Government Contracts Regulatory Compliance

On April 18, 2022, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) published a memorandum entitled “Initial Implementation Guidance on Application of Buy America Preference in Federal Financial Assistance Programs for Infrastructure” (“OMB Guidance”).  OMB M-22-11.  The OMB Guidance supplements the Build America, Buy America Act (“BABA”) provisions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”), which was enacted in November 2021.  In addition, OMB issued a Notice of Listening Sessions and Request for Information (“RFI”) on April 21, 2022 seeking public input on BABA implementation.  Public comments are due by May 23, 2022.

Continue Reading Infrastructure Update: OMB Issues New Buy America Guidance for Federal Infrastructure Projects

Many contractors are familiar with the Davis-Bacon Act (“DBA”), the statute that requires government contractors to pay prevailing wages to workers employed in the construction, alteration, or repair of buildings or other public works.  The DBA is enforced by the Department of Labor, which is responsible for issuing the “wage determinations” that list the prevailing wages for different labor categories within a geographical area and for promulgating regulations used to implement the DBA’s requirements.

On March 18, 2022, the Department issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”), announcing that it intends to make a number of revisions to the DBA regulations.  In the Department’s view, these revisions represent the largest change to the DBA regulations since the last major rewrite in 1981.

Continue Reading Department of Labor Proposes Overhaul to Davis-Bacon Act Regulations

This is the tenth 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 secondthirdfourthfifthsixthseventheighth, and ninth blogs described the actions taken by various Government agencies to implement the EO from June 2021 through January 2022, respectively.

This blog summarizes key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during February 2022.  As with steps taken during prior months, the actions described below reflect the implementation of the EO within the Government.  However, these activities portend further actions in March 2022 that are likely to impact government contractors, particularly those who provide software products or services to government agencies.

Continue Reading February 2022 Developments Under President Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order

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

As discussed in our previous post, multiple federal courts have issued preliminary injunctions blocking the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees of federal contractors.  On January 27, 2022, the United States District Court of Arizona issued a new and additional injunction barring enforcement of the mandate within the State of Arizona.  In so doing, the Arizona court added to the injunctions previously issued by the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Western District of Louisiana, Eastern District of Missouri, Middle District of Florida, and Southern District of Georgia.

The Georgia injunction is the only one of the rulings that applies nationwide.  Like the Arizona injunction, the Missouri, Florida, and Kentucky injunctions are limited to specific states (collectively, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Florida).  The Louisiana injunction is also limited, but its limitations are based on entities rather than geography; it applies to contracts and other agreements between the federal government and the governments of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Indiana.  The Biden Administration has appealed these earlier decisions; we expect that an appeal of the Arizona decision to the Ninth Circuit will likewise be forthcoming.

At the same time, the Biden Administration’s other primary COVID-19 initiative for large employers — the vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (the so-called “OSHA Mandate”) — was stayed by the United States Supreme Court on January 13, 2022.  In the wake of that decision, OSHA announced on January 25, 2022 that it is withdrawing the enforceable emergency temporary standard.

While the Supreme Court’s decision halted immediate application of the OSHA Mandate, the emergency temporary standard qualifies as a proposed rule for purposes of OSHA’s notice-and-comment rulemaking process under 29 U.S.C. § 655, and OSHA has announced that it will continue to consider the emergency temporary standard pursuant to that process.  Accordingly, OSHA could attempt to promulgate a final rule (as opposed to an emergency temporary standard) that addresses vaccines or testing requirements.

The rest of this post consists of (1) an overview of the Arizona decision regarding the federal contractor vaccine mandate; and (2) an update on the status of the other challenges to the federal contractor vaccine mandate, including the Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Florida, and Georgia litigations.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Update: Arizona District Court Issues Additional Injunction; Mandate Remains Enjoined Nationwide; OSHA Mandate Withdrawn

On December 30, 2021, the FAR Council issued a final rule to update the trade agreements thresholds implemented under the Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”).  The new thresholds take effect January 1, 2022.

The TAA thresholds are adjusted every two years and set the value a contract must meet or exceed in order for the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement (“WTO GPA”) and free trade agreements (“FTAs”) to apply.  For supply, service, and construction contracts that meet or exceed the stated thresholds, Buy American Act (“BAA”) requirements are waived in accordance with the TAA, and the Government is required to treat eligible products and services from designated countries on an equal basis as domestic products and services.

