It has been noted, the more things change, the more they stay the same. In the world of Government Contracts Law, however, the more things change, the more the phone rings. And while we’re only a few weeks into 2013, the phone has been ringing off the hook. Here are a few of the reasons why.Continue Reading...
By: Anne B. Perry
On November 21, 2011, GAO issued a rather surprising decision in which it overturned an agency's determination that an appearance of impropriety justified the termination of a contract award. Specifically, in VSE Corp., B-404833, November 21, 2011, GAO rejected the Contracting Officer's determination that VSE's use of the former government Deputy Project Manager (“DPM”) as a consultant to assist VSE in preparing its proposal created an appearance of impropriety that so tainted the procurement as to justify the termination of the contract.
By: Townsend Bourne
In a bid protest decision regarding the propriety of agency corrective action, GAO recently carved out a new exception to its general rule that those who do not participate in a protest that engenders corrective action are not interested parties to challenge the corrective action. In North Wind, Inc.; Earth Resources Technology, Inc., B-404880.4 et al., 2011 CPD ¶ 246 (Comp. Gen. Nov. 4, 2011), North Wind, Inc. (“North Wind”) protested NASA’s initial award of a contract to Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc. (“Navarro”) and subsequently raised additional challenges to the award in a supplemental protest that followed receipt of documents from the Agency. In response to North Wind’s supplemental protest, NASA decided to take corrective action. Earth Resources Technology, Inc. (“ERT”), another disappointed offeror in the competition, did not initially file its own protest challenging the award to Navarro.
By Marko W. Kipa
The saga began with the passage of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. While the Act contained a general prohibition barring bid protests of task and delivery order awards (excluding challenges to scope, period, or maximum value), it granted the GAO exclusive jurisdiction over bid protests of civilian and defense agency task and delivery order awards valued at over $10 million. The Act also included a sunset date – May 27, 2011. The reach of the Act’s sunset provision would prove to be critical in shaping the GAO’s and the Court of Federal Claims’ jurisdiction over bid protests of civilian agency task and delivery order awards.
Your company submitted a proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) to provide widgets and related services. The opportunity had corporate visibility and was critical to your sector’s bottom line. After several agonizing months of waiting for an award decision, you learn that the FAA made an award to your competitor. You immediately accept the first debriefing date offered by the Agency. As that date approaches, you begin to strategize and weigh your options – should you file the bid protest at the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) or the Court of Federal Claims? The answer – neither. When the FAA makes an award, any protest must be filed with the Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition – otherwise known as ODRA. There are several similarities and differences between, on the one hand, the GAO and the Court of Federal Claims, and, on the other hand, ODRA.
By Townsend L. Bourne
In Systems Application & Technologies, Inc. v. United States, No. 11-280C (Fed. Cl. August 25, 2011), the Court of Federal Claims addressed an “issue of first impression” – whether the court can review an email message from a Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) attorney in the same way that it reviews a formal GAO decision. In this instance, the court determined that the answer was “Yes.”
The GAO Holds It Possesses Jurisdiction Over Bid Protests of Civilian Agency Task and Delivery Order Awards
By Marko W. Kipa
Many believed that the Government Accountability Office’s (“GAO’s”) jurisdiction over bid protests of civilian agency task and delivery order awards valued at over $10 million expired on May 27, 2011. This belief was based on the fact that certain broadened jurisdiction over civilian agency task and delivery order protests granted by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (“2008 Act”) expired on that date. With the expiration of the broadened jurisdictional grant found in the 2008 Act, many thus contended that a contractor would not be able to protest a civilian agency task or delivery order award at the GAO unless the protest alleged that the order exceeded the scope, period or maximum value of the underlying contract. Protests of Department of Defense task and delivery order awards valued at over $10 million were not similarly affected because Congress extended the GAO’s exclusive, broadened jurisdiction over these protests through the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act.
By Marko W. Kipa
Over the past three years, government contractors have been able to pursue bid protests at the Government Accountability Office (the “GAO”) challenging awards of defense and civilian task and delivery orders valued at over $10 million. This expanded jurisdiction, however, is set to expire on May 27, 2011. Congress appeared to have addressed the issue in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (the “Act”) by including a provision extending the GAO’s expanded jurisdiction until September 30, 2016, but, for whatever reason, the Act captured only defense task and delivery order awards. This omission not only was strange, but it also seemed to run counter to the spirit of the original grant of task/delivery order jurisdiction. We analyzed the Act’s legislative history here and concluded that it did not provide a basis for only partially extending the GAO’s expanded jurisdiction. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. House of Representatives (the “House”) and the U.S. Senate (the “Senate”) introduced bills targeted at extending the GAO’s jurisdiction over civilian task and delivery order bid protests. See H.R. 899; see also S. 498.
