The Corps of Engineers responded to the recent Order of the United States Court of Federal Claims dated November 1, 2007, granting a permanent injunction against the issuance of a MATOC solicitation for dredging, by taking four proposed task orders included in the MATOC solicitation and reissuing them as separate negotiated procurements. (See the article posted on November 5, 2007). The Plaintiff, Weeks Marine, Inc., filed a motion asking the Court to find that the Corps of Engineers had violated the November 1 Order. Weeks argued that the injunction of the MATOC solicitation was based upon a finding that there was no legal or rational basis for the Corps to employ contracting by negotiation instead of sealed bidding. The re-issuance of those same projects as individual RFPs violated the spirit, intent, and the letter of the Court’s Order.
Weeks requested that the Court amend its November 1, 2007 Order to make it clear that the projects addressed by the task orders could only be procured by sealed bidding. Judge Thomas C. Wheeler of the United States Court of Federal Claims responded by issuing a new Order on November 16, 2007, stating that “. . . the Court must fashion a remedy to address an agency’s conduct that the Court regards as an ‘end run’ to a judicial order and injunction.” The Court decided to allow one of the four projects to proceed as an RFP because it involved dredging of the entrance channel to the Naval Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Georgia, and was considered to be urgent. The other three RFPs were not allowed to proceed as RFPs, however, because the agency “did not provide any legal or factual justification to use negotiated procurement methods.” The Court was also concerned about the Corps’ unilateral decision to attempt to circumvent the earlier injunction and stated that “the prudent approach would have been for Defendant to seek relief from the injunction to issue this solicitation, rather than for the agency to decide unilaterally that the injunction did not cover the proposed action.”
In the hearing that was conducted on November 15, 2007, the Judge reiterated that “if sealed bidding is not used for dredging contracts, you may as well read FAR Part 14 right out of the regulation. I mean, when else is it going to apply if not to dredging contracts?” The decision is a welcome recognition by the Court that sealed bidding is still the preferred method for procuring federal construction contracting, and the decision will hopefully help to stem the continuing move by the Corps of Engineers to unnecessarily employ IDIQ, MATOC, and contracting by negotiation in more of its construction procurements.