Like most businesses, government contractors are in the customer service field and have been conditioned to operate by the old adage that the “The customer is always right.” After all, the customer pays the bills, right? As a general matter, this is true. Uncle Sam is responsible for paying the bills submitted by contractors and—most of the time—payment arrives without issue. That said, there are circumstances in which the government refuses to pay for work performed. One of the more common reasons for such nonpayment is the government’s contention that the work at issue was “not authorized” under the operative contract, notwithstanding the fact that the contracting officer’s representative (COR) was well aware of the work being performed. There are, in fact, many decades of decisional law emanating from courts and boards of contract appeals relating to the nuances of this precise issue. This means that an untold (but stratospherically high) number of frustrated contractors have suffered very expensive battle scars trying to litigate their way to payment by convincing judges that the work performed actually was authorized by the appropriate government personnel. A recent publication by the Department of Defense (DoD) provides contractors with an important reminder as to how to avoid this costly fate.

Continue Reading “Respect My Authority!”—An Important Reminder as DoD Issues an Updated Guidebook for Contracting Officer Representatives

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF, or Strike Force) celebrates its third anniversary this month. Formed in November 2019 as an interagency partnership consisting of DOJ’s antitrust prosecutors, lawyers in 13 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and investigators from the FBI and federal Offices of Inspector General, the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and the U.S. Postal Service, the Strike Force leverages joint resources to investigate public procurement crimes, employ complementary enforcement and prosecution strategies, eliminate anticompetitive collusion and fraud, and promote the integrity of government procurement. Employing education and state-level liaising, the Strike Force has been remarkably omnipresent and successful in that short time, despite numerous pandemic-related interruptions/delays in the courts. The pace of the Strike Force’s enforcement activity has quickened dramatically in 2022—and shows no signs of slowing in 2023.

Continue Reading DOJ’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force: Widening Its Stride on Its Third Anniversary

Act Seeks to Cut Strings Between U.S. Small Businesses and China, Russia, and Other Countries of Concern

Small businesses that rely on the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs to fund their research and development projects were left on the edge of their seats this September as the reauthorization of those programs hung in the balance. Fortunately, on September 30, 2022—the date on which the programs were set to expire—President Biden signed the SBIR and STTR Extension Act of 2022 (the Act). The Act, which reauthorizes the SBIR and STTR programs until September 30, 2025, is the result of several months of protracted negotiations in which Congress questioned whether the programs provide enough protection against ties between China and other foreign countries of concern and program awardees. These concerns were amplified following reports that state-sponsored Chinese firms were targeting companies funded by the programs and, in some cases, that China was the true beneficiary of the awards, not the United States. This prompted intense scrutiny of the programs, which are intended to fund US startups and small businesses to stimulate technological innovation and meet federal research and development needs, and placed the reauthorization of these programs in jeopardy. Ultimately, however, Congress was able to reach an agreement to reauthorize the programs, but not without some major national security reforms to ensure that American intellectual property remains protected from foreign influence.

Continue Reading SBIR/STTR Extension Act Preserves Innovation Programs, But Comes With a Bite

According to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), since 2019, Will Evans, a reporter for the Center for Investigative Reporting, has sought the Employment Information Report (EEO-1) data of federal contractors through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to OFCCP. Mr. Evans amended his FOIA request on June 2, 2022, and now seeks the Type 2 Consolidated EEO-1 Report demographic data of federal prime contractors and first-tier subcontractors for 2016–2020. OFCCP estimates that this impacts approximately 15,000 contractors and first-tier subcontractors.

What does this mean? Absent an objection, OFCCP could disclose your company’s Type 2 Consolidated EEO-1 Reports Component 1 data for 2016–2020 in response to Mr. Evans’s FOIA request.

What is an EEO-1 Report? The EEO-1 Report is the form used annually by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and OFCCP to collect a summary of an employer’s workforce data.

Continue Reading Attention Federal Contractors and First-Tier Subcontractors: Your EEO-1 Reports May Be Responsive to an OFCCP FOIA Request, and You Have Only until September 19, 2022, to Object.

McCarter partner Cara Wulf has authored an article which appeared in Law360 under the title “Cos. Should Prepare for Gov’t Grantee IP Reporting Update”. The article discusses the updated IP reporting system (iEdison) the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be launching this month and outlines several steps recipients of federal funding should take to prepare for the transition.

For years, recipients of government funding have been forced to meet their intellectual property reporting requirements using the antiquated and user-unfriendly Interagency Edison, or iEdison, system.

