Effective May 23, 2008, there will be important changes that pertain to a contractor’s ability to protest task and delivery orders. These changes are embodied in Section 843 of the 2008 Defense Authorization Act, "Enhanced Competition Requirements for Task and Delivery Order Contracts," and legislators expect the new provisions to increase competition for task and delivery order contracts. Most notably, the new law allows a contractor to protest a task order in excess of $10 million to the GAO. Previously, the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 (“FASA”) prohibited task order protests, except in very limited circumstances. In addition, the new law requires that DOD task or delivery order contracts in excess of $100 million be awarded to multiple contractors, with certain exceptions, and the establishment of enhanced competition requirements, such as a requirement for debriefings on task or delivery orders in excess of $5 million under such multiple award contracts. The GAO is currently revising its bid protest rules to address the newly acquired jurisdiction over task order protests. (The new rules will be posted on this blog as soon as they are issued).
At the April 19, 2007 hearing of the Senate Committee on Armed Services regarding the DOD’s management of costs under the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (“LOGCAP”) contract in Iraq, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) asked why ithe Army waited five years to split the contract among multiple contractors, allowing for competition of individual task orders. The response from the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics was: "I don’t have a good answer for you." The provisions of Section 843 ensure that, absent compelling reasons not to, there will be competition in the award of task and delivery orders on future contracts of this type. As far as we are concerned, however, there is an open question as to whether Multiple Award Task Order Contracts (‘MATOC”) are legally authorized under the Federal Acquisition Regulation for the procurement of construction. A protest raising that issue was filed by our firm and is pending before the United States Court of Federal Claims.
Section 843 of the Defense Authorization Act lifts the ban imposed by the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act on protests to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of task or delivery orders valued over $10 million. This provision may be short-lived though: it contains a “sunset” provision and expires three years after it becomes effective. Congress enacted Section 843 in response to the need for enhanced competition requirements, and apparently believed that federal agencies had too little oversight when permitted to issue task order procurements that were not subject to protest. After the FASA was enacted, federal agencies increasingly employed the indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (“IDIQ”) contracts for expensive projects, purportedly to utilize “streamlining” but, in part, to circumvent the bid protest process. It will be interesting to see whether the newly enacted right to file bid protests will have a “chilling” effect on agency plans to issue IDIQ contracts in the future.
The exclusive jurisdiction granted to the GAO means that the Court of Federal Claims (CFC) will not adjudicate these protests. Under the current protest regime, both the GAO and the CFC are authorized to hear bid protests, and we would have preferred for that dual jurisdiction to have continued on task order protests, as well. An advantage of the current system for contractors is that if they are unhappy with the outcome of a GAO protest, they can obtain de novo review of that same protest at the CFC. Under Section 843, this second chance will not be available for task or delivery order protests. This has serious implications for contractors because only a small fraction of protests heard by the GAO are sustained.