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Jennifer Plitsch is co-chair of the firm’s Government Contracts practice group. Her practice includes a wide range of contracting issues for large and small businesses in both defense and civilian contracting. Her practice involves advising clients on contract proposal, performance, and compliance questions as well as transactional and legislative issues. Her practice also includes bid protest and contract claims and appeals litigation before GAO, agency boards and the federal courts. Ms. Plitsch has particular expertise in advising clients in the pharmaceutical and biologics industry. She advises a range of pharmaceutical and biologics manufacturers on Federal Supply Schedule contracts, including the complex pricing requirements imposed on products under the Veterans Health Care Act, as well as research and development contracts and grants with various federal agencies. She also has significant experience advising on the requirements of various programs under which vaccine products and biodefense medical countermeasures are procured by the Government.

On January 25, 2021, President Biden issued a much-anticipated Executive Order announcing plans to strengthen the U.S. Government’s preference for domestically-sourced goods and services, including a proposal to tighten longstanding exceptions to domestic preference requirements.

Executive Order 14005 on Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers (“EO”) aims

On October 21, 2020 the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) published a Request for Information (“RFI”) seeking voluntary submissions of workplace diversity and inclusion training information and materials from federal contractors, federal subcontractors, and their employees. The RFI was published pursuant to Executive Order 13950, Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping (“EO”) issued on September 22, 2020, which prohibited certain “divisive concepts” in workplace trainings and instructed OFCCP to solicit information from federal agencies and contractors about the content of their training programs.  The EO also directed OFCCP to establish a hotline to investigate complaints received under the EO, as well as Executive Order 11246. The hotline, and a corresponding email address, were established on September 28, 2020. We provided a full description and explanation of the requirements of the EO here.

Under the new RFI, contractors may submit comments and other information to OFCCP by December 1, 2020, but any submission of information is strictly voluntary.  As discussed below, prior to making any submission, contractors should consider carefully the nuances of the EO and RFI and the potential implications of making a voluntary submission.

Continue Reading Department of Labor Requesting Information on Federal Contractor Workplace Diversity Training

On September 22, 2020, President Trump issued the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping (“EO”) establishing requirements aimed at “promoting unity in the Federal workforce,” by prohibiting workplace training on “divisive concepts,” including “race or sex stereotyping” and “race or sex scapegoating” as newly-defined in the EO.  The EO is broadly applicable to executive departments and agencies, Uniformed Services, Federal contractors, and Federal grant recipients.  The EO expands on a letter issued in early September by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) that directed all agencies to begin to identify contracts or other agency spending on trainings that include “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” or “un-American propaganda,” in an effort to ensure “fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States.”

Following the EO, on September 28, 2020, OMB issued a Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies (the “Memo”) with additional guidance aimed at assisting agencies in identifying diversity and inclusion trainings for agency employees that may be subject to the EO.  The Memo suggests that agencies conduct keyword searches of training materials for specific terms, such as “intersectionality,” “systemic racism,” and “unconscious bias.”  Although the Memo primarily explains the terms of the EO, it also provides additional insight concerning the breadth of agency trainings that may ultimately be considered to violate the terms of the EO, which are described below.

Although the EO is likely to be subject to legal challenge (as more fully discussed below), federal contractors, including subcontractors and vendors, could be subject to the compliance requirements outlined below as soon as November 21, 2020.
Continue Reading President Trump Issues Executive Order Prohibiting “Divisive Concepts” in Federal Contractor Trainings

The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a decision on Friday finding that the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) followed the wrong order of succession after Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April 2019.  As a result, the Acting Secretaries who have served since then were invalidly selected.  In particular, GAO has questioned the appointments of Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, former Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, and Deputy Secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli.

GAO’s decision tees up a thorny question for DHS contractors:  If these officials were invalidly selected, what does it mean for the agency’s policies and procurement decisions made during their tenure?

Continue Reading [Updated] If the Acting DHS Secretary Was Unlawfully Selected, What Does that Mean for DHS Procurements?

Last week, President Trump issued an executive order aimed at encouraging the expansion American manufacturing of essential medical products — Executive Order on Ensuring Essential Medicines, Medical Countermeasures, and Critical Inputs Are Made in the United States (August 6, 2020) (the “Order”).  The Order sets forth an ambitious plan requiring extensive agency action on a tight timeline that suggests a significant impact.  Closer examination of the Order raises significant questions about the practicalities of implementation and the realistic impact of the Order once the substantial stated exceptions are taken into account.

