House Armed Services Committee Takes Aim at GSA with Proposed Legislation

On May 18, 2017, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry introduced H.R. 2511, titled “The Defense Acquisition Streamlining and Transparency Act.” The bill drastically would change how commercial off-the-shelf (“COTS”) products are acquired by the Department of Defense, and could signal the end of the line for the GSA Schedules program. This bill aims to create a more streamlined COTS procurement system. To achieve this goal, the proposed legislation ignores longstanding procurement principles, statutes, and regulations – and even contravenes several stated positions of the Trump administration – to provide an alternative to the General Services Administration (“GSA”) Schedules program the drafters clearly believe is too burdensome, inefficient, and costly. Continue Reading

UPDATE: Congress and Trump Administration Repeal “Blacklisting” Rule, Relieving Contractors from Strict Labor Reporting and Other Requirements

On March 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law a Congressional Review Act (“CRA”) resolution repealing the so-called “blacklisting” rule, which would have imposed strict labor reporting and other requirements upon government contractors. This was followed by an Executive Order (“EO”) signed by President Trump the same day, effectively nullifying President Barack Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces EO that first called for the blacklisting rule. Continue Reading

Financial Regulators Take Note: The Supreme Court’s Newest Member is a Tough Taskmaster

On April 10, 2017, Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as the Supreme Court’s 113th justice. While his experience on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals with cases involving financial regulation may be limited, certain of his decisions reflect an identifiable hostility towards executive agencies that, in his view, act in excess of the powers accorded them by statutory and constitutional law. These decisions suggest that the High Court’s newest justice will keep a close eye on how financial regulators go about their business. Continue Reading

Defense Contractors to Face New Cost Accounting Oversight with Creation of Defense Cost Accounting Standards Board

Section 820 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (“NDAA”) establishes a new Defense Cost Accounting Standards Board (“D-CASB”) to oversee the application of the Cost Accounting Standards (“CAS”) to defense contracts. The amendments made by Section 820 shall take effect on October 1, 2018. Continue Reading

FINRA Updates Its Sanction Guidelines

Earlier this month, FINRA announced changes to its Sanction Guidelines through Notice to Members 17-13. FINRA’s Sanction Guidelines are used by FINRA disciplinary hearing panels to decide what, if any, sanctions to impose in those enforcement actions in which a rule violation is found. FINRA enforcement staff and members of the defense bar utilize the guidelines in settlement negotiations. Continue Reading

Buy American and Hire American – New Executive Order Promises to Put American Workers First, But Practical Impacts Remain Unclear

On April 18, President Trump signed a new executive order (EO) at a ceremony in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The EO is entitled “Buy American and Hire American” and focuses on these two themes, with the President’s stated goal of ending the “theft of American prosperity” by focusing on American workers and products. While the details of how the new EO will be applied will undoubtedly take months to implement (pending numerous agency-level reviews), companies doing business with the federal government, or with an interest in foreign high-skill workers, should be aware of these new developments so that they can prepare for the adjustments they will need to make in the near future, as the President’s efforts to put American workers first take shape. Continue Reading

Achieving Cyber-Fitness In 2017: Part 2—Looking Beyond The FAR And DFARS— Other Safeguarding And Reporting Requirements

Reprinted from The Government Contractor, with permission of Thomson Reuters. Copyright © 2017. Further use without the permission of West is prohibited. For further information about this publication, please visit http://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com, or call 800.328.9352.

In Part 1, we discussed the cybersecurity requirements applicable to federal contract information under Federal Acquisition Regulation 52.204-21(b)(1) and covered defense information (CDI) under Defense FAR Supplement 252.204-7012, which requires contractor compliance by December 31. See 59 GC ¶ 25. In Part 2, we examine other safeguarding and reporting requirements for unclassified information, including agency-specific regulations, of which Government contractors should be aware. Many of these requirements have been in place for years, and your company may already have plans and processes for compliance. However, it is worth reexamining these requirements and considering the data and systems they affect, as well as how security may be improved when planning for compliance with the DFARS rule by December 31.

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Defense Contracting Innovation in State of Flux

Note:  This post was originally published in the April 2017 issue of the National Defense Industrial Association’s National Defense magazine.

Over the last few years, both the Department of Defense and Congress have been pursuing innovation in defense-related technologies, processes or methods — including research and development — from a variety of sources and through a variety of procurement techniques and strategies.

In the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by then-President Barack Obama December 23, Congress continued its expansion of acquisition authorities designed to promote contracting for defense innovation.

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GAO Declines to Apply GAO Civilian Task and Delivery Order Protest Authority Act Retroactively to Lapse in Jurisdiction

In two recent opinions, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) has declined to reconsider protests it dismissed during the recent lapse in its jurisdiction over protests of civilian agency task and delivery orders valued at more than $10 million under multiple-award IDIQ contracts.  In a third opinion, GAO dismissed a protest filed for the first time following reinstatement of that jurisdiction, when the protestor received its debriefing during GAO’s jurisdictional lapse.  The GAO’s lapse in jurisdiction, which did not impact military agency task orders or Federal Supply Schedule task orders, began October 1, 2016, when a sunset provision established by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 took effect, and ended December 14, 2016, when President Obama signed the GAO Civilian Task and Delivery Order Protest Authority Act (the “Act”) into law, removing that sunset provision. Several disappointed offerors have since attempted to have their protests heard or reconsidered based on the change in law, each unsuccessfully. Continue Reading

What’s Past is Prologue: How The FCA’s Eventful Year in 2016 Will Affect Government Contractors

2016 was a big year for the False Claims Act (FCA).  Total government recoveries were up; total new matters filed were up; and total new government-led FCA matters were up.  The Supreme Court issued multiple decisions relating to the FCA, including one—Universal Health Services, Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016)—which will have dramatic ramifications for litigation relating to the FCA’s materiality standard.  The Supreme Court also denied certiorari in an important FCA case—U.S. ex rel. Purcell v. MWI, Inc., 807 F.3d 281 (D.C. Cir. 2015), reh’g en banc denied, cert. denied, 580 U.S. ___ (2017)[1]—in which the D.C. Circuit held that when a defendant adopts an objectively reasonable or plausible interpretation of an ambiguous regulatory term and the agency has not warned the defendant away from its interpretation via authoritative guidance, the FCA’s scienter element cannot be established.  (Note: We previously covered the Purcell decision on our FCA blog.  You can view our article, here.)  Although some of these developments may seem concerning, there is plenty of silver lining here for government contractors.

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