Like the hits produced by DJ Khaled, the FAR Council offers “another one.” As covered extensively in this blog, federal contractors have been—or should have been (you have been working toward compliance, haven’t you?)—spending the closing days of summer ensuring compliance with the July 14, 2020 Interim Rule implementing Section 889(a)(1)(B) (“Section B”) of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019.  Section B prohibits the government from entering into a contract with an entity 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, and requires, among other affirmative obligations, for contractors to represent—after conducting a “reasonable inquiry”—that they do/do not use covered telecommunications equipment or services in their respective business operations. In light of the Interim Rule’s broad scope and mandatory accounting of a contractor’s operations, Section B’s compliance mandate presents another significant regulatory burden for contractors to shoulder. But contractors should fear not, because the FAR Council has heard their plaintive wails and responded on August 27, 2020, with a Second Interim Rule implementing new requirements for Section B compliance.


Continue Reading The FAR Council’s Second Interim Rule Implementing NDAA Section 889(a)(1)(B): And the Hits Keep Coming!

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

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

Law360 Article PDF

Federal contractors can finally look forward to simplified small-business mentor-protege programs, but also must become keenly aware of wide-ranging changes affecting certain 8(a) business development and Native American-owned programs, new recertification requirements for certain multiple award contracts, or MACs, and small-business joint ventures.


Continue Reading SBA’s Proposal Would Help Small Business Teaming – Law360

This article focuses on contractor licenses that grant “Restricted Rights” in “Noncommercial Software” to the federal Government under Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”) 252.227-7014.  DFARS 252.227-7014 only applies to “Noncommercial Computer Software,” meaning software that is licensed to or developed for the Government, but that is not also licensed to the public.  In contrast to the commercial world, where software licensors generally set the terms under which they wish to license their products, DFARS 252.227-7014 dictates such terms, and codifies required license grants for software developed for the U.S. Department of Defense (“DoD”).  Under DFARS 252.227-7014, even if a licensor develops Noncommercial Software at private expense, the licensor must at least grant Restricted Rights to the Government — although title and ownership of the software always remain with the contractor licensor.

Continue Reading Restricted Rights Under DFARS 252.227-7014: Practitioner Advice for Avoiding DoD Licensing Pitfalls

Contractor past performance evaluations are important factors in source selection decisions under Parts 8 and 15 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”), and they can easily make or break a contractor’s federal customer base. Especially vulnerable are contractors competing in Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (“LPTA”) procurements, where a bad past performance rating can make contractors ineligible due to an “unacceptable” technical rating even though they may offer the lowest price. The submission by Government contracting officials of a contractor’s performance evaluation to the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (“CPARS”) is required in most instances; however, the contractor’s remedies for correcting poor performance evaluations due to mistakes and material omissions by the evaluator are limited in both time and scope. And as the DoD’s Inspector General (“IG”) has repeatedly pointed out, most recently in its May 9, 2017 report, Summary of Audits on Assessing Contractor Performance (noting a large percentage of DoD performance assessment reports are late and not prepared correctly and accurately), mistakes often happen. Contractors looking to sustain their business in the federal marketplace need to be properly armed with the weapons available to challenge poor performance evaluations when the agency gets it wrong.

Continue Reading Sparring with CPARS: Some Tips on Avoiding and Curing Bad Past Performance Evaluations That Can Haunt and Jeopardize a Government Contractor’s Business for Years

One common complaint we hear from our subcontractor clients is “HOW CAN WE GET PAID????” Our experience has shown that whether through inadvertence, lack of subcontract management resources – or even as a predatory business strategy – some prime contractors will dance, dither and delay upon receipt of requests for payment by their subs for work performed, services rendered and/or products delivered. This can be particularly onerous for small business subcontractors whose payroll and other obligations depend upon prompt payment by their customers. Subs are put in an untenable position. Should they stop work and risk breach of contract? Should they threaten to sue and risk breaching the relationship? New changes to the FAR now impose mandatory reporting obligations on primes should they fail to make timely and full payments to their small business subs. Chronic and unjustified payments now must go into an agency’s evaluation of the prime’s past performance in bidding contests. Primes are well advised to make sure their supply chain management is in order to minimize the additional obligations and risks confronting them should they fail to meet their obligations to their small business subs.
Continue Reading New FAR Changes Incentivize Prime Contractors Not to Be Deadbeats in Meeting Their Payment Obligations to Their Small Business Subcontractors

Colleges and universities receive billions of dollars in federal funds, whether through research grants or student financial aid, or even by billing Medicare or Medicaid for services rendered at academic medical centers. As a result, institutions of higher education must be vigilant to ensure that their receipt of federal funding does not implicate the broad scope of the civil False Claims Act (FCA), a federal statute that seeks to combat fraud against the government. Those found liable of violating the FCA by submitting false claims to the government face treble damages and penalties ranging from $10,781 to $21,563 per violation. In recent years, there has been an unprecedented and steady rise in the number and types of cases brought under the FCA. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recovered more than $4.7 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud against the government under the FCA, a $1.2 billion increase over the $3.5 billion recouped last year in 2015.

Continue Reading Universities Are Prime Targets for False Claims Act Liability

Carrier. UTC. Boeing. Swamp-draining rhetoric. While many ponder what America can expect from the next administration, one thing is clear – it appears to have its eyes on government contractors. However, it is important for those eyes to study the volumes of acquisition regulations under which the government is required to operate when contracting with commercial companies. Accordingly, we thought it would be helpful to describe – through a series of explanations of 140 or fewer characters – why recent tweets about Boeing’s Air Force One contract do not reflect the current state of government contracts law and, in particular, the provisions governing termination of contracts.

Continue Reading Government Contractors Should Not Fear Contract Termination Over Twitter #ComplicatedRegulations #CostlyTerminationProvisions

On August 8, 2016, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) promulgated an Open Source Software (“OSS”) policy via the Memorandum for the Heads of Departments and Agencies, M-16-21 (“Memorandum” or “M-16-21”). The high-level purposes of the Memorandum are to promote reuse of federal contractor and employee custom-developed code, and to improve the quality of such software through public participation. To these ends, the Memorandum has two major directives: (1) all custom-developed code must be broadly available for reuse across the federal government subject to limited exceptions (e.g., for national security and defense) and (2) under a three-year pilot program, federal agencies are required to release at least 20% of their custom-developed code to the public as OSS. The intent here is to enable continual quality improvements to the code as a result of broader public community efforts. As discussed below, the requirement to release custom-developed code as OSS may effectively reduce the creator’s ownership rights, and have economic impacts on both the value of ownership and pricing when bidding on government contracts.

Continue Reading U.S. Government Open Source Software: OMB’s Memorandum on Federal Source Code Policy Exposes IP Ownership Risk