Changes to iEdison have been underway since December 2019, with responsibility for iEdison soon transferring from the National Institutes of Health to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

At long last, the revamped iEdison is almost ready to go live.

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Virtually every year, the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO’s) Bid Protest Annual Report includes “flawed technical evaluations” as one of the top five most common grounds for successful protests. Simply stated, this means that if a protest is to be sustained at the GAO, there is a good chance the Government watchdog will find that the agency failed to evaluate the protester’s and/or awardee’s technical proposal in accordance with the solicitation’s disclosed evaluation methodology. It follows, of course, that more complex evaluation schemes (i.e., those with a multiplicity of factors, sub-factors, and weighting systems) carry a commensurately higher level of risk that agency evaluators will get it wrong. The GAO’s recent decision in AT&T Mobility, LLC provides one such example and is a useful case study for contractors.

Continue Reading The Devil Is in the Details: Recent GAO Decision Underscores the Importance of Checking the Agency’s Math

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or on a self-sustaining deserted island, the chances are high that you have become quite familiar with the term “inflation” (i.e., the rising costs of goods and services) over the past few years. Indeed, everything (from gasoline to gumballs and milk to movie tickets) appears to be more expensive as of late. Unfortunately, government contractors are not immune from this current economic reality. As most of us know all too well, many contracts that were negotiated and priced over the past 18 to 24 months are simply more expensive to perform now than was reasonably anticipated when bids were prepared.

In recognition of these soaring prices, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a May 25, 2022, Memorandum titled “Guidance on Inflation and Economic Price Adjustments,” the purpose of which is to assist contracting officers (COs) in (i) navigating the impacts of inflation on existing contracts and (ii) managing downstream inflation risks on prospective contracts. Here are the key takeaways and our suggested courses of action to best protect your company’s bottom line:

Continue Reading DoD Braces for Inflation: Guidance for Contractors Battling Rising Costs

Last year, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making June 19, the celebration of the end of slavery, a federal holiday. The second Juneteenth National Independence Day is fast approaching. This year, Juneteenth falls on a Sunday and will be observed on Monday, June 20, 2022.

This means a holiday for federal workers, but what does this mean for an employer with federal contracts or subcontracts? The following provides a brief overview of when Juneteenth is a paid holiday for a federal contractor’s employees under contracts or subcontracts subject to (i) the Service Contract Act (SCA), (ii) the Davis Bacon Act’s (DBA) labor standards provisions, or (iii) another contract provision governing paid holidays.

Continue Reading Juneteenth Is Fast Approaching: Time to Check and Confirm Your Contractual Fringe Benefit Obligations for Paid Holidays

For just shy of a decade, the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) has had to operate under rules dictating the safeguarding of Controlled Unclassified Information, along with a strict 72-hour notification requirement if/when/should a “cyber incident” occur. For the uninitiated, these are the requirements found in the Department of Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) 252.204-7012. And for a large swath of government contractors, these requirements have been more bane than benefit, as many have struggled to meet the DFARS’ stringent requirements.

Well, critical infrastructure industry, welcome to the party! Soon, companies involved in all sectors of critical infrastructure will need to comply with new federal reporting requirements for cybersecurity incidents and ransom payments after President Joe Biden signed The Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022 (the Act) into law on March 15, 2022. Tied to an omnibus appropriations package, the Act requires entities involved in critical infrastructure to report cyber incidents to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within 72 hours and any paid ransom demands within 24 hours. While these new reporting obligations will not become effective until CISA promulgates rules to further define requirements, as the DIB’s effort has demonstrated, it would be wise to examine best practices in incident response plans to begin sooner rather than later.

Continue Reading Critical Infrastructure Industry Drafted: Welcome to the Cyber War

Regardless of whether they were eagerly anticipated or begrudgingly unavoidable, the changes promised to the Buy American Act (BAA) early last year have at last arrived, or at least are quickly approaching. On March 4, 2022, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council released its long-anticipated Final Rule implementing important revisions to the BAA provisions of the FAR and incorporating the requirements outlined in President Biden’s January 28, 2021 executive order, “Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers.” Although the Final Rule, for the most part, conforms with the Proposed Rule issued in July 2021 (which we previously discussed here), the most notable aspect may be that the Final Rule’s effective date was delayed until October 25, 2022. This generous gap provides contractors with roughly 235 days to fortify their compliance efforts and ensure that necessary policies and procedures are in place to meet the necessary supply chain and regulatory changes imposed by the Final Rule — well  in advance of Halloween.

Continue Reading With Just a Little Ado: Significant Buy American Changes Are Coming Before Halloween