On November 6, 2019, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) aimed at resolving what OFCCP describes as a “decade of confusion.”[1] At issue is a long-standing question concerning the scope of OFCCP’s enforcement authority over health care providers participating in TRICARE, a federal health care program covering millions of military personnel, veterans, and their families. In particular, the NPRM requests comments on proposed regulations that would amend OFCCP’s definition of “subcontractor” and thereby remove TRICARE providers–and potentially other categories of providers–from OFCCP’s regulatory authority entirely. The deadline for filing comments is December 6, 2019.

Continue Reading OFCCP Proposes Rule Removing TRICARE Health Care Providers from Its Regulatory Authority

The FAR Council released an Interim Rule in August implementing part of Section 889 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.  In this briefing, we highlight points where the Interim Rule provides clarity; definitional issues that remain unresolved; and new procedural requirements that government contractors should track.

The Interim Rule covers the portion of Section 889, subsection (a)(1)(A), that prohibits the federal government from acquiring certain telecommunications equipment/services from Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese companies.  Specifically: “The head of an executive agency may not … procure or obtain or extend or renew a contract to procure or obtain any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system.”

Section (a)(1)(A) took effect on August 13, 2019, although a 60-day window remains open for stakeholders to submit comments to be considered in the development of a final rule.  Comments on the (a)(1)(A) Interim Rule are due by October 15, 2019.

The second part of Section 889 implementation, sections (a)(1)(B) and (b)(1), go into effect on August 13, 2020. Regulations for those sections remain pending within the government, but the definitions and waiver process established by (a)(1)(A) will be instructive for those regulations as well. Continue Reading Section 889 Update: First Wave of Acquisition Prohibitions Take Effect

Federal contractors usually think of two bid protest forums: the Government Accountability Office and the Court of Federal Claims.  But there is another protest forum that often flies under the radar: the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition — aka the ODRA.

The ODRA has exclusive jurisdiction over bid protests of FAA procurements.  ODRA protests are reviewed under the Administrative Procedure Act, adjudicated by one of the ODRA’s Administrative Judges, and subject to direct appeal to a federal circuit court.  While many of the fundamental principles of bid protest practice at GAO and the Court of Federal Claims apply equally at the ODRA, there are several unique features. Continue Reading Flying in Friendly Skies: The Federal Aviation Administration’s Unique Bid Protest Forum

This week, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) released formal guidelines (“the Guidelines”) for awarding credit to entities that cooperate in False Claims Act (“FCA”) investigations. Frequently hinted at by DOJ officials in recent speeches and public statements, the Guidelines have been eagerly anticipated by practitioners in the FCA space.

Despite the build-up, the Guidelines are hardly revolutionary in many respects, as they largely memorialize existing discretionary practices for awarding cooperation credit that are well familiar to practitioners in the area. Nonetheless, the codification of the Guidelines in the Justice Manual may prove to be a significant development, especially if this more formal policy statement results in greater transparency and consistency in settlement discussions with DOJ. Unfortunately, the Guidelines leave unresolved certain key questions, and whether DOJ ultimately achieves its objective of promoting increased disclosure and cooperation will depend substantially on the manner in which the Guidelines are implemented. Continue Reading New DOJ Cooperation Credit Guidelines a Welcome Sign, but Key Questions Remain Unresolved

The Section 809 Panel recently concluded its monumental analysis of defense acquisition law and regulations and released its third volume of recommended changes.  As we have written previously, the Panel’s work stands out from previous acquisition reform efforts with the appendices of detailed legislative and regulatory changes that accompany the commissioners’ analysis and recommendations.

Given the scope of the Panel’s work, few believe that Congress or the Department of Defense (“DoD”) will — or even could — simply adopt the recommendations in full.  Legislative bandwidth for additional acquisition reform is finite, and some of the Panel’s recommendations will prompt robust debate.  In this post, we analyze some of the recommendations that government contractors should follow most closely.  We highlight key issues and address the political dynamics involved in enacting them. Continue Reading After the Final Report: Expectations Following the Section 809 Panel’s Third Volume of Acquisition Policy Reforms

Last month, GAO released a report analyzing federal agency implementation of the Buy American Act (“BAA”), 41 U.S.C. §§ 8301-8305.  As we have previously reported, BAA enforcement is an area of focus for the Trump Administration, which has repeatedly emphasized the need to “Buy American and Hire American,” including in an April 2017 executive order.  And for government contractors, compliance with the BAA and other domestic sourcing regimes also has been an increasingly common subject of litigation, particularly under the civil False Claims Act, as we have detailed in this space.

