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Mr. Kelly brings over thirty years of experience to the firm’s government contracts group. His practice combines both counseling and acting as an advocate on behalf of clients doing business in the government marketplace.  Mr. Kelly has knowledge of the government contracting process both on a federal and state level, and the specific laws, regulations, contract clauses and dispute resolution mechanisms in this specialized area. He provides advice and guidance to clients who are in the government supply chain, either as prime contractors, subcontractors or vendors. He reviews government solicitations with clients, prepares proposals, and negotiates teaming arrangements and subcontracts with other suppliers. He helps clients build and enhance their compliance programs. He assists clients in protecting their intellectual property and proprietary information concerning their businesses when doing business with the government. He advocates for clients who wrongfully were passed over for a contract award. He prepares claims arising under government contracts as a result of change orders, delays, and terminations for default or convenience. Mr. Kelly’s practice extends to a broad spectrum of industries and federal and state authorities for whom they supply research, products and services including, Medicare and Medicaid audit and investigation service providers; commercial software developers who modify their software for military applications; professional services providers for federal and state-sponsored hurricane relief efforts; raw materials and component suppliers to large military prime contractors; and biomedical and pharma research facilities working under SBIRs, CRADAs, and grants for health agencies.

On Friday, March 20, 2020, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Memorandum No. M-20-18, titled “Managing Federal Contract Performance Issues Associated With The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).”  The Memorandum, directed to the heads of all Executive Departments and constituent federal agencies, provides key guidance on maintaining continued contract performance while respecting the need to protect the safety of the contracting community during this unprecedented time.  The critical aspects of the Memorandum, accompanied by a contractor “To Do” list, are as follows:

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The spread of the COVID-19 virus and the unprecedented steps taken by federal, state and local authorities to contain it by shutting down or significantly altering normal business operations pose great challenges to government contractors in meeting the needs of their universal customer, the U.S. Government.  Work spaces are closed.  Supply chains are disrupted.  Key employees may no longer be available to oversee critical operations – both on and off U.S. Government installations.  Here are some proactive measures that contractors can take now to avoid loss and to maximize the potential of obtaining new business opportunities created by the expected exponential increase in government spending:

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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.

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As we reported last month, the Department of Defense (DoD) has been engaging in an unusual rollout of its new cybersecurity certification program by way of  road tours—led by Katie Arrington, the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment for Cyber—that address the tiered, five-level Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). At bottom, DoD intends for the CMMC to help streamline the acquisition process by providing acquiring agencies and consenting contractors with more exacting cybersecurity requirements for future acquisitions. What’s unique about the CMMC rollout is the lack of written guidance on the program. DoD representatives have orally provided a majority of publicly available information about CMMC only during various webinars and defense-industry events held over the past couple of months. Indeed, a quick Google search for “CMMC” indicates that, at this time, hard facts about the program appear to be limited to FAQs on a DoD website.

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Every government contractor hesitates and ponders whether information confidential and valuable to its business that is disclosed – either voluntarily or by compulsion – in a submission to a U.S. Government agency will be protected from release to a third party pursuant to that dreaded four-letter acronym: F-O-I-A. In a June 24, 2019, landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media[1], has spoken for the first time on FOIA exemption covering such information – and the news is good for contractors seeking maximum protection of their valuable confidential IP and business information.

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Here’s another reminder of limitations that exist when there is a third party claim of infringement against a U.S. Government agency. In such a case, the patent owner must sue in the United States Court of Federal Claims and may recover only “reasonable and entire compensation” for the unauthorized use. See 28 U.S.C. Section 1498(a). No injunctive relief is afforded the plaintiff.  Within the context of that proceeding, the Government agency is free to seek a determination that the patent is invalid, and if the claimed invention does not meet one or more of the patentability requirements, the Government agency will have no liability.

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A little-heralded change to the statutory definition of “commercial item” has now made its way to a proposed FAR rule, which will open up regulatory relief to a whole new class of government contractors – companies, both domestic and foreign, that regularly sell products developed at private expense to friendly foreign governments. With the December 12, 2017, passage of Section 847 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-91 (“2018 NDAA”), the statutory set of definitions for the term “commercial items” was amended. See 41 U.S.C. § 103. More specifically, Section 103(8), addressing “nondevelopmental items,” was broadened as follows:

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In the August 2018 publication of Thomson Reuters’ Briefing Papers, McCarter & English Government Contracts and Export Controls Partner Dan Kelly provides a comprehensive review of patent rights under “Other Transaction Agreements” (OTAs) with DoD and NASA. Heavily promoted by Congress, and only partially understood by industry, OTAs are quickly becoming DoD’s and NASA’s contractual vehicle of choice to lure commercial companies to sell the Government their latest and greatest technologies. However, OTAs are not governed by standard government contracts laws and regulations, meaning there are significant changes to the common provisions of ownership and license rights incident to government contracts and grants. The Briefing Paper should be required reading before entities enter into an OTA as a vehicle for developing new technologies for NASA and DoD to ensure their company’s intellectual property efforts are properly protected.

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Buried in a grab bag of seemingly innocuous course-correcting changes to the Bayh-Dole Act regulations (effective May 14 of this year) is the removal by regulators of the sixty-day window between the federal agency’s notice of a contractor/grantee’s failure to give timely notice of inventions in order to secure title and the federal agency’s ability to take title and strip contractors and grantees of what may be their most valuable assets – i.e., their intellectual property. Now the Government is no longer constrained by this time limitation, and it may grab title to inventions conceived or reduced to practice with Government funds at any time should the contractor/grantee fail to follow the rules.

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The House version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) (passed July 14, 2017) includes key provisions that would radically change the way the Government purchases certain commercial items, and it may result in the extinction of large parts of the Federal Supply Schedules as we know them. Section 801 of the NDAA promotes Government wide use of online commercial marketplaces (“online marketplaces”) such as Amazon, Staples, and Grainger for the acquisition of certain commercial off-the shelf (“COTS”) items, defined as “commercial products” in the proposed legislation. If enacted, the NDAA would be a revolutionary development in the way the Government buys many of its products, allowing agencies to leapfrog over competitive bidding requirements and numerous mandatory clauses now included in Government contracts for commercial items.

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