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Nooree is a Special Counsel in Covington's Government Contracts practice.  He represents government contractors in a wide variety of transactional, litigation, and compliance matters. His primary areas of practice include corporate transactions involving contractors, international contracting and domestic sourcing matters, and grants and cooperative agreements.

Given the growing attention in U.S. military assistance to foreign allies and the applicable ground rules, Covington has prepared a primer to understanding the basics of foreign military sales, foreign military financing, and direct commercial sales.  Covington features a multi-disciplinary team of government contracts, export controls, anticorruption, and corporate attorneys with experience in foreign military

On December 22, 2021, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced the Fiscal Year 2021 transaction figures for the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program, reporting $34.8 billion in total transaction value.  FMS declined for the second consecutive year, down 31 percent from $50.8 billion dollars in transactions in FY 2020.  The 2021 figure represents the

This is the fifth in a series of Covington blogs on implementation of Executive Order 14028, “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity”, issued by President Biden on May 12, 2021 (the “Cyber EO”).  The first blog summarized the Cyber EO’s key provisions and timelines, and the second, third, and fourth blogs described the actions taken by various federal government agencies to implement the EO during June, July, and August 2021, respectively.  This blog summarizes  key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during September 2021.

I.   Actions Taken During September 2021 to Modernize Federal Government Cybersecurity

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) publically released a draft zero trust architecture strategy for federal agencies on September 9, 2021.  On that same day, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) issued two draft documents designed to further OMB’s zero trust strategy: the Zero Trust Maturity Model and the Cloud Security Technical Reference Architecture.  Each of these documents was required by Section 3 of the Cyber EO to modernize and standardize federal government agency approaches to cybersecurity.

Continue Reading September 2021 Developments Under President Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order

On April 27, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order entitled “Increasing the Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors” that will raise the hourly minimum wage for federal contractors to $15.00 effective January 30, 2022.  This Executive Order builds on Executive Order 13658 (“Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors”), issued by President Obama in 2014, which first implemented an hourly minimum wage of $10.10 for covered federal contractors.[i]

Continue Reading Government Contractors Should Prepare Now for the $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage

As federal agencies adjust their worksites to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, these changes will likely have a direct impact on government contractors and their employees who work at those sites.  If the government closes or reduces operations at a site, a contractor may be forced to furlough or reduce the hours of employees.  Some reduction actions could result in an employee who was exempt from overtime payments under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) being reclassified as non-exempt, which would require the employer to pay the employee overtime wages, with negative long-term repercussions.

An employee may volunteer to reduce her salary for any period of time without any FLSA consequences so long as her decision is completely voluntary.  To the extent the employer must impose involuntary reductions on an exempt employee, the following options are available that should not result in the employee being reclassified as non-exempt under FLSA:

Continue Reading FLSA Considerations In Response to Government COVID-19-Related Directions

Last month, the Department of Justice Office of Information Policy issued new guidance on the definition of confidential information under Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act. This new guidance addresses the meaning of “confidential” in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Food Mktg. Inst. v. Argus Leader Media, 139 S. Ct. 2356 (2019). While not determinative, this DOJ Guidance offers contractors critical insight into how agencies will respond in the first instance to FOIA requests for information that may be subject to Exemption 4. This exemption protects “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4).

As covered in this space earlier this year, in Food Marketing Institute, the Supreme Court jettisoned 40 years of established FOIA case law on how agencies defined confidential under Exemption 4. It rejected the well-established “competitive harm” test from National Parks & Conservation Association v. Morton, 498 F.2d 765 (D.C. Cir. 1974) based on the lack of support in the statutory language. In its place, it adopted a “plain language” interpretation of confidential, finding two potential definitions: (1) information “customarily kept private, or at least closely held,” by the submitting party; and (2) information disclosed when the receiving party provides “some assurance that it will remain secret.” The Supreme Court held that the first condition was mandatory but expressly left open whether confidential information could lose that status if provided to the government “without assurances that the government will keep it private.” As a result, contractors and agencies alike were left without clear guidance as to whether, or when, a government “assurance” may be required.
Continue Reading DOJ Issues New Guidance for Treatment of Confidential Information Under Recent Supreme Court FOIA Decision

On October 15, 2019, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced that foreign arm sales for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 totaled $55.4 billion.

This amount nearly matches the total from FY 2018 of $55.7 billion, continuing the significant increase in foreign arm sales under the Trump Administration and potentially signaling that the enormous 33 percent

(This article was originally published in Law360 and has been modified for this blog.)

On July 15, 2019, President Trump issued an Executive Order on Maximizing Use of American-Made Goods, Products, and Materials.  The EO directs the FAR Council to “consider” amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation’s provisions governing the implementation of the Buy American Act.  This EO is the Trump administration’s latest – and most concrete – step toward enhancing domestic sourcing preferences and restricting foreign sources of supply for federal customers.  And if implemented, the change promises to have dramatic implications for government contractors and their supply chains.
Continue Reading Another Executive Order on Buying American, and This One Has Teeth

Earlier this year, the White House issued an Executive Order on AI mandating that the National Institute of Standards and Technology develop a guide to federal engagement on AI technical standards.  While the federal government’s actions have understandably garnered significant attention, state and local governments are also undertaking preliminary efforts to engage on the technical

On Monday, the Supreme Court significantly altered how government agencies will treat confidential commercial information protected from disclosure by Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) — an issue that recurs repeatedly with respect to information submitted by contractors to government agencies.  Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, No. 18-481 (U.S. June 24, 2019). The Court overturned 45 years of lower-court precedent requiring that the submitter show both that the information was not publicly disclosed, and that its release would cause substantial competitive harm.  The Court’s decision seemingly expands the scope of Exemption 4 by removing the “substantial competitive harm” requirement. However, the effect of this apparent expansion is unclear, because the Court suggested but did not resolve whether Exemption 4 also requires a new element: a showing that the submitter’s information was provided under an assurance by the government that it would keep the information confidential.

Notwithstanding the question left open by the Court, Food Marketing points the way to several steps that contractors can take to protect their commercial and financial information from release under the new interpretation of Exemption 4.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Shakes Up FOIA Exemption for Confidential Information