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

Following up on his repeated promises that the government will buy American and hire American, President Trump signed a Presidential Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American (the “Order”) on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, directing executive agencies to enhance acquisition preferences for domestic products and labor under federal contracts and federal grants. Federal contractors should note that the Order serves only as a blueprint for the administration’s intentions and imposes no immediate requirements. Those will follow — but in what form and to what degree, we can only guess. Contractors should prepare for those changes and be assured that – with respect to the Order’s impact on supply chains and contractor purchasing systems – the devil will indeed be in the details.

Continue Reading

In the course of responding to a Request for Proposals (“RFP”) or Request for Quotations (“RFQ”), have you ever encountered technical specifications that you regard as unreasonable? Have you ever wondered why the Government included those specifications in the first place and, more generally, whether those specifications are even necessary to fulfill the requirements giving rise to the acquisition? If your company is like most out there, the answer to these questions is a resounding “yes!” What to do next, you ask? A recent case before the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) is instructive.

Continue Reading

It’s surprising how often the simplest phrases can provide the most salient advice. The 6 P’s,for example: Proper prior planning prevents poor performance. While the phrase may be a bit of a tortured alliteration, the truth and simplicity of its sentiment can’t be denied: When you want a good outcome, you have to think it through. Simple.

Continue Reading

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

If you are aware of German Christmas folklore (and really, who isn’t?), you know that Belsnickel is a legendary companion of St. Nick who carries a switch with which to punish naughty children and a pocketful of sweets to reward good ones. This holiday season, many are feeling the sting of a switch of another kind, this one involving the December 20, 2016, issuing by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of a preholiday revision of Special Publication 800-171 (SP 800-171), Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations. If SP 800-171 sounds familiar, it is because the publication is the source of the cybersecurity controls that defense contractors must follow and flow down to subcontractors pursuant to DFARS Subpart 204.73 and its operative clauses (e.g., DFARS 252.204-7008 and DFARS 252.204-7012). Essentially accompanying St. Nick (perhaps Santa Clause may be more appropriate) this season, the NIST’s revised publication may resemble Belsnickel’s switch (pun intended) to contractors who already have existing SP 800-171 controls in place (as the controls have been required, in various forms, since November 2013) or who have started down the road toward SP 800-171 adherence in advance of the DFARS-directed December 2017 deadline. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the implications that switch (pun still intended) brings to the security requirements for protecting the confidentiality of CUI in nonfederal systems and organizations:

Continue Reading

If you’ve recently considered filing a bid protest, you may have found yourself out of luck due to the expiration of the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (“GAO”) statutory jurisdiction to hear certain protests involving task and delivery orders. Since 2008, the GAO has been the exclusive forum for prospective contractors to assert a protest challenging task order solicitations and awards with an anticipated value of $10 million or more, which have historically accounted for approximately 10% of protests filed at the GAO since that time. However, the GAO’s authority to hear protests involving civilian agency task orders – aside from those arguing that the order increases the scope, period, or maximum value of the underlying contract – expired on September 30, 2016, when Congress failed to pass legislation that would have extended the GAO’s task order protest jurisdiction.

Continue Reading

Etymology, particularly the Greek or Latin roots of words, aids our understanding in much the same way as root cause analysis does. The Greek word for disclosure is αποκάλυψη, transliterated to apokálypsi, or “apocalypse.” Nomen est omen. This came to mind while reading the pronouncements proffered by various agencies this year – each of which influences voluntary disclosures of export control violations.

Continue Reading

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

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