In keeping with this Buy American focus, GAO was commissioned to report on (A) the extent to which federal agencies procure non-domestic end products through the use of BAA exceptions and waivers, and (B) the ways in which the government’s largest buyers provide training and guidance to implement BAA requirements.  Although GAO found that only a relatively small percentage of goods purchased were foreign end products, GAO also found that this number could have been misstated due to reporting errors and system limitations.  Moreover, GAO found that the level of BAA training varied significantly among the agencies it canvassed.  GAO’s findings, which are discussed in greater detail below, offer a window into the government’s view of its own compliance with the BAA’s complex and often confusing regulatory scheme.

Continue Reading GAO Report Shows That Agencies Buy Only A Small Percentage of Non-American Goods, But Buy American Act Implementation Remains A Challenge

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

[This article was originally published in Law360.]

On July 21, 2017 – and during “Made in America Week” – President Trump issued Executive Order 13806 on “Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States” (the “Manufacturing EO”).  The Manufacturing EO sets forth a policy stressing the importance of having a “healthy” domestic “manufacturing and defense industrial base and resilient supply chains” to meet “national security” needs.  This policy comes on the heels of President Trump’s April 2017 “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order (the “Buy American EO”), which announced a policy and action plan to increase U.S. manufacturing capabilities by “maximiz[ing]” the Federal Government’s procurement of “goods, products, and materials produced in the United States.”

The Manufacturing EO calls for a sweeping review and assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the defense industrial base (“DIB”) and supply chains, and cites the need for the United States “to surge in response to an emergency.”  This review stems from the Administration’s stated conclusion that the “manufacturing capacity and defense industrial base of the United States have been weakened by the loss of factories and manufacturing jobs.”  Although a report on this review is not due until April 2018, the Manufacturing EO’s underlying policies and reporting requirements offer contractors an important glimpse into the Trump Administration “America First” vision and potential impacts on federal procurement.

Continue Reading Six Takeaways from President Trump’s Executive Order on Assessing Manufacturing and the Defense Industrial Base

In recognition of the decennial anniversary of the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“Civilian Board”), we set out to determine notable trends in Civilian Board practice. Among other things, we identified a recent marked increase in the number of published decisions containing substantial discussions of discovery issues – more than half of the 24 decisions we identified and reviewed were issued in or after 2014. Through the publication of these decisions, the Board has provided important guidance to practitioners who may face the same (or similar) discovery issues in the future. We believe that this trend toward publication should generally result in greater predictability of outcomes in discovery disputes, and therefore should facilitate the resolution of potential discovery disputes more efficiently.

Earlier this month we published an article about this very topic in the Board of Contract Appeals Bar Journal. In our article, we focused our analysis primarily on three interesting decisions that pit statutory requirements related to the disclosure/production of information – the Privacy Act, the Inspector General Act, and the Freedom of Information Act – against the bounds of permissible discovery at the Civilian Board. These three decisions should provide a relatively high degree of outcome predictability in similar cases because of the rigid statutory requirements at issue.

In addition to the link to a PDF of the article above, the full text of the article is available below. Continue Reading Predictability of Outcomes in Discovery Disputes at CBCA Improves During its First Ten Years

Earlier this month the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report titled “Department of Energy: Use of Leading Practices Could Help Manage the Risk of Fraud and Other Improper Payments” (GAO-17-235) (the “Report”).  As the title suggests, GAO assessed the Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) internal controls to manage “the risk of fraud and improper payments.”  GAO found that DOE had not employed certain “leading practices” to combat fraud – like creating a “dedicated entity to lead fraud risk management activities” and using “specific control activities, such as data analytics” – and offered six recommendations for improvement.  Although DOE disagreed with certain findings in the Report, the agency represented that it either already has implemented or is implementing the majority of GAO’s recommendations.  Here is our assessment of the Report.

Continue Reading GAO Recommends Improvements to DOE’s Fraud Controls; DOE Fires Back