Federal Circuit Charts New Terrain in Commercial Item Contracting

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.

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2018 DoD Cyber Strategy: The DoD Defends Forward While the DIB Must Defend its Cyber Practices

The Department of Defense (“DoD”) recently released the summary of its cyber strategy for 2018.  The 2018 DoD Cyber Strategy, which replaces the DoD’s 2015 cyber strategy, is focused broadly on “defending forward,” shaping day-to-day competition, and preparing for conflict.  But the strategy includes items that are sure to be of interest to contractors and other private sector DoD partners, particularly the members of the Defense Industrial Base (“DIB”).  In addition to its emphasis on adopting a more flexible approach to procurement, the strategy is focused on protecting DIB networks and systems and holding members of the DIB and other private sector partners accountable for their cybersecurity practices.  Many contractors may already be seeing evidence of this emphasis on accountability, with the recent announcement by the Secretary of Defense that the DoD Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) would conduct an audit to determine whether DoD contractors have security controls in place to protect the DoD controlled unclassified information (“CUI”) maintained on their internal information systems.

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CBCA Issues Rare Decision Addressing Government Claim Accrual

The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA” or “Board”) recently published a decision on accrual of government claims for overpayment under the Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”). In the case, United Liquid Gas Co. d/b/a United Pacific Energy v. Gen. Servs. Admin., CBCA 5846, United Pacific Energy (“UPE”) appeals a General Services Administration (“GSA”) final decision seeking overpayments arising under four task orders that were issued under UPE’s GSA schedule contract to provide propane gas.

In its motion for partial summary relief, UPE argued that GSA’s claims for some of those overpayments were time-barred by the CDA’s six-year statute of limitations. The Board sided with UPE, finding that the discrete overpayment claims at issue in the motion accrued when the Government overpaid each corresponding invoice — each of which occurred more than six years before GSA issued its final decision. In doing so, the Board rejected GSA’s argument that the claims did not accrue until the Government issued an audit report discussing the overpayment issue, which occurred less than six years before GSA issued its final decision.

This decision is important because it adds to the limited number of opinions that the Board has published on claim accrual and reinforces established precedent. Our takeaways are below.

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Takeaways From DoD’s Proposed Changes to Commercial Item Contracting

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

Over the summer, pursuant to Section 874 of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”)[1], the Department of Defense (“DoD”) issued a proposed rule[2] to exclude the application of certain laws and regulations to the acquisition of commercial items, including commercially available off-the-shelf (“COTS”) items.  Among other things, the proposed rule identifies certain DFARS and FAR clauses that should be excluded from commercial item contracts and subcontracts, and sets forth a narrower definition of “subcontract” that would carve out a category of lower-tier commercial item agreements from the reach of certain flow-down requirements.  A summary of the proposed rule and our key observations/takeaways are below. Continue Reading

OIG Report Chronicles Recent Attempts To Construct FBI Headquarters Through Public-Private Partnership, Highlights Proposed Use of Federal Capital Revolving Fund

Last week, the GSA Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) released a Report explaining how GSA decided to abandon previous plans to build a new suburban campus for the FBI, and instead demolish and then rebuild the J. Edgar Hoover (“JEH”) building in Washington, D.C.  Although much of the coverage of the Report has focused on the role of the White House in the decision-making process and the GSA Administrator’s failure to acknowledge that role in testimony before Congress, the Report also highlights the Office of Management and Budget’s (“OMB”) strict approach to the budget scoring rules found in OMB Circular A-11, Appendices A and B.

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Monitoring The Monitor: Recent Ruling Sheds Light on Applicability of FOIA to Monitorship Documents

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently issued the latest ruling in a long-running Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) dispute involving materials related to a government-mandated monitorship of the compliance and corporate governance systems of Siemens Aktiengesellschaft (“Siemens”), the German multinational conglomerate.  See 100Reporters LLC v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 2018 WL 2976007 (D.D.C. June 13, 2018).  The remarkably detailed opinion reinforces that documents prepared by a monitor, including a monitor’s plans and work product, may be subject to disclosure under FOIA and sheds light on precautions that can be taken to ensure monitorship documents remain protected to the fullest extent possible. Continue Reading

Save the Date – BARDA Industry Day Is Coming

Registration will open soon for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority’s (“BARDA”) 2018 Industry Day to be held on October 29 and 30 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. This event has been an integral part of BARDA’s outreach efforts to the life sciences community since 2007, and the newest version of this event promises to continue to provide meaningful insight into BARDA’s role in the nation’s public health preparedness efforts.

BARDA is expected to revisit annual topics like revisions to its broad agency announcement and updates to its goals and Government-wide strategic plans. In addition, this year BARDA will have a particular focus on innovation with the rollout of its Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures (“DRIVe”) and lightning talks on noteworthy development efforts. Applications to participate in lightning talks are due soon, and potential participants should consider whether to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

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CBCA Rules Overhaul Finalized: Effective September 17, 2018

On August 17, 2018, the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“Board” or “CBCA”) published in the Federal Register its amended Rules of Procedure governing appeals under the Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”).  These amended rules: simplify and modernize access to the Board, clarify obligations under certain prior rules, and increase conformity between its rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Federal Rules”).  Furthermore, as reflected in the proposed changes issued in the Federal Register in March 2018, the amended rules are intended to “allow the Board to adopt and apply case law applying the relevant Federal Rules, as well as any future amendments to those Federal Rules, without revising the Board’s rules again.”

Our key takeaways are provided below, and a comparison of the Board’s prior and current rules can be found here.

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Alleged Sales of Non-TAA-Compliant Products Under GSA Schedule Contracts Are Not False Claims, 7th Circuit Holds

Last year, we wrote about a trial court’s decision to dismiss a False Claims Act (“FCA”) complaint regarding alleged Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”) non-compliances because the relator failed to plead fraud with “particularity” under Rule 9(b).  That decision offered a sweeping rebuke of speculative FCA claims, and emphasized why it can be difficult to present a valid FCA claim based on a potential violation of a complex regulatory scheme like the TAA.

Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously affirmed that decision in United States ex rel. Berkowitz v. Automation Aids, Inc., — F.3d — , 2018 WL 3567836 (7th Cir. July 25, 2018).  In doing so, the Seventh Circuit provided additional guidance about various topics, including the Rule 9(b) standard for implied certifications and the power of the materiality defense.  Our takeaways are below. Continue Reading

OIG Report Criticizes GSA’s TDR Pilot Program

On July 25, the GSA’s Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) published a report summarizing its audit of the GSA Transactional Data Reporting (“TDR”) pilot program.  That ongoing pilot program, which we have covered previously and have been tracking since the beginning, allows participating Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contract-holders to report government-sales data each month, in exchange for relief from regulations that would require them to disclose their commercial sales practices.  According to the OIG report, however, GSA cannot objectively measure whether the TDR program is working as intended, because the pilot lacks specific objectives and performance targets.  Moreover, the data that GSA has collected from TDR participants is “not available for . . .  evaluation of the pilot.”  Although the Federal Acquisition Service (“FAS”) disagreed with some of the report’s findings, the report suggests that the TDR program remains a work-in-progress.

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