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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.

On May 23, 2019, multiple news outlets reported that the White House was considering an emergency declaration to permit arms shipments to Saudi Arabia without Congressional approval.  These reports were met with sharp criticism by multiple legislators.  These recent developments shine a spotlight on the contours of the Congressional notice and approval mechanisms set forth in the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).

AECA (22 U.S.C. § 2751 et seq.) is the authorizing statute for the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.  AECA and the implementing guidance from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) set forth the procedures for the development of a transaction under the FMS program, referred to as an FMS case.

Once an FMS case has been negotiated between the U.S. Government and the foreign government purchaser, the White House is required submit a formal notification to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (although this requirement is subject to country- and defense article-specific dollar value thresholds).  Congress then has 30 days (or 15 days for certain proposed sales to a NATO county, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Israel, or New Zealand) to enact a joint resolution opposing the sale.  Unless a joint resolution is passed within the time period, Congress is considered to have consented to the sale.

Continue Reading Congress Braces for a Fight Over Executive Authority Under the Arms Export Control Act

Earlier this month, the FAR Council issued a proposed rule to expand the definition of “commercial item” under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to include certain items sold in substantial quantities to foreign governments.  This new rule implements section 847 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2018 (Pub. L. 115-91), and has the potential to extend commercial item status to defense articles that have been sold to foreign militaries, including sales under the Foreign Military Financing program.

Ensuring the commercial item status of products and services has long been a key point of federal contracting compliance for many businesses, as commercial item contracts typically avoid many of the more burdensome provisions imposed by the FAR.  While the term “commercial item” is often generalized to refer to items offered for sale to the general public for non-governmental purposes, the definition of “commercial item” under FAR 2.101 includes certain items used for governmental purposes and sold in substantial quantities to multiple state and local governments.  See FAR 2.101.  This provision permitted products like protective equipment used by police and fire departments to be deemed commercial items.

Continue Reading Proposed Rule Offers Foreign Military Sales as a Potential Pathway to Commerciality

Last month, the Department of Defense Inspector General announced that it was undertaking an audit of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Agreement Development Process.  The audit will assess how the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), Military Departments, and other organizations coordinate foreign government requirements for defense articles and services and whether DoD maximizes the results of the FMS agreement development process.

The audit is in response to a congressional reporting requirement included in the House Report to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.  The House Report noted Congressional concern that the FMS process is “slow, cumbersome, and overly complicated,” and that the acquisition decisions supporting the FMS process are “stovepiped,” leading to an FMS program that is “not coordinated holistically across [DoD] to prioritize resources and effort in support of U.S. national security objectives and the defense industrial base.”  Consequently, Congress directed DoD to conduct this audit of the FMS program and submit a final report to Congress.  The tone and language of the House Report indicates that Congress is seeking to streamline the process for all stakeholders, including the U.S. military, foreign partners, and industry.  The House Report specifically calls out precision guided munitions as a focal point for additional foreign military sales that may mitigate risk to the U.S. industrial base.

Continue Reading Inspector General Audit of the FMS Program Underway

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

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a bid protest decision regarding the application of the Berry Amendment’s domestic sourcing requirement to a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) solicitation for leather combat gloves with touchscreen capability.  In that decision, the GAO found that the nonavailability exception to the Berry Amendment applied to the glove’s kidskin leather even though the agency determined, through market research, that this type of leather was available domestically.  Importantly, this decision provides an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the nuances associated with the Berry Amendment’s nonavailability exception and to reflect upon the complex regulatory landscape of domestic sourcing requirements.

Continue Reading Domestic Sourcing Requirement Doesn’t Fit DOD’s Gloves

A recently proposed rule would update the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) to incorporate statutory changes to limitations on subcontracting that have been in effect since 2013. The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) has long since revised its own regulations to implement these changes, but some contracting officers have been reluctant to follow these changes in the SBA regulations because the FAR contains contradictory provisions.

The proposed rule is a sign of progress. In particular, it should add significant clarity to the current disconnect between the FAR and SBA regulations. However, the proposed rule is not perfect, and a number of recent developments highlight that outstanding questions remain.

