By: Edward T. DeLisle

As part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 (the 2008 Act), Congress provided the General Accounting Office (GAO) with the authority to hear protests involving certain task and delivery order contracts emanating from both defense and civilian agencies. At the time, this authority was limited to a period of three years, meaning that it was set to expire later this year. A few months ago, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (the 2011 Act). As part of that Act, Congress partially extended the GAO’s authority. It permitted the GAO to continue hearing task and delivery order protests for contracts in excess of $10 million, but only for those contracts issued by Department of Defense agencies. For a reason not readily apparent, Congress failed to extend the GAO’s authority over civilian agencies. A bill has emerged in the Senate to address this omission.

As reported by Law360, Senate Bill 498, entitled the “Independent Task and Delivery Order Review Extension Act of 2011,” was recently introduced by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. If passed, it would extend the GAO’s jurisdiction over task and delivery order protests relating to civilian agencies for an additional five and a half years, equaling the extension provided on DOD protests under the 2011 Act. This is an important development for government contractors. Many questions arose following passage of the 2011 Act. Why would Congress only extend the GAO’s authority over task and delivery orders on DOD work? It is possible that this was simply an oversight, though no one is quite sure. The legislative history is devoid of any discussion on the issue. Whatever the reason, if passed, S. 498 would maintain the status quo for five more years. We will continue to track this bill and report on its progress.

Edward T. DeLisle is a Partner in the firm and a member of the Federal Contracting Practice Group.