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The General Services Administration (GSA) released its Class Deviation CD-2021-13 (the GSA Deviation), which, effective immediately, “provides instructions for the GSA acquisition workforce on when to include a new clause [i.e., Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 52.223-99] (the Clause) in GSA solicitations and contracts and contract-like instruments.” Unlike the recent instructions and directions provided by the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council (CAAC) and the Department of Defense (DoD) and its DFARS Class Deviation (discussed in detail here), the GSA provided “GSA-specific implementation timelines for solicitations, new contracts, and existing contracts” to ensure that by October 8, 2021, all covered solicitations, new contracts, and existing contracts subject to Executive Order 14042, “Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors” (EO 14042), adhere to its mandates and the evolving guidance issued by the Safer Federal Task Force. This implementation includes the insertion of the Clause into new and existing GSA solicitations and Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts awarded after October 15, 2021, and new contracts and leases awarded after November 14, 2021. The instruction applies broadly even to solicitations or contracts that have a value equal to or less than the simplified acquisition threshold (SAT) or are for the supply of products (either solely for products or for products and services). Moreover, the GSA is instructing its contracting officers to issue a letter to all existing contractors asking for their consent to a modification including the Clause. The end result is the expectation that virtually all GSA contracts and contract-like instruments will require all covered employees to be fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021. An analysis of the GSA Deviation’s key points, highlighting the confusion related to subcontract flow-downs, follows below.

Continue Reading This Will Only Hurt a Bit: The GSA Mandates COVID-19 Vaccines in Nearly All Existing Contract Types

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council has returned from an extended vacation to publish a final rule to align the FAR with similar subcontracting regulations implemented by the Small Business Administration more than a half decade ago. McCarter & English Government Contracts and Global Trade co-leaders Franklin Turner and Alex Major and Senior Associates Cara

If a company has one or more Organizational Conflicts of Interest (“OCIs”), its ability to compete for (and perform) a government contract in a fair and equitable manner is inherently called into question. In the context of a bid protest, this may be one of the most overlooked but “sharpest” grounds that may be available to a protester. In short, an OCI is an instance where “because of other activities or relationships with other persons [or entities], a person [or entity] is unable or potentially unable to render impartial assistance or advice to the Government, or the person’s objectivity in performing the contract work is or might be otherwise impaired, or a person has an unfair competitive advantage.” FAR 2.101. Understanding the three types of OCIs and the situations in which each typically arises is critical in order for disappointed offerors to execute this riposte in the face of a flawed contract award.

Continue Reading The GAO Sustains Protest Based on Awardee’s Organizational Conflicts of Interest—An Important Lesson for All Contractors

While most of us have been returning to some normality this summer by heading back to favorite vacation spots, the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (“PCSF”)—an arm of the United States Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division—remained in the office. The PCSF’s diligence was rewarded, as earlier this summer it announced the first antitrust actions concerning foreign companies and federal procurement dollars spent overseas; specifically, the prosecutions of two Belgian security companies for alleged bid-rigging and price-fixing in association with the procurement of various security services for military installations in Belgium. The prosecutions underscore the PCSF’s commitment to root out and prosecute anticompetitive conduct impacting U.S. procurement dollars—no matter where in the world those dollars are spent. With the PCSF’s expanding investigatory scope and increasing cooperation with similar agencies worldwide, international entities—or domestic entities with an international presence—that contract with the federal government should be on high alert.

Continue Reading Summer In Bruges: The Procurement Collusion Strike Force Turns its Eye Overseas

As you may recall, Section 818 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 2018 NDAA required the US Department of Defense (DoD) to draft regulations to establish comprehensive post-award debriefing rights for disappointed offerors involved in applicable DoD procurements. On March 22, 2018, the DoD responded by issuing a Class Deviation that implemented certain FY 2018 NDAA requirements—i.e., those requirements affording disappointed offerors the opportunity to submit additional written questions to the cognizant DoD agency within two business days of its agency debriefing conducted in accordance with FAR 15.506(d). In such circumstances, the cognizant DoD agency must provide written responses to the questions within five business days after receipt of the questions. Moreover, if a disappointed offeror chooses to submit timely post-debriefing questions, the debriefing does not conclude—and thus the disappointed offeror’s GAO protest “clock” does not begin to run—until the agency provides its written response. On May 20, 2021, the DoD published a Proposed Rule to amend the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement to (1) codify the March 2018 Class Deviation and (2) implement the additional post-award debriefing requirements from the FY 2018 NDAA.

Continue Reading DoD Issues Proposed Rule on Enhanced Post-Award Debriefing Rights

In a time of uncertain federal budgets and an increasingly crowded marketplace, contractors of all sizes are on the lookout for ways to enhance their chances of winning federal business opportunities. Step one in this process is, of course, the identification of the government’s needs—which are typically codified in requests for proposals or quotations. Step two (i.e., the “pursuit” phase) involves the preparation of an offer designed to fulfill the government’s requirements. As most government contractors know all too well, this is an often laborious and expensive process that requires painstaking attention to detail. But what happens when there is, in fact, a real devil lurking in those details? What if the RFP or RFQ simply doesn’t make sense? What if the terms are in conflict with one another? What if the government includes requirements that run afoul of a law or regulation? Enter the pre-award protest exorcism.

Continue Reading Recent GAO Decision Demonstrates the Utility of Pre-Award Protests

On December 21, 2020, the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security published a Final Rule codifying the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM)—currently published as part of DoD Manual 5220.22-M—in Title 34, Part 117 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The Final Rule became effective on February 24, 2021.

Continue Reading DOD Issues Final Rule Codifying The NISPOM

A new administration has moved into the White House, and, as anticipated, President Biden wasted no time in issuing, in the first few days of his presidency, a raft of Executive Orders (EOs) that appear calculated to set the tone of his administration. Notably, many of these executive actions walk back (or attempt to fully erase) some of the signature policies of the Trump Administration. Some of these presidential actions have immediate implications for government contractors, while others represent broad policy statements that, at least in the short term, will have little impact on contractors’ day-to-day operations – but they merit a close watch, particularly the Executive Order titled “Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers,” discussed in detail here. Contractors should take note of these early developments, as they are likely to evolve into concrete policies that will create new opportunities – or obstacles – for businesses in the federal marketplace in the months and years to come.

Continue Reading The Beginning of the Biden Administration – What Federal Contractors Need to Know

On December 23, 2020, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) issued its annual Bid Protest Statistics for Fiscal Year 2020. As we’ve previously noted in this blog, the GAO’s yearly Bid Protest Report to Congress provides a snapshot of bid protest metrics for each fiscal year, along with data on five-year trends in the GAO’s bid protest adjudication. The following chart provides a summary of the GAO’s statistics from FY 2020 through FY 2016:

Continue Reading Excellent News for Protesters: GAO’s FY 2020 Bid Protest Report Reveals Record High Effectiveness Rate

On October 15, the FAR Council issued a Proposed Rule implementing amendments to the current FAR definition of “commercial item.” As explained below, the Proposed Rule will eliminate the current FAR definition of “commercial item” and replace it with separate definitions for “commercial products” and “commercial services” to benefit both contractors and the acquisition workforce by simplifying the application and providing greater clarity on the scope of each term. Comments on the Proposed Rule must be submitted no later than December 14, 2020.

Continue Reading Clarity, Sweet Clarity—Proposed Rule Will Revise the FAR Definition of “Commercial Item”