When an agency decides to set aside an acquisition for participation only by small businesses, certain subcontracting limitations apply to the small business awardee. For construction contracts, the small business contractor cannot pay subcontractors more than 85% of the amount they receive from the agency. For service and supply contracts, the small business contractor cannot pay more than 50% of the amount paid to it by the agency to other entities that are not similarly situated. Work performed by similarly situated entities is not considered in determining if the limitation on subcontracting is violated. A similarly situated entity is defined as a small business subcontractor that is a participant of the same small business program as the prime contractor and is small for the NAICS code assigned by the prime contractor to the subcontract.
By law, a GAO protest must be filed by an interested party. An interested party is an actual or prospective bidder or offeror whose direct economic interest would be impacted by the award of a contract or by the failure to award a contract. Before bid opening or the closing date for receipt of proposals, a protestor must be a prospective bidder or offeror with a direct economic interest in the procurement. This generally means that a bidder or offeror has expressed an interest in competing and is capable of performing the type of work that the solicitation requires. After bid opening or the submission of proposals, a protestor must be an actual bidder or offeror with a direct economic interest in the procurement. This generally means a bidder or offeror who would be in line for award if the protest were sustained. A protestor who cannot receive an award if it prevails on the merits of its protest is not an interested party. In some cases, a high-priced bidder might be able to demonstrate that all lower-priced bidders are ineligible for award, thus becoming the next-in-line for award. In a “best value” negotiated procurement, the GAO determines whether a protestor is an interested party by examining the probable result if the protest is successful. This means that an actual offeror, who is not in line for award, is an interested party if it would regain the opportunity to compete if the protest is sustained.
A bid protest must allege a violation of a procurement statute or regulation. Although most protests challenge the award or proposed award of a contract, the GAO will also consider protests involving defective solicitations and other unreasonable agency actions like the cancellation of a solicitation. In certain cases, the GAO will consider protests involving the termination of a contract where the protest alleges that the government’s termination was based upon improprieties associated with the contract award (this is sometimes called a “reverse protest”). Additionally, the GAO will consider protests concerning (1) awards of subcontracts by or for a Federal agency, (2) sales by a Federal agency, or (3) procurement actions by government entities that do not fall within the strict definition of Federal agencies, if the agency or entity involved has agreed in writing to allow the GAO to decide the dispute.
The Department of Defense (DoD) enhanced post-award debriefing requirements, contained in Section 818 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (NDAA), have been a large topic of conversation this past year. In January 2018, our Government Contracts team detailed the specifics of these new requirements, which includes, among other things, the mandatory question and answer period for debriefings. On March 22, 2018, DoD issued a class deviation letter titled “Enhanced Post-award Debriefing Rights,” (Enhanced Debriefing Rules) which implements the question and answer period requirements. Notably, however, the Enhanced Debriefing Rules do not address the other new requirements in Section 818 of the NDAA, such as those involving the release, under certain circumstances, of redacted source selection award determinations.
Disputes frequently arise because the government refuses to agree that a contractor is entitled to additional money or time resulting from constructive changes, differing site conditions, government-caused delays, or countless other reasons. These disagreements typically are dealt with through the submission of Requests for Equitable Adjustment (REAs) or certified claims and are ultimately resolved through the disputes process. They focus on the rights of the parties under the specific terms of the contract. The problem, however, is that contractors also incur costs because of government indecisiveness that has not yet generated an REA or claim under a particular contract clause. This places the contractor in a state of limbo, not knowing whether there will be a significant impact to the project.
Over the past couple of months, we have had several clients contact us to discuss issues involving Organizational Conflicts of Interest (OCIs). In each case, it seemed like there was some confusion either by the government, the contractor, or both, regarding what amounted to a conflict of interest and how having one could impact contract performance. In most cases, we were able to work with the contracting officer and develop a mitigation plan to avoid, neutralize, or mitigate each OCI successfully. This blog post will cover the basics about OCIs and discuss some ways that contractors can work with the government to mitigate them.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) finalized new regulations, effective October 1, 2018, that govern eligibility to obtain contracts that are set aside for veteran-owned small business and service-disabled veteran-owned small business (collectively, “(SD)VOSB”). The regulatory changes are intended to improve coordination between the VA’s “Vets First” program, which covers (SD)VOSB set-asides issued by the VA, and the SBA’s program, which covers (SD)VOSB set-asides issued by all other government agencies.
The Europe District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is hosting an Industry Day on August 15, 2018 in Tel Aviv. The event begins at 09:00 at The Ritz-Carlton Herzlia.
This conference will present an overview of upcoming construction projects in Israel and provide U.S. firms with an opportunity to meet potential Israeli subcontractors or suppliers.
Although these construction projects are performed in Israel, the law requires that the prime contracts must be awarded to U.S. firms and they, in turn, are permitted to subcontract up to 75% of the work to Israeli companies. Given the millions of dollars that have been obligated to the program, there are many opportunities for American and Israeli firms to work together. Continue Reading Upcoming Industry Day in Tel Aviv
The Judgment Fund was established by Congress in 1956 to alleviate the need for specific legislation following every successful claim against the United States. The purpose behind the Judgment Fund was to eliminate the procedural burdens involved in getting an individual appropriation from Congress, allowing for the prompt payment of judgments and reducing the amount of interest accrued between the time the judgment was awarded and payment was made. Although the Judgment Fund successfully eliminated the need for legislative action in almost every case, and in most cases resulted in prompter payments to successful claimants, it also had the unintended consequence of incentivizing procuring agencies to avoid settling meritorious claims in favor of prolonged litigation. Specifically, an agency could avoid making payment from its own appropriated funds if it refused to settle a case and instead sought a decision from a court, subsequently providing it access to the Judgment Fund which draws money straight from the Treasury. Congress eliminated this problem when it passed the Contracts Disputes Act (CDA) of 1978, which requires agencies to reimburse the Judgment Fund with appropriated funds that are current at the time of the judgment against the agency. Although contracting officers are no longer incentivized to avoid settlement, the source and availability of funds can still impact whether or not they decide to settle a claim because there are differences between how a judgment is funded and how a settlement can be funded. Continue Reading How the Judgment Fund’s Availability Impacts a Contracting Officer’s Decision to Settle a Claim
Last week, I attended the ChallengeHER event in Arlington, VA where I had the pleasure of meeting other females in federal contracting. ChallengeHER events, which are organized by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and American Express (AMEX), are designed to supply women business owners with information and resources regarding the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) Program in order to provide more federal government contracting opportunities for small businesses owned by women.
One thing was made clear at the event – federal agencies, including the Department of Defense (DoD), are indeed striving to achieve their goals of awarding 5% of their prime contracting dollars to WOSBs. Ms. Amy Kim, the SBA’s WOSB Program Manager, informed attendees that although federal agencies fell just shy of meeting the 5% goal in FY2017, they did award $20.8 Billion contracting dollars to WOSBs. While this number also includes contracting dollars awarded to WOSBs under other SBA socio-economic programs, it was encouraging to learn that FY2017 saw $723.5 Million in WOSB set-aside contract award dollars, which is a 60% increase from FY2016! Several representatives from the DoD discussed how the number of set-aside contract award dollars can continue to increase. Continue Reading Reminder to Women Owned Businesses – Take Advantage of Federal Contracting Opportunities!