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A Chambers-rated government contracts practitioner, Jay Carey focuses his practice on bid protests, and regularly represents government contractors before the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Court of Federal Claims. He has prosecuted and defended more than 80 protests, including some of the most high-profile protests in recent years, for clients in the aerospace and defense, biotechnology, healthcare, information technology, and telecommunications sectors. Mr. Carey also counsels clients on compliance matters and all aspects of federal, state, and local government procurement and grant law. He counsels clients extensively on organizational conflicts of interest (OCIs) and on strategies for protecting and preserving intellectual property rights (in patents, data, and software).

Federal contractors usually think of two bid protest forums: the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.  But another protest forum often flies under the radar: the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition — aka the ODRA.

In a continuation of our blog post earlier this year, we take

The House of Representatives passed its version of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) last week.  The headline story was the remarkably close, party-line vote: in contrast to past years, the bill received no Republican votes, and eight Democratic Members voted against it.

Those partisan dynamics obscured the inclusion of two important amendments – one Republican and one Democratic – regarding bid protest policy that the House quietly adopted in its bill.  The provisions are not yet law, since the House and Senate must still resolve differences in their respective NDAAs through the conference process.  In this post, we summarize these provisions and encourage government contractors to watch them closely in the coming months.
Continue Reading House and Senate Will Debate Bid Protest Policy

Federal contractors usually think of two bid protest forums: the Government Accountability Office and the Court of Federal Claims.  But there is another protest forum that often flies under the radar: the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition — aka the ODRA.

The ODRA has exclusive jurisdiction over bid protests of FAA procurements.  ODRA protests are reviewed under the Administrative Procedure Act, adjudicated by one of the ODRA’s Administrative Judges, and subject to direct appeal to a federal circuit court.  While many of the fundamental principles of bid protest practice at GAO and the Court of Federal Claims apply equally at the ODRA, there are several unique features.
Continue Reading Flying in Friendly Skies: The Federal Aviation Administration’s Unique Bid Protest Forum

Many contractors are familiar with the well-established processes of federal bid protests.  Less known is the dizzying variety of procedures applicable to state and local bid protests.  Each jurisdiction has its own rules — in terms of timing, protestable issues, standard of review, document production, and more.  A fundamental tenet in one jurisdiction may be completely inapplicable in another.

What does that mean for a contractor looking to grow its state and local business?  Be prepared:  Become familiar with the rules and practices for bid protests in the relevant jurisdiction prior to the award decision.  When the award decision is made, you’ll be in a better position to assess whether to protest and, if so, when and how to do it.

Here are a few issues that are often helpful to consider while preparing for a potential state or local protest:

Continue Reading The Topsy-Turvy World of State and Local Bid Protests

Although the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows citizens to request agency records and thus keep a close eye on their government, proprietary information is exempt from disclosure under Exemption 4, which protects “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential.” A substantial body of case law has developed regarding what does and does not qualify as proprietary, and therefore exempt, under FOIA. For example, the total price paid under a government contract is rarely exempt, but a contractor’s line-item pricing often can be. However, there is no per se rule that line-item pricing is exempt from release under FOIA. Instead, contractors must show on a case-by-case basis that the disclosure of the line-item pricing would cause competitive harm.

On September 28, 2018, the D.C. District Court issued two noteworthy decisions holding that line-item pricing data and commission rates were exempt from release under FOIA Exemption 4. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. v. NASA, No. 17-1902, 2018 WL 4681012 (D.D.C. Sept. 28, 2018); Hodes v. Treasury, No. 17-0219 (D.D.C. issued Sept. 28, 2018). Although these decisions do not break new ground, they are nonetheless significant as the latest examples of a court preventing the disclosure of pricing information. They suggest that courts are willing to apply a broad definition of confidential commercial or financial information where the contractor makes the necessary showing. They also reject common agency arguments for disclosing pricing information, such as the information is too old or not final. Thus, these opinions provide useful authority in defending against the public release of contractor pricing information.
Continue Reading New Cases Confirm that FOIA Exemption 4 Protects Line-Item Pricing Information

Last month, the Federal Circuit weighed in on a largely-overlooked provision in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (“FASA”) that requires federal agencies, to the maximum extent practicable, to procure commercially available goods and services to meet their needs.  In the case — Palantir USG v. United States — the court affirmed the decision by the Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) enjoining the Army from proceeding with its Distributed Common Ground System – Army Increment 2 (“DCGS-A2”) procurement until it complies with the FASA provision.  This bid protest decision has potentially significant implications for commercial item contractors.

Continue Reading Federal Circuit Charts New Terrain in Commercial Item Contracting

For the first time in several years, the version of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that just passed the Senate does not contain any major reforms to limit bid protests.  But the bill the Senate sent to the conference committee process does contain two provisions aimed at bid protests.  Although they are minor, they portend and may lay the groundwork for future attempts to change the protest process.  Both provisions call for further study of issues addressed in the RAND Corporation’s January 2018 bid protest report.
Continue Reading Senate Largely Leaves Bid Protests Alone in Passed Version of FY 2019 NDAA After Threatening Major Revisions

Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) sustained a bid protest challenging the agency’s decision to exclude the protester from consideration based on a potential organizational conflict of interest (“OCI”).  The GAO decision serves as a reminder that an offeror that is excluded from a competition on the basis of a perceived OCI can challenge that decision in a protest before GAO.  And although GAO will give the agency a fair amount of deference, it will nonetheless sustain a protest where it concludes that the agency’s decision was unreasonable.

Continue Reading In Archimedes Bid Protest, Government Contractor Takes on Herculean Task of Challenging the Agency’s OCI Determination, and Wins

This past March marked the beginning of a more fulsome required debriefing process for defense contracts.  The Director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy (“DPAP”) issued a class deviation memorandum, effective March 22, 2018, requiring contracting officers to: (1) provide unsuccessful offerors an opportunity to submit additional questions within two days after receiving a debriefing; and (2) hold the debriefing open until the agency delivers written responses.  The class deviation implements Section 818 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (“NDAA”).
Continue Reading Any Questions? : Department of Defense Implements FY 2018 NDAA Requirement for Post-Debriefing Q&A Process

In a new rule announced yesterday, the FAR Council implemented prior statutory changes to GAO’s bid protest jurisdiction.  For task orders issued by the Department of Defense, NASA, or the Coast Guard, the rule provides that GAO will have jurisdiction only over task orders “valued in excess of $25 million.”

Continue Reading New FAR Rule Implements Increased Minimum Dollar Threshold for GAO’s Protest Jurisdiction Over DoD, NASA, and Coast Guard Task Orders