If you gave me $17 million on the credit card, I could call Cabela’s tonight and outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine, and I’d get a discount on it for a bulk buy. This is a pistol. The technology’s been around for five centuries, and arguably it’s the least important weapons system in the Department of Defense inventory.[1]

Senior leaders within the Department of Defense (DoD) have grown increasingly frustrated with an acquisition system characterized by ever-increasing costs and significant delays in getting end items to customers. Their frustration has been heard by Congress and has resulted in recent Congressional action. The latest major acquisition reform effort started with the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with each subsequent NDAA containing various provisions that are meant to modernize and accelerate the antiquated and cumbersome federal acquisition system providing flexibility and allowing for the agile acquisition of next-generation technology. Continue Reading The Future of Acquisition in the Federal Government: Innovation and Rapid Procurement Through Other Transaction Authorities and Other Transaction Agreements

Hand with megaphoneHello from Nashville, Tennessee! I’m currently at the National 8(a) Association’s Winter Conference and had the privilege of participating in a great panel discussion with some of the leading small business scholars and practitioners in the country. It was truly a great experience. Since I’m here and it’s fresh on my mind, I thought I’d share something that all SDVOSBs should know: Your world is about to change.

Continue Reading National 8(a) Winter Conference – Changes Coming for SDVOSBs

The National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) for Fiscal Year 2018 includes enhanced post-award debriefing requirements for the Department of Defense (“DoD”). This change is likely a response to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s (“OFPP”) January 5, 2017 memorandum. The memorandum debunked certain misconceptions about the debriefing process and encouraged agencies to adopt best practices and maximize the value of debriefings. One such myth that the OFPP’s memorandum debunked was that debriefings always lead to protests. The memorandum advocated for more transparency in the debriefing process, explaining that, in fact, an effective debriefing process can greatly reduce the frequency of protests. Continue Reading Good News for Department of Defense Contractors: Enhanced Post-Award Debriefing Requirements are on Their Way!

Last month, we reported that the Government Accountability Office’s (“GAO”) statutory authority to hear bid protests on civilian task orders exceeding $10 million had expired, leading to a parade of dismissed protests and disappointed contractors left without legal recourse. As of last week, there is reason to be hopeful, as the House of Representatives and Senate agreed on legislation that promises to permanently restore the GAO’s authority to hear civilian bid protests.  Continue Reading Proposed 2017 NDAA is a Mixed Bag for Government Contractors

Change Ahead SignEarlier this week, we blogged about a final rule issued on May 31 by the Small Business Administration (“SBA”), which made several major changes to the small business regulations. This new rule implements changes mandated by the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, (“NDAA”) and finalizes the proposed rule issued by the SBA back in December of 2014.

Continue Reading Big Changes to Limitations on Subcontracting Requirements

Business People Meeting Discussion Communication ConceptAs we blogged Wednesday, this week the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) published a lengthy final rule that implements the long-awaited small business regulation changes mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) of 2013. The rule makes a number of very important changes affecting Federal contractors.  One of the more important changes makes it easier for small businesses to form joint ventures (JVs) to compete for government procurements and removes prior, and often confusing, restrictions.

Continue Reading SBA Makes It Easier for Small Businesses To Joint Venture for Federal Contracts

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The Small Business Administration (“SBA”) has had a very busy week. First, on May 24, 2016, the agency issued “Statement of General Policy No. 3” (“the Statement”) clarifying the hotly debated inter-affiliate sales exclusion (an issue relating to the counting of annual receipts for purposes of determining size). Then, yesterday, the agency published a lengthy final rule, which implements the long-awaited small business regulation changes mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) of 2013. Collectively, the Statement and the rule make a number of very important changes affecting Federal contractors. Some of the most important changes are: Continue Reading SBA Issues Important Changes and Clarification Concerning Small Business Regulations

The SBA is on a roll!  It seems that ringing in the new year has invigorated the agency, prompting it to act on the various outstanding directives set forth in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (“NDAA”).

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Last Thursday, the agency issued its long-awaited proposed rule on the expansion of the Mentor-Protégé Program.  There were also proposed changes impacting the 8(a), HUBZone, and other small business programs. We gave you a sneak preview of that rule here, the day before it was issued.  In addition to those proposed mentor-protégé changes, the SBA also recently rolled out a second proposed rule ,which included various changes to the small business regulations. Over the next several weeks, we will provide you with our take on various aspects of these two proposed rules. For purposes of this article, though, we’re going to focus on the changes to the affiliation regulations set forth in the December 29, 2014 proposed rule.  These proposed changes would fundamentally alter the SBA’s analysis regarding the “ostensible subcontractor” rule, economic dependence, and “identify of interest” affiliation.