The List

The heart of the Order is a list of Essential Medicines, Medical Countermeasures (“MCMs”), and Critical Inputs to which the Order’s requirements apply — but the key components of this list do not yet exist.  Instead, the Order directs the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) to produce the list within 90 days and to include on the list Essential Medicines, MCMs, and Critical Inputs “that are medically necessary to have available at all times in an amount adequate to serve patient needs and in the appropriate dosage forms.”

The Order provides the following definitions that give some insight into what may be on the FDA’s eventual list:
Continue Reading Trump Administration Increases Uncertainty for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

On July 2, 2020, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) promulgated a final rule resolving long-standing uncertainty regarding its enforcement authority over health care providers participating in TRICARE, a federal program that provides health care to service members, veterans, and their families.[1] The rule officially removes OFCCP’s regulatory authority over TRICARE providers by amending the definition of “subcontract” set forth in the governing Department of Labor regulations.  Although the amendment carves out TRICARE providers from OFCCP authority by name and leaves the rest of the “subcontractor” definition unchanged, OFCCP expressly raised the possibility that it would issue additional sub-regulatory guidance concerning its jurisdiction over Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (“FEHBP”) and Veterans Administration Health Benefit Program (“VAHBP”) providers.
Continue Reading OFCCP Promulgates Final Rule Eliminating Its Authority Over TRICARE Providers

The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (the “Flexibility Act”) was signed into law on June 5, revising a number of key requirements for loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”).  The Program has provided support to a number of organizations negatively impacted by COVID-19 in the form of loans that can be forgiven if used for certain eligible expenses.

The Flexibility Act extends the period in which organizations can incur or pay for such expenditures and allows employers to avoid reductions in forgiveness amounts when they are unable to (i) rehire qualified employees or (ii) maintain prior employment levels due to operational changes resulting from the pandemic.  The Act also reduces the amount of eligible expenditures that must be spent on payroll costs when seeking forgiveness from 75 to 60 percent.

Yet, as with most aspects of the Program to date, a number of outstanding questions remain regarding how the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) intends to implement these changes, particularly with respect to potential reductions in forgiveness amounts.  The SBA has consistently deviated from the statutory framework that initially established PPP loans, so it would not be surprising if Congress’s revisions to the Program lead to additional unexpected changes at the regulatory level in the coming weeks.

Continue Reading Congress Increases Flexibility for Forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program, yet Uncertainty about Implementation Remains

Two notices recently published in the Federal Register indicate the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) intends to exercise Defense Production Act (“DPA”) authority in novel ways during the current coronavirus pandemic.

On May 12th, FEMA announced that it plans to invoke DPA authority which permits the President to consult with representatives of industry, business, financing, agriculture, labor, and other interests in order to enter into voluntary agreements or plans of action to help provide for the national defense.

The following day, FEMA published the Emergency Management Priorities and Allocations System (“EMPAS”) regulations governing FEMA’s use of DPA priorities and allocations authority — which, as we’ve previously covered on several occasions, permit the executive branch to require private companies to prioritize its orders and allocate resources in the private sector as needed to promote the national defense.  FEMA included a new concept of third-party rated orders in its version of DPA regulations.
Continue Reading FEMA Continues to Push Defense Production Act Authority On Several Fronts

The Department of Health and Human Services published a notice on March 30, 2020 — effective March 25, 2020 — designating certain COVID-19-related personal protective equipment (“PPE”) and materials as “scarce” or “threatened” materials subject to the Defense Production Act’s (“DPA”) anti-hoarding provisions.  As a result of this notice, the DPA now prohibits the accumulation of these materials in excess of reasonable demands of business, personal, or home consumption.  The notice also results in a prohibition of the accumulation of these materials for the purpose of resale at prices in excess of the prevailing market rate.

Continue Reading Defense Production Act Anti-Hoarding Provisions Invoked for Coronavirus

Following up on our post earlier this week giving a general overview of the Defense Production Act of 1950 (“DPA”), 50 U.S.C. §§4501 et seq., this post comments on President Trump’s March 18, 2020 Executive Order on Prioritizing and Allocating Health and Medical Resources to Respond to the Spread of COVID-19 (the “COVID-19 E.O.”) and provides some key considerations that companies should keep in mind if they are concerned about receiving prioritized or rated contracts or allocation orders or directives under the DPA.
Continue Reading The Defense Production Act and the Coronavirus Executive Order: Key Considerations