Prior to 2008, dating back to 1994, it was not permissible to protest a task order. The 1994 enactment of the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act ("FASA") provided that protests over task or delivery orders were barred unless the protest alleged that the order increased the scope, period, or maximum value of the underlying contract through which the order was issued. That changed with the passage of the Defense Authorization Act of 2008 ("NDAA"), which contained an amendment that expanded the jurisdiction of the GAO to include protests of task or delivery orders valued in excess of $10 million. 41 U.S.C., Section 253j(e)(2). The NDAA also contained a sunset provision, which stated that the "subsection shall be in effect for three years." Section 253j(e)(3). The three year period expired on May 27, 2011. The question then arose as to whether the GAO could lawfully consider task and delivery order protests after May 27, 2011. That question was recently answered in the affirmative by the GAO.
In a protest filed by Technatomy Corporation, of Fairfax, Virginia, the protester argued that the agency unreasonably evaluated vendors’ technical and cost quotations. The government argued that the protest should be dismissed because the GAO’s jurisdiction had expired. In a decision issued on June 14, 2011, the GAO disagreed with the government and ruled that it now has jurisdiction to rule on all task and delivery order protests, regardless of their dollar value. The reasoning of the GAO was that the sunset provision which gave the GAO the authority to consider task and delivery protests in excess of $10 million (for three years) replaced the former statutory provision (1994 – “FASA”) that provided for only very limited task order review. The GAO concluded that when the three year period expired, its authority to consider task and delivery order protests did not simply revert to the pre-2008 jurisdictional level, but actually reverted back to the pre-1994 level.
In other words since the pre-2008 limitations were eliminated by the sunset provision in 2008, the only thing left is the pre-1994 jurisdiction under the Competition in Contracting Act which places no limitation on the GAO’s authority to consider task and delivery order protests. The GAO will therefore accept jurisdiction of all protests involving task and delivery orders regardless of the dollar value. This also raises the interesting question of whether, based on the GAO’s decision in Technatomy Corporation, the Court of Federal Claims will now accept jurisdiction of task and delivery order protests, as well.
Michael H. Payne is the Chairman of the firm’s Federal Practice Group and, together with other experienced members of the group, frequently advises contractors on federal contracting matters, including teaming arrangements, negotiated procurements, bid protests, claims, and appeals.