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Halloween is coming up and, right on cue, the FAR Council has released a proposed rule that has potentially frightening implications for contractors. Last year, on July 15, 2019, the president signed Executive Order 13881 (the E.O.), Maximizing Use of American-Made Goods, Products, and Materials (84 FR 34257, July 18, 2019). As we noted in our previous post on this topic, the E.O. mandated significant changes to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clauses implementing the Buy American statute by substantially increasing both domestic content requirements and price preferences for domestic products. As we also pointed out, the E.O. contained several ambiguities as to how the desired changes would be implemented. At long last, we have (proposed) answers. On September 14, 2020, the FAR Council issued a proposed rule designed to implement the requirements of the E.O. (85 FR 56558, Sept. 14, 2020). While this proposed rule incorporates the overarching objectives of the E.O., it also adds a fairly unsettling spin in that it expands on the E.O.’s mandate by reintroducing the domestic content test for commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) items as it pertains to iron and steel products.

Continue Reading The FAR Council Issues Proposed Rule to Implement Executive Order on Significant Buy American Changes

Like the sailors of old, the government contracting community ventures forth knowing full well that danger lies ahead – although fortunately not in the form of a kraken, leviathan, or other mythical sea monster.  Rather, these perils and risks are embedded in sweeping new regulations that, like an unseen reef, will be arriving and taking effect all too quickly.  On July 14, 2020, the FAR Council published a long-awaited (or perhaps long-dreaded) Interim Rule implementing Section 889(a)(1)(B) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 (Section B).  Effective August 13, 2020, Section B prohibits executive agencies from “entering into, or extending or renewing, a contract with an entity that uses any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system.”  Unlike its counterpart, Section 889(a)(1)(A) of the NDAA for FY 2019 (Section A), which prohibits agencies from “procuring or obtaining equipment or services that use covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential component or critical technology,” the restrictions of Section B go far beyond the immediate contract between the contractor and the government.  Instead, Section B directs contractors to discontinue any and all use of covered telecommunications equipment or services.  Even accounting for the choppy seas caused by the ongoing pandemic, the exceedingly broad scope of Section B promises sharp, jagged, and uncharted hazards to contractors attempting to implement compliant policies and procedures.

Continue Reading Risks, Reefs, and Wrecks: Charting a Course Through the Perils of Covered Telecommunications Equipment and Services

Although many of us have canceled vacations during this (unusual) year, summer is nevertheless upon us. While we wholeheartedly recommend firing up the grill and enjoying the sunshine in the coming months, companies planning to enter into joint venture (JV) agreements to compete for Government contracts should first make sure that they set aside some time to consider the impacts of proposed changes coming to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). These changes have the potential to create significant opportunities for both veteran Government contractors and new entrants to the federal marketplace who might consider competing for procurements through JV agreements.

Continue Reading Proposed Rule Introduces Critical Changes for SBA Contractors

Contracting with the Department of Defense (DoD) can provide healthy opportunities for businesses of all sizes.  That said, it is no secret that contractors without the cash resources to finance their performance while awaiting payment from the Government may find themselves swallowed whole by their contractual obligations. Many defense contracts are long-term endeavors; consequently, a contractor’s sustainability and profitability can be impacted by the sapping of available manpower while also requiring significant capital investment to manage material, labor, overhead, and other expenses incurred when performing a contract. In many cases, the upfront financial investment required serves as a barrier to entry into the government marketplace for nontraditional defense contractors. However, the DoD has recently unearthed and reanimated one of the more impressive dinosaurs buried in the Federal Acquisition Regulation. Welcome to the world of performance-based payments (PBPs).

Continue Reading The Evolution of Contract Financing: Resurrecting Performance-Based Payments Under Fixed-Price Contracts

On March 31, 2020, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment issued a memorandum attaching a class Commercial Item Determination (CID) promulgated by the Defense Contract Management Agency Commercial Item Group (DCMA CIG) identifying as commercial items specific products and services needed by the Department of Defense (DoD) to address the COVID-19 pandemic (Memorandum).  The Memorandum is specifically intended to “allow contracting officers maximum flexibility” in awarding critical contracts for supplies and services needed for the DoD to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Memorandum is expected to facilitate the award of “urgent commercial item procurements,” and the class CID is specifically “limited to the information pertaining to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.”