By Marko W. Kipa
With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (the “2008 Act”), Congress expanded the GAO’s jurisdiction to include bid protests in connection with civilian and defense contract task and delivery orders valued at over $10 million. See Section 843 of the 2008 Act, Pub. L. No. 110-181. Congress also included a sunset provision in the 2008 Act that limited that grant of expanded jurisdiction to 3 years – i.e., until May 27, 2011. See id. We previously discussed Section 843 of the 2008 Act and its implications here, here, and here.
By Marko W. Kipa
After an unsuccessful bid protest, many contractors assume that their chance at getting a piece of the action has passed. They assume that they have exhausted their remedies and that all of the spoils inevitably will go to the victor. They let bygones be bygones and move-on to the next capture opportunity and ignore their competitor’s performance under the awarded contract.
By Keith R. Szeliga, Marko W. Kipa and Jessica M. Madon
The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) is authorized to hear pre-award and post-award bid protest cases. While protests often focus on post-award challenges to an agency’s evaluation, there are many meritorious protest grounds that must be raised, if at all, prior to the closing date for receipt for proposals.
The Dangers Of Courtship: Organizational Conflicts Of Interest Arising From Contemplated Corporate Transactions
By Keith R. Szeliga
As the economy begins to recover, the number of corporate transactions between Government contractors no doubt will increase. If your company is positioned as a potential acquirer or a potential target, you should be aware of a recent Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) decision holding that entering into negotiations for a corporate transaction can give rise to an organizational conflict of interest (“OCI”) well before, and potentially whether or not, the transaction actually occurs. See McCarthy/Hunt, JV, B-402229, Feb. 16, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 69.
By Marko W. Kipa
On March 19, 2009, the FAR Councils issued a final rule providing for enhanced competition for task and delivery order contracts. See 75 Fed. Reg. 13416 (Mar. 19, 2009). The final rule was the culmination of a rulemaking process that surfaced in Section 843 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-181 (the "Act"), which went into effect on May 27, 2008. Subsequently, on September 17, 2008, the FAR Councils issued an interim rule with request for comments. See 73 Fed. Reg. 54008 (Sept. 17, 2008). The interim rule essentially mirrored Section 843 of the Act. Comments on the interim rule were submitted by industry and government representatives on November 17, 2008.
GAO's Bid Protest Annual Report to the Congress for Fiscal Year 2009 - Another Busy Year for GAO, Another Good Year for Protestors
On January 8, 2010, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) submitted its Bid Protest Annual Report to the Congress for Fiscal Year 2009. Overall, the Report reflects that FY 2009 was a busier year for GAO, and a more successful year for protestors, than FY 2008.
The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) is a stickler when it comes to the timing of bid protests. One misstep – even if that misstep causes you to miss a deadline by only seconds – and you could find yourself out on the proverbial curb. GAO has a saying when it comes to the timing of its bid protests: “Late is late.” And GAO means it.
The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act's bid protest bar precluded contractors from challenging the award of a task or delivery order, subject to several limited exceptions -- i.e., if the task or delivery order increased the scope, period or maximum value of the underlying IDIQ contract. Recent amendments to the Act expanded GAO's bid protest jurisdiction to include challenges to task or delivery order awards valued at over $10 million. These amendments also provided for enhanced competition procedures for task or delivery order awards valued in excess of $5 million, but did not vest GAO or the Court of Federal Claims with jurisdiction to entertain bid protests based on alleged violations of those procedures. Thus, contractors seeking redress for agency errors in connection with the award of task or delivery orders valued at under $10 million were for the most part "out of luck."
As the closing time for receipt of proposals approaches, controlled chaos starts to take over. For one reason or another, changes may be made to your Company's proposal that prevent it from putting its best foot forward. You are certain that the proposal meets the Solicitation requirements, but you also believe that one section of the proposal could have been better developed. While you would have liked further to have revised the proposal, you were forced to make sacrifices due to time constraints. You nevertheless were hopeful that the shortcomings would be addressed during discussions and in your final proposal revision (FPR). After several hectic days of red team review, your Company's proposal is submitted to the agency in the nick of time.
Contractors engaged in procurements under the Foreign Military Sales ("FMS") program can breathe a little easier after a Government Accountability Office ("GAO") ruling on November 5, 2009, in which the GAO denied the U.S. Army Material Command's ("Army's") assertion that a contractor is not entitled to reimbursement for its protest costs associated with an FMS procurement protest. In Alsalam Aircraft Company, B-401298.3, the GAO found that FMS trust funds have the "character of appropriated funds" and that the Arms Export Control Act, which authorizes the FMS program, allows for use of appropriated funds in an FMS procurement and provides for recovery of protest costs from the FMS customer.
