[This article was originally published in Law360.]

Amidst the whirlwind of M&A activity in the government contracts industry, a recent bid protest decision from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlights the importance of proper planning to protect prime contract proposals during M&A and other corporate transactions.  Last month, GAO denied a protest from ICI Services Corporation (ICI), which challenged the U.S. Navy’s decision to award a task order to Serco, Inc. (Serco) under the SeaPort Next Generation (SeaPort-NxG) vehicle.  Although ICI raised a “multitude of challenges,” GAO focused on what it considered the gravamen of ICI’s protest — that Serco was ineligible for award because it allegedly was not a complete successor-in-interest to the Naval Systems Business Unit (NSBU) of Alion Science and Technology Corporation (Alion).  Serco had acquired the NSBU from Alion in July 2019, and has been operating the NSBU in the several months since then.

For years, contractors have faced an amalgamation of protest decisions assessing the impact of transactions on proposals for new prime contracts.  The recent ICI decision provides some additional guidance and, more importantly, underscores GAO’s stated intent that its decisions not frustrate pending proposals merely because a corporate transaction has taken place or is expected to take place, but instead ensure that the procuring agency has reasonably considered the impact of the transaction and concluded that the resulting contract will be performed in materially the same way as described in the proposal.  In the absence clear guidance in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) on the treatment of bids in connection with a corporate transaction, GAO’s decision in ICI offers some clarity for contractors and a framework for agencies when assessing the impact of a transaction.  Although every transaction and proposal is unique, the ICI decision highlights some key considerations for contractors.
Continue Reading Buying a Business Without Losing the Pipeline: Further Guidance for Protecting Proposals

Federal civilian agencies will now face new restrictions on when and how they can use Lowest Price Technically Acceptable source selection procedures. A new rule in the Federal Acquisition Regulation is the latest in a series of measures aimed at regulating the use of LPTA source selection procedures. The new rule implements an October 2019 proposed rule and takes effect on February 16, 2021.
Continue Reading New FAR Rule Continues Shake-Up of LPTA Procurements

Although it is usually good news for a protester when an agency takes corrective action, the corrective action sometimes fails to adequately address the protest grounds.  When this occurs, a protester may wish to file a new protest challenging the agency’s corrective action.  The question of when to file a corrective action challenge is often tricky, however — and a misstep can result in dismissal.  GAO recently clarified that timing in Computer World Services Corporation.

Continue Reading GAO Clarifies Timing for Corrective Action Protests

It’s a big deal in the government contracts community whenever the Federal Circuit weighs in on a bid protest.  And it is a particularly big deal when the Federal Circuit issues a split opinion in a bid protest.  That’s what happened last week in Inserso Corporation v. United States (No. 2019-1933), where the Federal Circuit issued a split opinion denying a protest as waived under Blue & Gold.

Continue Reading Federal Circuit Splits on Blue & Gold Question in Inserso

As previously discussed on this blog, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 and the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018 imposed new limitations on when the Department of Defense can use Lowest Price Technically Acceptable source selection methods.  Just last month, the Department of Defense issued a final rule amending the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement to implement those provisions.  Now, in Inserso Corp., B-417791, B-417791.3, Nov. 4, 2019, GAO has weighed in on what counts as LPTA for purposes of those restrictions.  This decision may indicate a potentially significant limitation on the reach of the NDAA provisions, new DFARS rule, and proposed FAR rule.

Continue Reading What Is Lowest Priced Technically Acceptable? GAO Clarifies Reach of New LPTA Restrictions

On October 2, 2019, the Department of Defense, General Services Administration, and NASA issued a proposed rule that would amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation to establish new restrictions on when and under what circumstances civilian agencies may employ Lowest Price Technically Acceptable source selection procedures.  The proposed rule would implement Section 880 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, and follows hot on the heels of DoD’s final rule making similar — but not identical — amendments to the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement.  (See our recent blog post on the new DFARS rule.)

Continue Reading Lowest Priced Technically Acceptable Procurements Are Less and Less Acceptable: Proposed FAR Rule Further Continues Shake-Up of LPTA Procurements

The House of Representatives passed its version of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) last week.  The headline story was the remarkably close, party-line vote: in contrast to past years, the bill received no Republican votes, and eight Democratic Members voted against it.

Those partisan dynamics obscured the inclusion of two important amendments – one Republican and one Democratic – regarding bid protest policy that the House quietly adopted in its bill.  The provisions are not yet law, since the House and Senate must still resolve differences in their respective NDAAs through the conference process.  In this post, we summarize these provisions and encourage government contractors to watch them closely in the coming months.
Continue Reading House and Senate Will Debate Bid Protest Policy

Organizational conflicts of interest (OCIs) are perpetually thorny issues in federal procurement that contracting officers are required to identify and evaluate “as early in the acquisition process as possible.”[1] Although the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified several OCI categories,[2] two recent decisions highlight so-called impaired objectivity OCIs, which arise when a contractor’s ability to provide objective advice or recommendations to the government will be undermined by competing interests. The two decisions serve as an important reminder of what does — and does not — qualify as meaningful consideration by the contracting officer in such situations, and how prospective contractors can assist in identifying and mitigating such OCIs.

Continue Reading A Tale of Two Protests: Recent GAO Decisions Highlight Impaired Objectivity OCIs

(This article was originally published in Law360 and has been modified for this blog.)

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a bid protest decision regarding the application of the Berry Amendment’s domestic sourcing requirement to a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) solicitation for leather combat gloves with touchscreen capability.  In that decision, the GAO found that the nonavailability exception to the Berry Amendment applied to the glove’s kidskin leather even though the agency determined, through market research, that this type of leather was available domestically.  Importantly, this decision provides an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the nuances associated with the Berry Amendment’s nonavailability exception and to reflect upon the complex regulatory landscape of domestic sourcing requirements.


Continue Reading Domestic Sourcing Requirement Doesn’t Fit DOD’s Gloves

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.

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