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

Organizational conflicts of interest (OCIs) are perpetually thorny issues in federal procurement that contracting officers are required to identify and evaluate “as early in the acquisition process as possible.”[1] Although the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified several OCI categories,[2] two recent decisions highlight so-called impaired objectivity OCIs, which arise when a contractor’s ability to provide objective advice or recommendations to the government will be undermined by competing interests. The two decisions serve as an important reminder of what does — and does not — qualify as meaningful consideration by the contracting officer in such situations, and how prospective contractors can assist in identifying and mitigating such OCIs.

Continue Reading A Tale of Two Protests: Recent GAO Decisions Highlight Impaired Objectivity OCIs

(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

In a proposed rule issued earlier this month, the Department of Defense (“DoD”) seeks to incorporate into the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations Supplement (“DFARS”) restrictions on the use of the lowest price technically acceptable (“LPTA”) source selection method from the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) for Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018.  This proposed rule makes clear that these NDAA-imposed restrictions are not going away any time soon, and that DoD contracting officers need to engage in a thorough and reasoned analysis before conducting an LPTA procurement.
Continue Reading Lowest Price Technically Acceptable Solicitations No Longer Acceptable? Reviewing the Department of Defense’s Proposed Changes to the DFARS

Many government contractors are part of corporate families consisting of multiple corporate entities.  One entity may be named as the official contracting party, but use the resources of affiliates, parents, or subsidiaries during performance.  The distinction between those members of the corporate family may not seem important in terms of day-to-day operations — in fact, the synergy and seamlessness between the corporate entities may be a selling point.  Two recent GAO decisions make clear, however, that when it comes to bidding on government work, it is important to precisely identify which corporate entity is going to do what and which corporate entity has which resources.

In BDO USA, LLP and Intermarkets Global USA, LLC, GAO’s decisions turned on a perceived misidentification of corporate entities at some point in the procurement process.  In BDO, the problem occurred during bid submission.  In Intermarkets, the problem occurred when the protest was filed.

Continue Reading Still Just A Rat In A CAGE: Recent GAO Decisions Underscore the Need for Precision in Identifying Corporate Entities During the Procurement Process

The Department of Defense (“DoD”) has proposed a new rule limiting the use of “brand name or equal” contract competitions, calling on contracting officers to publicly justify their need for a brand name-type product before issuing a solicitation.  The rule would implement Section 888(a) of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, which directed the Secretary of Defense to “ensure that competition in [DoD] contracts is not limited” by brand name references without a justification under 10 U.S.C. § 2304(f).

Continue Reading What’s in a Brand Name? DoD to Limit Use of “Brand Name or Equal” Contract Competitions

In three related bid protest decisions made public last week, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) reaffirmed the principle that agencies must meaningfully consider price when making best value tradeoff decisions.  GAO sustained the protests, stressing that merely paying lip service to price while selecting a more expensive, higher-rated offeror is not sufficient — agencies must provide a rational explanation for why they have decided to pay a premium for the awardee’s technical superiority.

Continue Reading “Hey Big Spender . . .”: GAO Reiterates That Agencies Must Meaningfully Consider Price In Best Value Tradeoffs

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

With the General Services Administration’s (“GSA”) recent issuance of a prospectus in connection with its announced plan to acquire new office space for the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) in lower Manhattan, now is a good time for a quick refresher about the congressional lease approval process under 40 U.S.C. § 3307, which potentially gives rise to a pre-award bid protest claim that is viable at the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) but likely not at the Court of Federal Claims.

Continue Reading Put It In Prospectus: Reviewing the Congressional Lease Approval Process in Light of the Upcoming Lower Manhattan SEC Lease

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