, the pursuit of DCAA compliance is not just a regulatory requirement; it’s a commitment to integrity, fiscal responsibility, and the assurance that every taxpayer’s dollar is spent judiciously and ethically. Contractors are the pivotal players in this landscape, bearing the responsibility of upholding these principles to ensure a robust and accountable government contracting ecosystem.

Sushmita Prem


Sushmita Prem

Sushmita is a Marketing Specialist at Deltek | Replicon, specializing in B2B cloud applications. As a seasoned IT engineer, she brings a unique perspective to her role, having firsthand experience in creating and shaping the very solutions she now markets. She produces content that explores the convergence of business and technology, and provides readers with valuable insights into the practical applications of this intersection.

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