The rule proposes that a small business would be exempt from ostensible subcontractor affiliation where it subcontracts with a “similarly situated entity.”  In fact, the rule proposes a complete overhaul of contractor performance requirements set forth in 13 C.F.R § 125.6.  Rather than mandate the percentage of work a prime must perform, the revised 125.6(a) limits how much work a prime can subcontract to other contractors, a subtle but important distinction.  Subcontracts issued to “similarly situated entities” are not counted toward the subcontracting limit. For example, under the proposed rule, an 8(a) contractor performing a general construction contract cannot subcontract more than 85% of the contract work to non-8(a) entities.  Similarly, a SDVOSB prime contractor cannot subcontract more than 75% of a specialty construction contract to non-SDVOSB concerns. In these examples, the required 15% or 25% of the work would have to be performed by either the prime itself, or by the prime in combination with a “similarly situated entity” – i.e. a concern that is eligible for the same small business program as the prime.  Strangely enough, the language of the revised regulation does not require any of the work to be self-performed by the prime, so long as the requisite percentage is performed by a combination of the prime and entities that are “similarly situated.”  Consistent with this concept, the proposed revision to §125.6(b) creates an exception to ostensible subcontractor affiliation for prime contractors who subcontract in this manner.  The revised rule would ensure that a prime that subcontracts a majority of its work will not be “affiliated” with its subcontractors, so long as its subcontractors are “similarly situated.”

The second major change to affiliation is the adoption of a bright line test based on economic dependence. Pursuant to the proposed rule (to be inserted at 13 CFR 121.103(f)(2)), if a concern derives 70% or more of its revenue from another company over a fiscal year, the SBA will presume that the concern is economically dependent on that company, and, therefore, that the two businesses are affiliated.  It is not entirely clear from the language of the rule itself whether this will be considered a rebuttable presumption.  But an SBA representative who spoke about the proposed rule last week at the National 8(a) Association’s Winter Conference indicated that it would be rebuttable.

The third major affiliation change set forth in the proposed rule relates to “identity of interest” affiliation under 13 CFR 121.103(f).  In its current form, the regulation provides that:

Affiliation may arise among two or more persons with an identity of interest. Individuals or firms that have identical or substantially identical business or economic interests (such as family members, individuals or firms with common investments, or firms that are economically dependent through contractual or other relationships) may be treated as one party with such interests aggregated. Where SBA determines that such interests should be aggregated, an individual or firm may rebut that determination with evidence showing that the interests deemed to be one are in fact separate.

However, the current rule does not identify what types of family members are subject to the presumption identified in the rule.  The proposed rule would clarify this.  The revised regulation would state, in relevant part:

Firms owned or controlled by married couples, parties to a civil union, parents and children, and siblings are presumed to be affiliated with each other if they conduct business with each other, such as subcontracts or joint ventures or share or provide loans, resources, equipment, locations or employees with one another. This presumption may be overcome by showing a clear line of fracture between the concerns. Other types of familial relationships are not grounds for affiliation on family relationships.

This will certainly make it easier for contractors to tell if they are venturing into dangerous territory when doing business with a family member.

It is very important to keep in mind that these are just proposed changes.  The final rule may vary, so pay attention.  Comments to the rule are due February 27, 2015.  We will keep you posted on the status of the final rule.

Edward T. DeLisle is a Partner in the firm and a member of the Federal Contracting Practice Group. Ed frequently advises contractors on federal contracting matters including bid protests, claims and appeals, procurement issues, small business issues and dispute resolution.

Maria L. Panichelli is an Associate in the firm’s Federal Contracting Practice Group. Her practice includes a wide variety of federal contracting and construction matters, as well as all aspects of small business procurement.

