DCAA Compliance Guide

What is DCAA compliance 

and why is it important for government contractors? 

Government contracting is a complex landscape that requires a deep understanding of regulations and compliance standards. One critical aspect of maintaining compliance in government contracts is understanding the involvement of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA).  

By following DCAA regulations, government contracting companies can demonstrate their commitment to ethical practices, financial responsibility, and accurate accounting. Failure to do so can get government contractors into hot water with the federal government, damaging a company’s reputation and potentially its bottom line. With the right knowledge, however, government contractors can turn their knowledge of DCAA compliance practices into a major advantage – both to keep the federal government happy AND win new contracts.  


An introduction to DCAA compliance

Founded in 1965, the DCAA provides audit and advisory services to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) components responsible for acquisition and contract administration.  The DCAA operates under the authority, direction, and control of DOD’s Chief Financial Officer.  

The DCAA plays an integral role in upholding financial transparency and integrity in government contracting. As a key entity in the procurement process, the DCAA leverages its expertise in contract and financial audits to safeguard taxpayer dollars and ensure compliance with federal acquisition regulations. In doing so, it not only protects the government's interests, but also encourages fair and competitive bidding. 

The term “audit” can often have a somewhat frightening effect for businesses, but government contractors have nothing to fear if they know what to expect – and equip themselves with the right processes and tools to stay prepared.  


How does the DCAA conduct audits?

Like any government body, the DCAA has a well-documented process for how it conducts its audits. The DCAA conducts audits in accordance with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS), also known as the Yellow Book. These rigorous standards establish the principles and procedures for government audits, ensuring professionalism, objectivity, and independence. Following these guidelines allows the DCAA to ensure that its findings and recommendations are reliable and contribute to the enhancement of financial management practices in government contracting.  

One area where the DCAA particularly excels is in conducting pre-bid audits. These audits serve as assessments of a potential government contractor's financial stability and capabilities. Through meticulous examinations of the contractor's financial operations, the DCAA provides valuable insights into their ability to fulfill contractual obligations, manage costs, and mitigate financial risks. Such a thorough assessment guarantees that only qualified government contractors receive government contracts, thereby promoting a level playing field and enabling fair competition. 

Government agencies rely on the DCAA's high standards of auditing excellence to instill confidence in the contracting process, ultimately contributing to the overall integrity and efficiency of government operations. Upholding these principles enables the DCAA to protect the government's interests while fostering a highly competitive and trustworthy environment for government contractors.  

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Why should government contractors maintain DCAA compliance?

When the DCAA audits a government contractor, that company’s main goal is to demonstrate compliance. Contractors must prove that their people are following the documented processes consistently. This requires creating an environment of compliance consciousness within the organization. Enforcing proper training, conducting regular internal audits, and fostering a culture of accountability and adherence answers any concerns the DCAA may have. A strong demonstration of compliance not only instills confidence in the auditors but also creates a robust foundation for long-term success.  

The government departments and agencies government contractors work with want to know they can trust a company to maintain DCAA compliance. It signals professionalism, transparency, and fiscal accountability.  

Maintaining DCAA compliance can also help build a positive working relationship with the contracting officer who has the authority to award and terminate contracts. Demonstrating an ability to consistently stay out of regulatory trouble can help establish and enhance a company’s standing with the federal government, leading to repeat business.  

The prospect of a DCAA audit may seem daunting and intimidating to a company that’s unfamiliar with the details of one. But having the right information, process, and systems in place to keep people and data organized can help government contractors stay in the government’s good grace and increase the likelihood you win future work.  


Acronyms to know

When working with the federal government, companies will encounter more than their fair share of acronyms. When it comes to DCAA compliance, this trend is no different. Here are a few acronyms government contractors will encounter as they navigate the world of DCAA compliance.  


The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is the primary regulatory framework for government contracting. It provides a comprehensive set of guidelines and procedures that both government contractors and the federal government must adhere to. It covers various aspects of the contracting process, including acquisition planning, contract administration, and contract cost principles. Familiarity with FAR sets the foundation for DCAA compliance and governs many aspects of government contracting. 

Developed by the Department of Defense (DOD), the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) complements and supplements FAR specifically for defense contractors. It addresses unique requirements and regulations specific to defense acquisitions.  

The Code of Federal Regulations is a collection of regulations issued by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government. It encompasses a wide range of topics, including government procurement and contract administration.  

Incurred Cost Electronically (ICE) is an electronic system developed by the DCAA that allows government contractors to submit their Incurred Cost Proposals (ICPs) online. Government contractors should prioritize understanding and using the ICE system for DCAA compliance, as it simplifies the ICP submission process. 

The ICE system streamlines the process of submitting indirect cost rates for review and helps to ensure accurate and timely incurred cost submissions (ICS)

Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) compliance represents a set of regulations established by the Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB) that applies to certain government contracts. These standards define consistent and uniform accounting practices and principles for contract pricing, cost allocation, and cost accumulation. Government contractors must comply with CAS if their contracts fall within the scope of these standards. 

Three main components of a DCAA audit 

There are many critical components of a DCAA audit, but the three major ones you’ll want to understand include data compliance, process documentation, and demonstrating compliance.  

  • Data compliance

    Data compliance refers to the importance of maintaining accurate and compliant data throughout the various stages of the contracting process. From cost types to rate calculations and everything in between, ensuring data compliance is vital for government contractors. Not only does it facilitate transparency and accountability, but it also enables auditors to assess the reasonableness, allocability, and compliance of costs incurred. 

