GAO

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

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

Many government contractors are part of corporate families consisting of multiple corporate entities.  One entity may be named as the official contracting party, but use the resources of affiliates, parents, or subsidiaries during performance.  The distinction between those members of the corporate family may not seem important in terms of day-to-day operations — in fact, the synergy and seamlessness between the corporate entities may be a selling point.  Two recent GAO decisions make clear, however, that when it comes to bidding on government work, it is important to precisely identify which corporate entity is going to do what and which corporate entity has which resources.

In BDO USA, LLP and Intermarkets Global USA, LLC, GAO’s decisions turned on a perceived misidentification of corporate entities at some point in the procurement process.  In BDO, the problem occurred during bid submission.  In Intermarkets, the problem occurred when the protest was filed.Continue Reading Still Just A Rat In A CAGE: Recent GAO Decisions Underscore the Need for Precision in Identifying Corporate Entities During the Procurement Process

Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a bid protest decision regarding the application of Buy American Act (BAA) requirements to a solicitation for construction.  In this decision, GAO rejected the agency’s determination that an offeror’s bid was nonresponsive because the offeror failed to provide certain required information for the evaluation of a potential BAA exception.  A summary of the decision and our takeaways are below.
Continue Reading Pragmatism Wins the Day in GAO Buy American Protest

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

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

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

On April 2, 2018, GAO issued a final rule revising its existing regulations to implement a number of changes to its bid protest process.  The new rule becomes effective on May 1, 2018.

Several of these changes implement requirements in Section 1501 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2014 (“Act”), which directed GAO to institute an electronic filing system and authorized GAO to charge a filing fee to cover the cost of that electronic filing system.  But the revisions are not limited to those two issues.

Here are the highlights:Continue Reading GAO Debuts New Protest Procedures Effective May 1, 2018

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

On Monday, GAO issued its Bid Protest Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2017.  Most notably, the effectiveness rate hit 47%.  The effectiveness rate looks at all cases filed, and measures the percentage of cases in which a protester obtains some relief, whether through a sustain by GAO or voluntary corrective action by the agency.

That’s right:  Protesters obtained relief in almost half of all protests last year.  And this year’s 47% effectiveness rate is a new all-time high — continuing a steady upward march over the past several years.  When GAO began measuring the sustain rate in 2001, it was just 33%.  By 2008, it had risen to 42%.  It then held pretty steady through 2012, but has been rising since:Continue Reading GAO’s Annual Report: Protests Are Down, But Their Effectiveness Is Up