Last week, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) Council issued a Final Rule to implement regulations adopted by the Small Business Administration in 2013.  The Final Rule significantly amends FAR Parts 19 and 52 by imposing additional small business-related obligations on prime contractors and clarifying the consequences of failing to satisfy those obligations.  The Final Rule largely tracks the proposed rule, which we previously discussed.  It will be effective November 1, 2016.The most noteworthy amendments to the FAR’s small-business subcontracting requirements include:

  • Small Business Subcontractors Identified in a Bid or Proposal: The Final Rule requires that contractors include assurances in their small business subcontracting plans that they will use “good faith efforts” to use the small business subcontractors identified in their bid or proposal.  The FAR Council declined to define “good faith efforts” in the Final Rule, and instead pointed to FAR 52.219-16 (Liquidated Damages-Subcontracting Plan).  Under this clause, the “willful or intentional failure to perform in accordance with the requirements of a subcontracting plan” results in a “failure to make a good faith effort to comply with a subcontracting plan.”  Applying this definition to the Final Rule suggests that some level of intentional or willful disregard of the contractor’s plan to use subcontractors in its bid or proposal is required to establish a failure to use “good faith efforts.”  That said, the level of effort required to satisfy this requirement remains unclear.
  • Consequences of Failing to Make “Good Faith Efforts”: Should a contractor not acquire from a small business identified in the bid or proposal, the contractor must inform its contracting officer in writing within 30 days of contract completion.  The Final Rule charges the contracting officer to determine whether the contractor made good faith efforts to comply with its small business subcontracting plan.  Under the Final Rule, a failure to provide good faith efforts results in a material breach of the contract that could lead to liquidated damages under FAR 52.219-16. The failure could also be considered in future past performance evaluations.  (In addition to this increased monitoring, the Final Rule also requires that subcontracting plans contain an assurance that the prime contractor “will not prohibit a subcontractor from discussing with the contracting officer any material matter pertaining to payment to or utilization of a subcontractor.”  This requirement may incentivize communications between small business subcontractors and contracting officers regarding a prime contractor’s utilization of small business concerns.)
  • Subcontracting Plans for Former Small Business Primes: As FAR 19.301-2 presently provides, a change in size status does not change the terms and conditions of the contract.  However, the Final Rule adds that a change in size status allows the contracting officer to require a subcontracting plan if the change in status is from small to other than small.
  • Need to Assign NAICS Codes to Subcontracts: The Final Rule mandates that prime contractors provide assurances in their subcontracting plan that they will assign each subcontract the NAICS code and corresponding size standard that “best describes the principal purpose of the subcontract.”  This requirement prevents prime contractors from simply flowing down the NAICS code assigned to the prime contract without first assessing the type of subcontract at issue.

In addition to this non-exclusive list of new requirements, the Final Rule will also require contractors to calculate subcontracting goals to incorporate the total value of a contract and report subcontracting achievements at the order-level for certain IDIQ contracts.  In light of the Final Rule’s expanded obligations, large prime contractors would be well advised to assess (1) existing subcontracting plans, (2) subcontract management procedures, (3) post-closeout reporting procedures, and (4) pre-award procedures for developing new subcontracting plans to confirm compliance with the Final Rule’s requirements.

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Photo of Scott A. Freling Scott A. Freling

Scott Freling represents civilian and defense contractors, at all stages of the procurement process, in their dealings with federal, state, and local government customers and with other contractors. He has a broad-based government contracts practice, which includes compliance counseling, internal investigations, strategic procurement…

Scott Freling represents civilian and defense contractors, at all stages of the procurement process, in their dealings with federal, state, and local government customers and with other contractors. He has a broad-based government contracts practice, which includes compliance counseling, internal investigations, strategic procurement advice, claims and other disputes, teaming and subcontracting, and mergers and acquisitions. He represents clients in federal and state court litigation and administrative proceedings, including bid protests before the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. He also represents clients in obtaining and maintaining SAFETY Act liability protection for anti-terrorism technologies. Mr. Freling’s experience covers a wide variety of industries, including defense and aerospace, information technology and software, government services, life sciences, renewable energy, and private equity investment in government contractors.

Photo of Alexander Hastings Alexander Hastings

Alex Hastings advises clients across a broad range of government contracting issues, including advising clients in transactional matters involving government contractors and assisting defense contractors and pharmaceutical companies in securing and performing government contracts.

Mr. Hastings also advises clients concerning best practices in…

Alex Hastings advises clients across a broad range of government contracting issues, including advising clients in transactional matters involving government contractors and assisting defense contractors and pharmaceutical companies in securing and performing government contracts.

Mr. Hastings also advises clients concerning best practices in e-discovery. He assists in investigations and litigations that involve complex e-discovery issues and has represented clients in matters involving the U.S. Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission and the United States International Trade Commission.

Mr. Hastings’ government contracts experience includes advising clients regarding new developments in regulatory requirements, including the Federal Acquisition Regulation’s (FAR) anti-human trafficking requirements and the FAR and Bayh-Dole Act’s intellectual property provisions. Mr. Hastings also provides due diligence regulatory advice to clients contemplating the acquisition of government contracting entities or assets.

Mr. Hastings’ e-discovery experience includes advising a wide-array of clients on best practices in information governance and document collection and assisting clients develop effective mobile device and document management policies.

Mr. Hastings also maintains an active pro bono practice and routinely writes on issues related to government contracts and e-discovery.