Over the last few years the world of federal contracting has seen an increased focus on the False Claims Act, the prevention of fraud, and the strengthening of fraud-related penalties. 2015 will certainly be no different. However, the new year brings with it a slightly different take on fraud prevention, one aimed not at the contractor, but on the government. Mobile phone with scam message speech bubble

On January 22, 2015, the United States’ Office of Special Counsel (“OSC”) issued a proposed rule that would give federal contractors and subcontractors a new way to report agency wrongdoing. The rule implements a “pilot program” identified in the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) of 2013, the purpose of which is to “enhance contractor protection from reprisal for a disclosure of information that the contractor reasonably believes is evidence of gross mismanagement of a Federal contract or grant; a gross waste of Federal funds; an abuse of authority relating to a Federal contract or grant; a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or a violation of law, rule or regulation related to a Federal contract or grant.” (Public Law 113-1421, 41 U.S.C. 4712). Consistent with the NDAA, the proposed rule would allow employees of federal contractors and subcontractors to disclose wrongdoing of government employees if they work at, or on behalf of, a U.S. government component for which OSC has jurisdiction to accept disclosures. (See OSC’s Website for more detail.)

So what does this mean for federal contractors and subcontractors? Well, it means that federal contractors and subcontractors who observe mismanagement or misconduct by a federal agency can bring their complaints directly to the OSC. Contractors can also go to OSC if they believe they have suffered retaliation for prior disclosures or statements made about agency misconduct. The hope is that this new program can provide contractors a more effective way to report wrongdoing within the government.

Comments to the rule are due March 24, 2015. We will keep you posted on any new developments.

Edward T. DeLisle is a Partner in the firm and a member of the Federal Contracting Practice Group. Ed frequently advises contractors on federal contracting matters including bid protests, claims and appeals, procurement issues, small business issues and dispute resolution.

Maria L. Panichelli is an Associate in the firm’s Federal Contracting Practice Group. Her practice includes a wide variety of federal contracting and construction matters, as well as all aspects of small business procurement.

A little over a week ago I had the privilege of speaking at the Associated General Contractors of America’s national convention in Las Vegas. I was asked by the Director of the Heavy Highway and Federal Division to address a number of “hot topics” in the world of federal contracting. Over the next several weeks, I will share these “hot topics” with you. The first involves the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (“NDAA of 2014”).

timeforaction.jpgOn December 19, 2013, the Senate passed the NDAA of 2014, which included several important reforms that affect the SBA’s small business programs. One of the most important changes was the amendment of Section 8(d) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. § 637(d)) (“Section 8(d)”). This amendment will eventually allow prime contractors to count lower-tier small business contractors towards their small business goals where subcontracting plans are required.

Under Section 8(d) of the Small Business Act, there are times when prime contractors must establish “subcontracting plans” consistent with the SBA’s goal of providing “small business concerns, small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans, small business concerns owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans, qualified HUBZone small business concerns, small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and small business concerns owned and controlled by women . . . the maximum practicable opportunity to participate in the performance of contracts let by any Federal agency.” The “subcontracting plan” must include “percentage goals for the utilization as subcontractors of small business concerns, small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans, small business concerns owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans, qualified HUBZone small business concerns, small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and small business concerns owned and controlled by women.” Under the current version of Section 8(d), these “percentage goals” can be reached by counting first-tier subcontractors only. Section 1614 of the NDAA of 2014 changes this.

Under the new law, for purposes of determining whether or not a federal prime contractor has attained the percentage goals set forth in a “subcontracting plan,” one must consider the following:

“(i) if the subcontracting goals pertain only to a single contract with the executive agency, the prime contractor shall receive credit for small business concerns performing as first tier subcontractors or subcontractors at any tier pursuant to the subcontracting plans required under paragraph (6)(D) in an amount equal to the dollar value of work awarded to such small business concerns; and

(ii) if the subcontracting goals pertain to more than one contract with one or more executive agencies, or to one contract with more than one executive agency, the prime contractor may only count first tier subcontractors that are small business concerns.”

Based upon the new law, contractors will be able to count not only their first-tier subcontractors, but any tier subcontractor, toward their total small business percentage goals to determine compliance with most “subcontracting plans.” Prime contractors will still need to make a good faith effort to issue subcontracts to small, and small disadvantaged, businesses at the first-tier level. However, the change in the law will make compliance much easier.

This reform will not go into effect until the fiscal year after the SBA issues final regulations to implement the law, so it will be a while before we see any real change, but change is coming. We will keep you posted on any new developments.

Edward T. DeLisle is a Partner in the firm and a member of the Federal Contracting Practice Group. Maria L. Panichelli is an Associate in the firm’s Federal Practice Group.