The updated thresholds, to be listed in FAR 25.402(b), are provided below.

Continue Reading New Trade Agreements Act Thresholds Take Effect January 1, 2022

If a contractor is working on a fixed-price contract, can it charge the government for attorney’s fees to defend a False Claim Act (“FCA”) case related to the contract?

In The Tolliver Group, Inc. v. United States (Fed. Cl. Jan. 22, 2020), the Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) said the answer was “yes,” if the government was liable for an equitable adjustment under the circumstances.  The decision was welcomed by contractors facing meritless FCA suits, which are often costly to defend even when the relator plainly does not have a case.

But the Federal Circuit has thrown cold water on Tolliver — at least for now.  In a decision last week, the court of appeals vacated Tolliver on jurisdictional grounds, concluding that the legal theory of the COFC’s decision was never presented to the contracting officer for a final decision under the Contract Disputes Act of 1978 (“CDA”), and that the COFC therefore lacked jurisdiction over the contractor’s claim.  The Tolliver Group, Inc. v. United States (Fed. Cir. Dec. 13, 2021).

Continue Reading FCA Defendants May Be Able to Recover Attorney Fees Under Their Fixed-Price Contracts, At Least For Now

On December 8, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14057 (“Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability”), the Administration’s latest – and most significant – effort to promote cleaner and more sustainable federal procurement.  At the heart of the new Order is the Administration’s goal to meet a net-zero emissions target across the federal government by 2050.  To do so, the Administration promises to “transform federal procurement and operations” and to leverage the government’s portfolio of “300,000 buildings, fleet of 600,000 cars and trucks, and annual purchasing power of $650 billion [in] goods and services” to facilitate increased adoption of green technology.  The new Executive Order will require further agency action to pursue and execute on these objectives, but once implemented, it appears poised to usher in a new – and greener – era of federal contracting.

In order to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the Executive Order and an accompanying “Federal Sustainability Plan” set four primary goals:

  1. Power: 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity on a net annual basis by 2030;
  2. Vehicles: 100 percent zero-emission vehicle acquisitions by 2035, including 100 percent zero-emission light-duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027;
  3. Buildings: A net-zero emissions building portfolio by 2045, including a 50 percent emissions reduction by 2032; and
  4. Materials: Net-zero emissions from federal procurement no later than 2050, including a Buy Clean policy to promote use of construction materials with lower embodied emissions.

This blog post consists of three parts: (1) a summary of each of the four major goals referenced above; (2) a description of the Executive Order’s procedures for implementation, together with the exceptions to its coverage; and (3) concluding thoughts about key takeaways of this Executive Order for the contracting community and potential new entrants into the federal marketplace.

Continue Reading Biden Executive Order Promises to “Transform Federal Procurement” to Meet Net-Zero Emissions Target

Addressing climate change has been a priority for President Biden since his first day in office.  On December 8, 2021, President Biden continued that focus by issuing Executive Order (EO) 14057, Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability, which includes a number of requirements directed at introducing sustainability to federal acquisitions.

This most recent EO announces an administration policy to achieve net-zero emissions from federal procurement by 2050 and comes on the heels of the public comment period extension to January 13, 2022 in response to EO 14030, Climate-Related Financial Risk.  Although the administration will likely be rolling out additional sustainability requirements in the coming months, contractors currently have an opportunity to help shape an initial requirement that may end up effectively establishing an environmental, social, and governance or “ESG” reporting requirement.
Continue Reading Contractors Have an Opportunity to Help Shape ESG Requirements

On December 2, 2021, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) announced the creation of a new Contractor Portal.  Starting next year, federal prime contractors and subcontractors will be required to register on the portal and submit a formal certification, on an annual basis, as to whether they have developed and maintained an Affirmative Action Program (“AAP”) in accordance with OFCCP requirements.  If selected by OFCCP for a compliance review, contractors will use the same portal to upload their AAPs in addition to any other requested information.  The Contractor Portal is expected to open for registrations on February 1, 2022, with the certification features available March 31, 2022.  By June 30, 2022, all existing contractors and subcontractors must certify compliance with the AAP requirements.

Continue Reading OFCCP’s New Contractor Portal: What Contractors Need to Know