Continue Reading Signs of Progress with the Limitations on Subcontracting, but Outstanding Questions Remain

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

Government contractors undergoing an asset transaction know all too well the peculiarity and uncertainty associated with the transfer of a U.S. government contract through the required novation process. In two recent decisions, the Government Accountability Office considered the impact of such transactions and the novation process on the pursuit of new task orders from the U.S. government, with disappointing results for the affected contractors.
Continue Reading More Novation Complexity In Gov’t Contracts M&A?

Pursuant to Sections 817 and 881(b) of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”), the Department of Defense (“DoD”) recently issued a proposed rule to amend certain sourcing restrictions found in DFARS subpart 225.70 and related clauses.  Specifically the proposed rule would amend the DFARS to:

  • extend the Berry Amendment’s domestic sourcing restrictions to the acquisition of certain athletic footwear for members of the Armed Forces, when the procurement is valued at or below the simplified acquisition threshold [Section 817], and
  • recognize that Australia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the “UK”) are now members of the National Technology Industrial Base (“NTIB”), thereby permitting the United States to acquire certain items (that are subject to the sourcing restrictions in 10 U.S.C. 2534) if they are manufactured in the UK, Australia, Canada or the United States [Section 881(b)].

We provide our takeaways below.
Continue Reading Takeaways from DoD’s Proposed Changes to Certain Sourcing Restrictions

Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a bid protest decision regarding the application of Buy American Act (BAA) requirements to a solicitation for construction.  In this decision, GAO rejected the agency’s determination that an offeror’s bid was nonresponsive because the offeror failed to provide certain required information for the evaluation of a potential BAA exception.  A summary of the decision and our takeaways are below.

Continue Reading Pragmatism Wins the Day in GAO Buy American Protest

[This article was originally published in Law360.]

A steady flow of M&A activity in the government contracts industry continues. Indeed, last year we saw over 100 publicly reported deals involving government contractors, and this pace has continued into 2018. This M&A activity has taken a variety of forms, including a number of “carveout” transactions, where a government-focused business is separated from its existing corporate structure. For instance, earlier this month L3 announced an agreement to sell its Vertex Aerospace to American Industrial Partners in what L3 described as an effort to optimize its portfolio of operations. Similarly, last month Siemens’ sold its federal business Dresser-Rand to Curtiss-Wright in order to allow Siemens to refocus on its core strengths.

Whether a carveout is absorbed by another company — such as Lockheed Martin’s sale of its IS&GS business to Leidos — or a carveout results in a new, stand-alone company — such as iRobot’s sale of its robot defense and security government business to private equity firm Arlington Capital, carveout deals can create great opportunities. They can allow a seller to realize the value of the carved-out business, while also creating exciting opportunities for both the remaining and sold businesses to refocus resources on their missions. Also, carving out a business that is less than a natural fit with its larger organization can allow for the realization of synergies if the carved out business is placed in a structure more suited to the carved out business’s specialties.

Continue Reading 4 Considerations For Gov’t Contractor Carveout Deals

In corporate transactions involving government contracts, “novation” has become a dreaded process.  Many buyers and sellers express uneasiness and concern about having to subject their deal to the U.S. Government’s discretionary framework for accepting the transfer of a government contract from one party to another.  In particular, they fear the uncertain timeline and arcane requirements for securing approval.

While the cumbersome novation approval process has drawn significant attention in recent years, the National Defense Authorization Act mark-up released by the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month was again silent on the issue.  In the absence of Congressional enthusiasm, the government contracts bar seems to have focused its efforts to fix the novation process on the Section 809 Panel, which is considering ideas to streamline and simplify the defense acquisition system.  The American Bar Association Section of Public Contract Law offered thoughts on the current novation process in comments to the panel late last year, and it remains to be seen how the Section 809 Panel will react to those comments in the two public reports the Panel is expected to publish over the coming months.

The ABA comments focused on three primary issues with the current novation process under FAR 42.1204:  (1) the timing of novation approvals; (2) corporate entity conversions; and (3) the content of novation packages.

Continue Reading The Future of Novations in Contractor M&A