Contracts & Legal

Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA) of 1996 – What is it?


The Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA) of 1996 is designed to improve how the federal government acquires, uses, and disposes of Information Technology (IT). It encompasses the (1) Information Technology Management Reform Act (ITMRA) (Division E) and the (2) Federal Acquisition Reform Act (FARA) (Division D), which were signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996. The act established agency Chief Information Officer (CIO) positions with designated roles and responsibilities and directed Federal agencies to focus more on the results achieved through Information Technology (IT) investments, and streamlined the Federal IT procurement process.

Definition: The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, also known as the Information Technology Management Reform Act (ITMRA) and Federal Acquisition Reform Act (FARA), is a United States federal law that aims to improve the acquisition and management of information technology (IT) within the federal government. It mandates specific practices for IT investment, procurement, and management to enhance efficiency, effectiveness, and security across government agencies.

Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA) Goals

The Clinger-Cohen Act establishes an approach for executive agencies to improve the acquisition and management of their information resources by:

  • Focusing information resource planning to support their strategic missions;
  • Implementing a capital planning and investment control process that links to budget formulation and execution;
  • Rethinking and restructuring the way they do their work before investing in information systems.

Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA) Requirements

For DoD acquisition programs, the Clinger-Cohen Act mandates that all programs that acquire information technology (IT), including national security systems (NSS), that the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) shall not initiate a program, increment, entry into any phase, or award a contract until the Program Manager (PM) has satisfied the requirements of this Act.

(1) Information Technology Management Reform Act, Condensed [1]

  • The Office Management and Budget (OMB) Director is responsible for improving the acquisition, use, and disposal of information technology (IT) to improve Federal programs. OMB is to develop a process for analyzing, tracking, and evaluating the risks and results of all major IT investments by Federal agencies. OMB shall evaluate the Information Resources Management (IRM) practices of executive agencies with respect to the performance and results of IT investments; and implement reviews of executive agency activities through the budget process.
  • Agency heads are to design and implement processes for maximizing the value and managing the risks of their IT acquisitions. This provides for the selection of investments using minimum criteria on whether to undertake investment and gives a means for senior management to obtain timely information on cost, the capability of the system to meet requirements, timeliness, and quality.
  • ITMRA establishes in law, Chief Information Officers (CIO) for Federal agencies. CIOs provide advice and assistance to agency heads on IT acquisition and IRM. The CIO is responsible for developing, maintaining, and facilitating the implementation of a sound and integrated IT architecture.
  • The agency heads shall identify major IT acquisition programs in the agency’s IRM plan that have significantly deviated from their respective cost, performance, or schedule goals. Agency heads shall ensure IT performance measurements are prescribed for acquisition and use and that they measure how well IT supports agency programs.

(2) Federal Acquisition Reform Act, Condensed [1]

  • Section 4101, Efficient Competition: The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) shall ensure that the requirement to obtain full and open competition is implemented in a manner that is consistent with the need to efficiently fulfill the Government’s requirements.
  • Section 4102, Efficient Competitive Range Determinations: “The conferees intend that the competitive range be determined after the initial evaluation of proposals, based on the rating of those proposals. The rating shall be made based on price, quality, and other factors specified in the solicitation to evaluate proposals.”
  • Section 4201, Commercial Item Exception to Requirement for Certified Cost or Pricing Data: Submission of certified cost or pricing data shall not be required for the acquisition of a commercial item [this is a new exception]. The contracting officer is still authorized to require the submission of information other than certified cost or pricing data to determine price reasonableness.
  • Section 4202, Application of Simplified Procedures to Certain Commercial Items: Authorizes the establishment in the FAR of simplified procedures for acquisitions within a certain dollar range (not to exceed $5,000,000) when the contracting officer reasonably expects that offers will include only commercial items.

AcqNotes Tutorial

Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA) Title 40 Regulation

Subtitle III of Title 40, U.S.C., (also known as Divisions D and E of the CCA) applies to all IT investments, including National Security Systems (NSS).

For all programs that acquire digital capabilities, including National Security Systems (NSS), regardless of Acquisition Category (ACAT) level, or business category (BCAT) level, and for all IT service acquisitions, the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) or Decision Authority not initiate a program nor an increment of a program, approve entry into any phase of the acquisition process that requires formal MDA or DA approval, or authorize execution of a contract for the applicable acquisition phase until:

  1. The sponsoring DoD Component, PM, or FSM provides a plan to the MDA or DA to satisfy the applicable acquisition requirements of the CCA. The plan will use documentation already required as part of the acquisition pathway. The tables in the Adaptive Acquisition Framework Documentation Identification tool, will be used to identify the program information that supports CCA compliance:
    • For “Software Acquisition,” the “CCA Compliance” table identifies the program information for software programs in accordance with DoDI 5000.87.
    • For “Major Capability Acquisition,” the “CCA Compliance” table identifies the program information for major capability, urgent, middle-tier, and defense business system programs in accordance with associated pathway policies.
  2. If required by the acquisition pathway, the sponsoring DoD Component, PM, or FSM provides the plan to the DoD CIO, DoD Component CIO, or their designee for approval.
  3. Changes to the acquisition strategy that invalidate the previous compliance conditions must be reported to the MDA or DA and must comply with the applicable requirements of DoDI 5000.82 as identified in section 3.2.

Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA) Program Requirements

The Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) will not initiate a program nor an increment of a program, approve entry into any phase of the acquisition process that requires formal acquisition milestone approval, or authorize the execution of a contract for the applicable acquisition phase in an Information Technology (IT) Program until:[4]

  • The DoD Component or Program Manager has satisfied the applicable acquisition phase-specific requirements of the Act
  • The PM has reported CCA compliance to the MDA and the DoD Component CIO or their designee for approval

Clinger-Cohen Statutory and Regulatory Requirements for Defense Acquisitions

  • STATUTORY: for all programs that acquire information technology (IT); [3]
  • REGULATORY: for other programs. [3]

Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA) Reporting

The Program Manager (PM) will report CCA compliance to the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) and the Component Chief Information Officer (CIO) or designee. The PM will report CCA compliance for IT programs that employ an incremental development model at each Limited Deployment Decision Point. [3]

Why is it called the Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA)

Why the law is called the “Clinger-Cohen Act”: Section D of the Federal Acquisition Reform Act (FARA) of 1996 is based on H.R. 1670, which was introduced by Rep. William Clinger, Chairman of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, and Rep. Floyd Spence, Chairman of the National Security Committee, on May 18, 1995. On September 14, 1995, the full House of Representatives voted 423-0 to pass the bill. Senators William S. Cohen and Carl Levin were the ones who came up with the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1995.


  • The term “information technology” concerning an executive agency means any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment that is used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information by the executive agency. [2]

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Updated: 2/17/2024

Rank: G5

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