DoD’s Long Awaited Rule on CMMC – Plus a New Cybersecurity Assessment Methodology for Contractors to Start Right Now

At long last, the Department of Defense (“DoD”) has provided its interim rule, published in the Federal Register on September 29, 2020, amending the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”) to set forth requirements for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (“CMMC”) program, as well as new requirements for a “NIST SP 800-171 DoD Assessment Methodology.”  The interim rule is effective November 30, 2020, and comments to the interim rule should be submitted by November 30 as well.  Continue reading for our breakdown of key provisions. Continue Reading

Proposed Changes to the Buy American Act Regulations Implementing Trump Executive Orders

On September 14, 2020, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council published the long anticipated proposed rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) in accordance with President Trump’s Executive Order 13881, “Maximizing Use of American-Made Goods, Products, and Materials.” As previously discussed here, the Executive Order, signed on July 15, 2019, required significant changes to the implementing regulations of the Buy American Act, 41 U.S.C. §§ 8301-8305, changing policies dating back nearly 70 years. Accordingly, the proposed rule seeks to increase both the domestic content requirements and the evaluation preferences provided by the FAR for domestically manufactured goods, particularly with regard to domestic content requirements for steel or iron end products and products made predominantly from iron or steel. Most significantly, however, the proposed rule will revive heightened restrictions for commercially available-off-the-shelf (“COTS”) products that are made predominantly of iron or steel, requiring both the end product and 95 percent of the component parts be domestically sourced in order to qualify under the rule. The COTS exception remains available for other end products (that are not made predominantly of iron or steel), but the proposed rule still will impose heightened obligations and vendors now need to scrutinize their supply chains even more closely, even for COTS items. The FAR Council is accepting comments through November 13, 2020. A final rule is likely by early-2021. Continue Reading

GSA’s Take on Implementation of Section 889

On September 10, 2020, the General Services Administration (“GSA”) hosted a webinar related to its implementation of Section 889 of the 2019 NDAA – the ban relating to certain Chinese telecom companies – and associated updated FAR clauses.  (We previously have written about Section 889 here, here, here, and here).  Below we provide highlights from the meeting.  Slides presented at the meeting also are available here. Continue Reading

Women-Owned Small Business Self-Certification Ends October 15, 2020 When SBA Begins Requiring Formal Government-Issued Or Third-Party Certifications for Awards

Beginning October 15, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”), implementing the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”), will begin requiring women-owned small businesses (“WOSBs”) and economically disadvantaged WOSBs (“EDWOSBs”) to undergo a formal certification process to be eligible under the Procurement Program for Women-Owned Small Business Concerns (the “Program”). Thus, WOSBs and EDWOSBs no longer will be allowed to self-certify that they meet the Program requirements to compete for set-aside or sole source contracts, as has been the case for the last few decades. Instead, WOSBs and EDWOSBs now must apply for a formal government-issued certification at https://beta.certify.sba.gov/, which includes creating an account and uploading the necessary paperwork to establish eligibility. 13 C.F.R. Subpart C (§§ 127.300 – 127.356). Continue Reading

IoT Legislation Advances in Congress

Congress recently advanced legislation that directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create standards and guidelines for securing Internet of Things (“IoT”) devices used by Federal agencies and their contractors. We previously reported on this legislation in April of 2019 when it was introduced in the House (H.R. 1668) and the Senate (S. 734). On September 14, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the legislation on a voice vote. Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Reverses SEC Disgorgement Award and Remands in First Decision Post-Liu

For the first time outside of the originating case itself, a federal appeals court was called upon to apply the principles governing disgorgement in SEC enforcement actions established by the United States Supreme Court’s high-profile decision in Liu v. Securities & Exchange Comm’n, No. 18-1501, 2020 WL 3405845 (U.S. June 22, 2020) (see our prior blog article here).  In Securities & Exchange Comm’n v. Yang, No. 19-55289, 2020 WL 4530630 (9th Cir. Aug. 6, 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed a district court order, issued eighteen months before the Supreme Court spoke in Liu, awarding the SEC disgorgement.  In an unpublished memorandum decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the disgorgement awards and remanded the case to the district court to explicitly determine whether the awards comported with the requirements for such relief under Liu.  The Yang decision drew attention because it served as an example of how the high court’s decision is impacting appellate review of disgorgement awards.  If Yang is any indication, courts of appeal will be remanding cases to district courts with instruction to reach specific findings regarding compliance with Liu’s disgorgement requirements. Continue Reading