GAO Rejects "Aggregate" Valuation Method for Determining Qualification Under the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act
In Caddell Constr. Co., Inc., B-401596, et al, Sept. 21, 2009, the GAO sustained a protest against the pre-qualification of a vendor on the grounds that the Department of State’s (DOS) determination that the vendor satisfied the qualification requirements of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986 (Security Act) was unreasonable. The GAO recommended that the DOS withdraw the pre-qualification, concluding that the vendor did not have the necessary experience required by the Security Act. This recommendation rejected the DOS’s method of aggregating dollar values to determine an offeror’s qualification under the statute.
The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) denies more than three quarters of all bid protests decided on the merits. Certain categories of protests, however, tend to be more successful than others.
Three of our Government Contracts lawyers – Keith Szeliga, Marko Kipa, and Daniel Marcinak – recently published an article that assists protestors in identifying such allegations. Among other things, the article analyzes the most common categories of successful bid protest grounds and describes the circumstances under which each ground is likely to prevail. With permission of Briefing Papers, the article is reproduced in full in this issue of our blog.
Click here to view a PDF copy of the article.
Keith R. Szeliga
Marko W. Kipa
Daniel J. Marcinak
On September 17, 2008, the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council issued interim rules providing for enhanced competition for task and delivery order contracts. The interim rules essentially mirrored Section 843 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 (the Act), which went into effect on May 27, 2008, and revised three provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR 16.503 – 16.505) to incorporate the Act’s enhanced competition requirements. See 73 Fed. Reg. 54008 (Sept. 17, 2008). As was discussed in an earlier blog article with respect to the interim rules when they were initially proposed, the rules targeted three primary areas:Continue Reading...
Determining whether to challenge the award of a contract to a competitor can be a daunting decision for a federal government contractor. This article seeks to make that decision more manageable by providing an overview of the bid protest process and by suggesting several factors a contractor should consider in determining whether to protest an award.[i]
[i] For a more detailed discussion of the GAO bid protest process, see U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2006). Bid Protests at GAO: A Descriptive Guide. (Publication No. GAO-06-797SP).
With the enactment of the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) in 1994, Multiple Award task and delivery order contracts were given a significant boost. As part of that legislation came an almost ironclad bar to bid protests against the award of individual task or delivery orders. Disappointed offerors were prohibited from protesting the award of task or delivery orders except if such orders increased the scope, period, or maximum value of the underlying contract. Several exceptions subsequently were carved-out from the general prohibition, including protests of “down-selections” as well as task and delivery orders awarded under the GSA FSS program. Otherwise, however, disappointed offerors could either air their grievances with the agency ombudsman (an individual who possesses no binding authority) or could take the road seldom traveled and file a CDA claim with the contracting officer alleging a breach of the "fair opportunity to compete" required by FASA, implementing regulations, and contract clauses. Only recently was there any indication that damages could be awarded under the latter approach and, as expected, the standard for recovery is a difficult one for any contractor to meet. The circumscribed recourse available to disappointed task or delivery order offerors did not occur by happenstance – it was the result of deliberate efforts by reformers to streamline the acquisition process and to avoid the delays and increased costs they attributed to the numerous, routine and purportedly needless protests encumbering the procurement system.
It is well-recognized that, with limited exceptions, neither the GAO nor the Court of Federal Claims has been willing, historically, to assume jurisdiction over IDIQ task or delivery order protests. Recently, there has been some loosening of that bar, in the form of Public Law No. 110-181, § 843, which grants the GAO exclusive jurisdiction for a period of three years over protests against task or delivery order awards valued at more than $10 million. Even with that legislative development, however, there are many task orders and/or delivery orders that will jurisdictionally escape review via the protest process.Continue Reading...
On April 23, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3033, "Contractors and Federal Spending Accountability Act," agreeing by voice vote that GSA would maintain a centralized database of government contractors. The GSA database would collect information on contract defaults, suspensions, and debarments, as well as "any civil or criminal proceeding, or any administrative proceeding" for which a contractor paid at least $5,000 in restitution, that has been "concluded" by the federal or state governments. If a contractor committed in a three-year period more than one offense for which it could be debarred, the contracting officer must affirmatively demonstrate the contractor's responsibility prior to award.Continue Reading...
Disappointed bidders intent on protesting an allegedly improper contract award could pursue traditionally two avenues of potential relief. They could file a post-award bid protest either: (1) at the Government Accountability Office ("GAO") within 10 days of when they learned of the protest grounds (or, where competitive proposals were involved, within 10 days of the requested and required debriefing), or (2) at the United States Court of Federal Claims ("Court of Federal Claims" or "COFC"), constrained primarily by the Court’s 6-year statute of limitations. While disappointed bidders may retain ultimately the discretion to choose the forum of their choice, protests at the Court of Federal Claims outside of the 10-day period after contract award (or after a requested and required debriefing) are in danger of becoming an artifact of the past. This potential change to the post-award bid protest jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims is one that every contractor should be watching closely.Continue Reading...