Continue Reading Commerciality in the Time of Coronavirus—DCMA Issues New Class Commercial Item Determination and Guidance

As most government contractors are aware, progress payments are a form of contract financing in which the Government pays the contractor based on cost throughout performance of the contract, up to a cap dictated by the terms of the contract.  On March 20, 2020 – “in response to the Coronavirus Disease” – the Department of Defense issued a Class Deviation to contract clauses DFARS 252.232-7004 and FAR 52.232-16, the effect of which is to increase the progress payment rates to 90% for large business concerns and 95% for small business concerns – an increase of 10% and 5%, respectively – from the customary progress payment rates established by DFARS 232.501-1.  The Class Deviation provides that the change is to remain in effect until rescinded.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Update: Department of Defense Issues Class Deviation, Increasing Certain Progress Payment Ceilings

The Interagency Edison (“iEdison”) system is the principal mechanism for preserving rights to title in Government-funded inventions. Its use is now mandatory per 37 CFR 401.16, and we expect FAR 52.227-11, Patent Rights – Ownership by the Contractor, to see parallel amendments soon. Despite its use by multiple agencies to satisfy the reporting obligations imposed on funding recipients under the Bayh-Dole Act, most agree and recognize that the system is broken…badly broken.

Continue Reading iEdison’s 2020 New Year’s Resolution – Improvement! Time to Submit Your Comments

The Trump administration’s focus on enhancing “Buy American” requirements in federal procurement took a leap forward on July 15, 2019, with the issuance of an Executive Order (EO) on Maximizing Use of American-Made Goods, Products, and Materials. Unlike the administration’s previous executive orders – Executive Order 13788 of April 18, 2017 (Buy American and Hire American) and Executive Order 13858 of January 31, 2019 (Strengthening Buy American Preferences for Infrastructure Projects), this EO contains instructions to the FAR Council to change regulations that have been in place since the Eisenhower administration, tightening restrictions on acquiring foreign end products.  In particular, the EO makes dramatic changes to the domestic origin requirements for iron and steel products.

Continue Reading Buy (More) American: The Trump Administration Finally Ups the Ante on Domestic Origin Requirements (With the Final Impact Still TBD)

Changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation’s (FAR) small business subcontracting rules have been slow in coming, but the FAR Council is finally catching up with the Small Business Administration (SBA) in making regulatory modifications to implement a few changes intended to help prime contractors reach their small business subcontracting goals as required by Section 1614 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (2014 NDAA). Specifically, the changes focus on aiding prime contractors possessing an individual subcontracting plan for a contract with a single executive agency. Now, in such instances, the prime contractor will receive credit toward its subcontracting goals for awards made to small business concerns employed at any tier by subcontractors through their respective subcontracting plans. This should be helpful news to prime contractors.

Continue Reading The FAR Council and the Hare – The Race to Credit for Lower-Tier Small Business Subcontracting

Cough…cough…ahem…cough… Any contractor who has had the misfortune of dealing with the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) likely knows all too well that the agency is the Will Rogers of costs – it never met a cost it didn’t question.  Indeed, DCAA auditors typically question costs with reckless abandon and based often on a patent misreading of applicable regulations.  The net effect, of course, is that contractors have to expend significant time and money trying to explain to boards and courts why DCAA’s auditors are…uh…incorrect as a matter of fact and law.  A recent Memorandum for Regional Directors (MRD) provides some transparency into why this sort of thing happens with unfortunate regularity. Issued on May 14, 2019, the MRD (No. 19-PAC-002(R)), corrects…er…“revises” internal guidance issued in 2014 and 2015 relating to the identification of expressly unallowable costs.  The newly issued memo sets out DCAA’s current stance on identifying expressly unallowable costs under the cost principles codified at Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 31 and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) Part 231.  This MRD – like all MRDs – is intended to be used as a tool by well-meaning (but often overzealous) auditors when reviewing a contractor’s compliance with federal cost principles.  Contractors should, thus, pay careful attention to this MRD in order to be prepared for questions that may arise during DCAA-led frolics and detours.

Continue Reading Let Me Clear My Throat: DCAA Course Corrects on “Expressly Unallowable” Costs