[This article was originally published in Law360 and has been modified for the blog.]

Earlier this year, President Trump revealed his plan to facilitate new (and much-needed) federal real property projects in part through a $10 billion “mandatory revolving fund,” commonly known as the Federal Capital Financing Fund or the Federal Capital Revolving Fund (the “Revolving Fund” or “FCRF”).  In this article, we take a close look at the Revolving Fund, and discuss the interaction between the Revolving Fund and the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) budgetary scoring rules.  As described below, the Revolving Fund is structured to allow federal agencies to meet the large, upfront dollar obligations often required by OMB’s budgetary scoring rules.  But despite this welcome and significant development, questions still remain about the scope and operation of the Revolving Fund.

Continue Reading How Trump Plans To Finance Federal Real Property Projects

[Updated August 13, 2018]

If an agreement qualifies as a “subcontract” under a government contract, then it may be subject to certain flow-down, compliance, and reporting requirements.  These requirements are intended to protect the government’s interests, and have significant ramifications for contractors, e.g., increasing transaction costs, expanding potential areas of exposure.  These compliance obligations and risks can even deter some companies from performing under government contracts, especially those companies offering commercial items.

Currently, there is no uniform definition of “subcontract” in the applicable procurement regulations or in the procurement chapters under Titles 10 and 41 of the U.S. Code.  Indeed, there are more than twenty varying definitions of “subcontract” in the FAR and DFARS, with many clauses failing to specify which definition applies.  Now Congress is looking to address this lack of uniformity through the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Continue Reading Congress Aims to Redefine the “Subcontract”

Last week, President Donald Trump released his long-awaited infrastructure plan, entitled a “Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America.”  Clocking-in at 53 pages, this plan is designed to “stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in new investment over the next 10 years” through $200 billion of federal funding.  The infrastructure plan is intended to provide a “roadmap for the Congress to draft and pass the most comprehensive infrastructure bill in our Nation’s history.”  Our high-level key takeaways from that plan are discussed below.

Continue Reading Key Takeaways from Trump’s Infrastructure Plan—Private Financing And A Capital Budget, But No “Buy American” Requirements?

On January 31, 2018, the Department of Defense (“DoD” or the “Department”) published a final rule regarding commercial item purchasing requirements.  Among other key amendments, the final rule modifies the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”) by:  (i) formalizing a presumption of commerciality for items that DoD previously treated as commercial; (ii) providing commercial item treatment to goods and services offered by nontraditional defense contractors; and (iii) prioritizing the types of information that the contracting officer (“CO”) can consider when determining price reasonableness in the absence of adequate competition.

The final rule adopts much of DoD’s August 2016 proposed rule, which itself was a revised version of a retracted August 2015 proposed version.  We discussed the August 2016 proposed rule on this subject (and linked to an article regarding the August 2015 version) in a prior post.  Despite receiving repeated input from industry and Congress, DoD’s final rule still provides little concrete guidance, and although these changes were made with the stated purpose of promoting consistency across purchasing components, it appears likely that inconsistencies will persist.  In particular, the final rule continues to leave the door open for individual contracting officers to make potentially burdensome requests for information to support the proposed pricing of commercial items.
Continue Reading Third Time Around: Inconsistencies Persist with Final DFARS Commercial Items Rule

On January 9, 2018, Department of Defense (“DoD”) issued Class Deviation 2018-O0009, designed to reduce barriers to entry for innovative entities through streamlining the awards process for research and development contracts. This Class Deviation allows for the use of simplified acquisition procedures and excuses certain procurement obligations when DoD awards contracts and subcontracts valued

Last week, the RAND Corporation published a report entitled “Assessing Bid Protests of U.S. Department of Defense Procurements: Identifying Issues, Trends, And Drivers.”  In it, RAND analyzed the prevalence and impact of bid protests of U.S. Department of Defense (“DoD”) acquisitions, and concluded that DoD bid protests are both “exceedingly uncommon” and, on the whole, effective in prompting DoD to take remedial actions to address issues identified in the protests.  The report, which was commissioned by Congress in Section 885 of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) Pub. L. No. 114-238, is expected to be a driver of changes to the protest process, and includes several recommendations counseling against significant changes that appear to be favorable to protesters.
Continue Reading RAND Report Concludes That Protests of Department of Defense Procurements Are Rare, Effective

As we reported late last month, one-third of the Senate Democratic caucus doubled down on efforts to keep “Buy American” protections intact for certain defense items. Now Senate Democrats are declaring a “Buy American” victory as the FY 2018 NDAA conference report revealed that some of these protections will remain.
Continue Reading Senate Democrats Notch a “Buy American” Victory

The Section 809 Panel recently released an interim report and supplement (the “Interim Report”) advocating in broad strokes for a host of improvements to the Department of Defense’s (“DoD”) acquisition system to better streamline the process and increase industry offerings to the government.  The NDAA for FY 2016 established the Section 809 Panel to address “fundamental problem[s]” in the means by which the DoD acquires goods and services to support its warfighters.  Indeed, in meeting with over 200 government and industry representatives, the Interim Report found that the DoD’s acquisition system creates obstacles that make it unattractive for small and large businesses alike to offer their goods and services to the government.  The Interim Report explains that “the United States’ ability to maintain technological, military, and economic superiority is being challenged,” as our adversaries are recognizing vulnerabilities in our forces and modernizing their militaries in response.  Thus, according to the Interim Report, DoD’s acquisition procedures must be improved to achieve “a degree of agility that DoD is not currently able to deliver.”
Continue Reading Section 809 Panel Urges Congress to Bring DoD Spending into the 21st Century

Among the many subjects to receive President-elect Trump’s attention in advance of his swearing in on January 20 are venerable defense contractors and their performance of major systems contracts.  The Boeing Company (Boeing) and Lockheed Martin (Lockheed) have both felt the “heat of the tweet” – Boeing for the projected cost of the next generation of presidential aircraft and Lockheed for its F35 Joint Strike Fighter.  The pointed attention has led some to question the authority of a president to alter existing contractual relations or to impact the award of future contracts.  Can a president require contractors to lower prices on existing contracts or direct that future awards not be made to companies that fail to adopt practices the president favors, e.g., retaining jobs in the United States?  A president always has the bully pulpit to pressure high-profile government contractors to “voluntarily” take actions to their detriment and in favor of the government, but what legal tools or contractual remedies are available if a president forces a particular outcome?
Continue Reading Contracting by Tweet: What Impact Can the New Administration Have on Existing Contracts and Future Awards?

Earlier this month, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) released a proposed Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular, Implementing Category Management for Common Goods and Services, which “institutionalizes” category management as the government-wide model for the acquisition of common goods and services.  Contractors should be aware of this trend, as it could impact both the number of opportunities to secure government contract awards, and the relative size of those opportunities.

If this new initiative sounds familiar, that’s because it is.  In the past, the government has attempted to take advantage of its buying power through centralizing purchasing.  Examples of this include the Brooks Act, which required most agency IT acquisitions to be conducted by GSA, and the mandatory use of the GSA Schedules.  It remains to be seen if OFPP’s new effort will meet with greater success than these past ones.  And it also remains unclear how this new effort will impact the existing GSA Schedules program which, although it is not mandatory, has been the Government’s principal centralized method of procuring commercial items.
Continue Reading What Goes Around Comes Around: OFPP Makes Efforts to Institutionalize Category Management