Senate Largely Leaves Bid Protests Alone in Passed Version of FY 2019 NDAA After Threatening Major Revisions

For the first time in several years, the version of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that just passed the Senate does not contain any major reforms to limit bid protests.  But the bill the Senate sent to the conference committee process does contain two provisions aimed at bid protests.  Although they are minor, they portend and may lay the groundwork for future attempts to change the protest process.  Both provisions call for further study of issues addressed in the RAND Corporation’s January 2018 bid protest report. Continue Reading

Covington Artificial Intelligence Update: GAO Testimony Before Congress Regarding Emerging Opportunities, Challenges, and Implications for Policy and Research with Artificial Intelligence

Timothy M. Persons, GAO Chief Scientist Applied Research and Methods, recently provided testimony on artificial intelligence (“AI”) before the House of Representatives’ Subcommittees on Research and Technology and Energy, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.  Specifically, his testimony summarized a prior GAO technological assessment on AI from March 2018.  Persons’ statement addressed three areas:  (1) AI has evolved over time; (2) the opportunities and future promise of AI, as well as its principal challenges and risks; and (3) the policy implications and research priorities resulting from advances in AI.  This statement by a GAO official is instructive for how the government is thinking about the future of AI, and how government contractors can, too.

The Evolution and Characteristics of AI

Persons stated that AI can be defined as either “narrow,” meaning “applications that provide domain-specific expertise or task completion,” or “general,” meaning an “application that exhibits intelligence comparable to a human, or beyond.”  Although AI has evolved since the 1950s, Persons cited today’s “increased data availability, storage, and processing power” as explanations for why AI occupies such a central role in today’s discourse.  And while we see many instances of narrow AI, general AI is still in its formative stages.

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Waiting For the Final Government Audit May Be Too Late

In a case of first impression, a Court of Appeals has held that a government subcontractor’s claim for reimbursement of its actual indirect costs was time-barred. Fluor Fed’l Solns. LLC v. PAE Applied Techs, LLC, No. 17-1468, 2018 WL 1768233 (4th Cir. Apr. 12, 2018) (per curiam) (unpublished). It is the first case to directly address the interplay between the Allowable Cost and Payment Clause of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”), 48 C.F.R. § 52.216-7, and a statute of limitations. It highlights the risks government subcontractors face when they choose to wait for a Government audit rather than litigate promptly after a payment dispute arises.

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DoD Seeks Streamlined Procurements of Innovative Technologies – Other Transaction Agreements and the Commercial Solutions Opening Pilot Program

The Department of Defense (DoD) has once again emphasized its willingness to engage with commercial companies and other non-traditional contractors to try to expedite and simplify its procurement of innovative technologies. In particular, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) indicated that it plans to enter directly into Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreements, and DoD issued a class deviation for a commercial solutions opening (CSO) pilot program.

These developments, in connection with the continued promotion of OTA agreements by DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental organization (DIUx), provide commercial companies with additional incentives to enter into creative collaborations with the U.S. Government.

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Takeaways From Recent FCA Decisions On Buy American Act and Trade Agreements Act Compliance

Due to the government’s increased focus on domestic preference requirements – for example, through President Trump’s formal policy and action plan for agencies to “scrupulously monitor, enforce, and comply” with the so-called “Buy American Laws,” and Congress’s proposed legislation to make certain Buy American requirements more robust – contractors should not be surprised if there is a corresponding increase in related False Claims Act (FCA) activity.  Notwithstanding, based on a review of recent FCA decisions, we have found that courts generally have been skeptical of attempts by relators to allege FCA liability regarding a purported Buy American Act (BAA) or Trade Agreements Act (TAA) violation.  We discuss these decisions and provide several key takeaways that will help contractors avoid (and defeat) such FCA lawsuits in an article that can be downloaded here.

How Trump Plans To Finance Federal Real Property Projects

[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.

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In Archimedes Bid Protest, Government Contractor Takes on Herculean Task of Challenging the Agency’s OCI Determination, and Wins

Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) sustained a bid protest challenging the agency’s decision to exclude the protester from consideration based on a potential organizational conflict of interest (“OCI”).  The GAO decision serves as a reminder that an offeror that is excluded from a competition on the basis of a perceived OCI can challenge that decision in a protest before GAO.  And although GAO will give the agency a fair amount of deference, it will nonetheless sustain a protest where it concludes that the agency’s decision was unreasonable.

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Senate Armed Services Committee Proposes Expansive but Unclear Software Review Provisions

As the Senate approaches the end of its debate on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, provisions of the bill regarding access to and review of information technology code deserve close attention.  These sections, if enacted, would significantly impact Department of Defense contractors and also would affect matters associated with investments subject to review by U.S. national security agencies.

As drafted, the provisions could expose current and prospective contractors to intrusive scrutiny and significant risks.  They lack clarity on key definitions, leaving the precise scope of those risks unclear.  We summarize major issues and concerns below.  We expect these provisions to receive scrutiny during the House-Senate conference on the NDAA over the summer.  Continue Reading

Congress Aims to Redefine the “Subcontract”

[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).

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4 Considerations For Gov’t Contractor Carveout Deals

[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.

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