The New Federal Grants Guidance: A Historic Shift

GW Law hosted a timely colloquium on the new federal grants guidance in February. According to critics, grant expenditures are poorly regulated and subject to lackadaisical oversight despite the fact that the federal government has spent more money through grants than contracts in 11 of the past 13 years. As a result, on Dec. 26, 2013, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued an extensive, historic guidance on federal grants, known in the field as the “super circular,” with an eye toward standardizing and unifying a host of disparate grant-managing regimes currently in use throughout the U.S. government. 

The new guidance—a sweeping consolidation of decades of OMB circulars, guidance, and the “common rule” on grants management—will have a profound impact on how more than $500 billion in federal grants are administered each year. Federal agencies, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit grantees all will be touched by the new guidance, which will affect both grantmaking and the procurements that occur under those grants. 

The colloquium addressed the history and purpose of the new federal grants guidance, key elements of the new guidance, and how the new guidance will change grants administration, while also providing important insights into the guidance’s prospective impact on procurement, anti-corruption, and international trade practices.