  • Process documentation

    Process documentation is another critical aspect of DCAA compliance. By carefully recording processes, contractors establish a clear paper trail that enables auditors to trace the flow of information and assess compliance with applicable regulations. Effectively documenting processes not only facilitates auditability but also serves as a valuable reference for internal control and improvement purposes. Software created specifically for government contractors often incorporates many of these controls and processes, making it easier for contractors to maintain DCAA compliance. 

  • Demonstrating compliance

    Demonstrating compliance is the culmination of the previously mentioned components. When a government contractor is able to demonstrate compliance, that means they can show that their processes and data are aligned and fully compliant with all government requirements. 


DCAA audit types

Not all DCAA audits are the same. The DCAA conducts various types of audits to ensure compliance with government regulations and the accuracy of financial records for defense contractors.


  • Incurred cost submission (ICS) audit

    The ICS audit focuses on evaluating how claimed costs align with actual costs incurred by the contractor. It plays a vital role in ensuring transparency and accountability in financial reporting. By examining incurred costs, DCAA assesses the reasonableness of expenses and ensures that contractors are not overcharging the government. 

  • Pre-award accounting system evaluations

    These evaluations are conducted to assess the adequacy and reliability of a contractor's accounting system before awarding a contract. The pre-award accounting system survey is known as the Standard Form 1408 (SF1408). While not technically an audit, SF1408 evaluations play a pivotal role in highlighting a contractor's ability to maintain a satisfactory accounting system that can manage government contracts. 

  • Forward pricing

    This audit evaluates the reasonableness of future bid rates proposed by the contractor. It aims to prevent inflated pricing that could potentially burden the government. 

  • Timekeeping audit

    This audit emphasizes the significance of careful recording and tracking employee work hours. Accurate timekeeping ensures that direct labor costs are allocated appropriately and helps avoid potential discrepancies in billing or cost allocation. 

  • Business system audit

    This audit assesses the presence of necessary infrastructure and processes within a contractor's organization. There are six business systems described in the DFARs. DCAA oversees accounting, estimating, and material management. Purchasing, property management, and earned value management (EVM) are managed by the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) – more on the DCMA and those systems below

  • Special audits

    These audits provide an independent financial viewpoint on specific contract sections or areas of concern. These audits may be initiated to address specific risks or compliance issues. They allow the DCAA to thoroughly examine potential problem areas and provide recommendations for improvement. 

  • Miscellaneous audits

    These audits focus on high-risk areas prone to misallocation or mischarging. These audits specifically target areas where contractors may face challenges in accurately allocating costs or charging expenses to the appropriate contracts.   


Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) audits and compliance 

The DCAA isn’t the only body government contracts should maintain compliance with. The DCMA is responsible for verifying that contractors meet government contract requirements to deliver quality products within the specified time and at cost-effective prices. To achieve this, the DCMA conducts audits to evaluate a contractor's systems and procedures. 

DCMA reviews focus on key areas such as procurement, property management, EVM, and quality assurance systems. These audits aim to ensure that contractors have robust systems in place to manage these critical aspects of contract delivery. Contractors must be proactive in maintaining these systems to meet DCMA standards. 

Just like DCAA compliance, DCMA compliance requires having reliable data, sound processes, and reliable software solutions to remove the headaches associated with a failure to comply.   

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How the right software solution can help you maintain DCAA compliance 

Preparation is key when it comes to DCAA compliance – or any kind of regulatory compliance, for that manner.  

But preparation alone is not enough. Contractors need to have the right tools at their disposal to achieve and maintain DCAA compliance. This includes robust accounting software that includes the ability to:  

  • Oversee the intricate cost accounting standards

  • Track direct and indirect costs accurately

  • Generate comprehensive reports that will be invaluable when it comes time to provide concise, easy-to-read documentation

  • Automate more recordkeeping processes to increase efficiency

  • Accurate and reliable time tracking to establish appropriate billing rates and ensuring labor costs are properly allocated

  • Safeguard compliance with the appropriate features – such as built-in audit trails and reminders for missing timesheets – to help organizations maintain accuracy and accountability in their timekeeping processes

  • Generate easy to read and understand reports with financial and accounting data


With the ever-changing landscape of government contracting, having a flexible and reliable system in place is paramount. Having all of the capabilities listed above is  

That's why more and more government contractors are turning to Unanet as their trusted partner in navigating the complex landscape of DCAA compliance. Unanet offers a range of features that cater specifically to the requirements of DCAA compliance.  

Unanet's comprehensive suite of solutions is tailored to meet the unique needs of government contractors, enabling them to stay one step ahead in their compliance efforts. By automating and centralizing critical processes, Unanet empowers organizations to manage their compliance obligations with ease, freeing up valuable time and resources to focus on core business activities. 

DCAA compliance is not to be taken lightly. It requires adequate preparation, the right tools, and a commitment to best practices. By leveraging the expertise of Unanet and their comprehensive compliance solutions, contractors can navigate the complexities of DCAA requirements with ease.  

Look to Unanet for software that allows for streamlined operations without unnecessary complexity. Our software is intuitive and empowering, ensuring users can engage effectively. We integrate data, systems, and processes seamlessly, providing actionable insights for compelling ROI. 

Government contractors shouldn’t settle for anything less than excellence in their compliance efforts – they should choose Unanet to help make business easy