“You Got To Know When To Protest” Part II: Federal Circuit Holds Blue & Gold Waiver Rule For Bid Protests Inapplicable When Pre-Award Objection Would Have Been “Futile”

In our previous blog article, we discussed the Federal Circuit’s decision in Inserso Corp. v. United States, 961 F.3d 1343 (Fed. Cir. 2020), in which a split panel held a protest cannot be brought in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) if, before the time of proposal submission, “the law and facts” made it reasonably known to the contractor that a procurement error was likely to occur under the terms of the solicitation.  We analogized the Inserso decision’s application of this waiver rule – known in government contracts law parlance as the Blue & Gold rule – as creating a kind of gambling transaction for government contractors, forcing them to predict what “law” and what “facts” can reasonably be known before proposal submission, lest they risk forfeiting any opportunity for challenging an erroneous procurement decision based on that “law” and those “facts.”  In our prior posting, we suggested that Inserso seems to advise offerors to adopt a fairly expansive approach in assessing whether the available “law and facts” merit the filing of an early protest.  To wait is to risk the dismissal of your protest; to file may result in otherwise avoidable legal fees and a dismissal of your protest as premature, but – in that event – you will still be “in the game.” Continue Reading

Government Small Business Contracting Continues to Increase: Creating Opportunities and Potential Pitfalls

The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) recently announced that the federal government exceeded its small business contracting goal by awarding $132.9 billion dollars in federal contracts – 26.5% of the government’s total procurement spending – to small businesses last fiscal year, with at least an additional $90.7 billion in subcontracts.  The SBA recently released statistics in its FY 2019 Small Business Procurement Scorecard, available here and here.  Also notable in these reports: (a) for only the second time ever the government met the 5% woman-owned small business goal; (b) the government met the service-disabled veteran-owned small business goal (3%, awarded 4.39%); and (c) the government also met the small disadvantaged business goal (5%, awarded 10.2%).  The government did not, however, meet the 3% HUBZone goal, coming in at 2.28%.  That said, small business contracting was up across all categories.  Here we provide a summary of the SBA’s findings, noting some of the potential opportunities available for small business contractors, while also highlighting some of the risks inherent in doing business with the U.S. government. Continue Reading

“Buy American” in the Twilight Zone: Executive Order Strengthening the U.S. Public Health Industrial Base

On August 6, 2020, President Trump signed the “Executive Order on Ensuring Essential Medicines, Medical Countermeasures, and Critical Inputs Are Made in the United States,” requiring, among other things, the U.S. government to purchase “essential” medicines and medical supplies produced domestically, rather than abroad. Citing a need to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign suppliers, the Order sets forth several new requirements aimed at establishing reliable, long-term domestic production of essential drugs and devices, including their component parts. To be clear, this is a tall order: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will need to assemble a list of critical supplies and medicines; agencies will need to assess ways to secure the supply chain for both equipment and medicines; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will need to consider how it can accelerate domestic manufacturing requests; the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the Department of Defense (DOD) will need to re-negotiate the terms of international agreements; the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may (or may not) be exempted; and – lest it go without saying – everyone will have to update their regulations. While this “Buy American” requirement seems to take effect as soon as the FDA issues its list of critical materials, the Order may leave intact (at least temporarily) some exceptions, which may allow companies time to examine and adjust their supply chains. Over the longer term, most required agency actions are ordered to be realized within 90-180 days, but the inevitable regulatory updates will lag (far?) behind. For now, we find ourselves in a bit of a Twilight Zone – “the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and … between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge” – forced to guess which parts of this new Order are real and immediate, and which will leave us stuck in a “darker dimension.” Continue Reading

FINRA Settlement Highlights Importance of Anti-Money Laundering Due Diligence and Monitoring

A recent enforcement action offers a glimpse of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (“FINRA”) expectations for firms conducting anti-money laundering (“AML”) due diligence and transaction monitoring.  On July 27, 2020, FINRA settled with broker-dealer JKR & Company (“JKR”) over allegations that the firm failed to detect, investigate, and report suspicious activity in four customer accounts in violation of FINRA Rules 3310(a) and 2010.  JKR agreed to a $50,000 fine and a censure to resolve the matter.  The settlement is notable in that FINRA applied transaction monitoring and due diligence expectations common in the banking industry to a broker-dealer.  It also serves as a reminder that FINRA expects member firms to not only establish written AML policies and procedures, but also to put their AML programs into practice in order to meet their regulatory obligations. Continue Reading

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