On September 9, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) to implement COVID safety protocols for Federal service contractors. While the EO did not identify specific safety protocols, it did direct a Federal task force (the “Safer Federal Workforce Task Force,” created by Executive Order in January 2021) to issue COVID-19-related workplace safety guidance for prime contractors and subcontractors in the near future. Specifically, the Task Force is charged with issuing contractor guidance by September 24, 2021, including definitions of relevant terms, specific workplace safety protocols, and applicable exceptions.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Oversight and Enforcement: President Biden’s COVID Executive Order

The Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) released its draft Federal Zero Trust Strategy under President Biden’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity (No. 14028) (discussed previously here and
Continue Reading Moving to Zero Trust – CISA and OMB Seek Comments on Zero Trust Publications and Cloud Security Technical Reference Architecture under Cybersecurity Executive Order

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”) is seeking comments on its draft NIST SP 800-160, Volume 2, Revision 1, “Developing Cyber-Resilient Systems: A Systems Security Engineering Approach,” and draft NIST SP 800-53A, Revision 5, “Assessing Security and Privacy Controls in Information Systems and Organizations.” The public comment periods currently are open and conclude on September 20, 2021 and October 1, 2021, respectively.

Continue Reading Double Time – NIST Seeks Comments on Major Revision to Practices for Developing Cyber-Resilient Systems (SP 800-160) and Assessing Security and Privacy Controls in Information Systems and Organizations (SP 800-53A)

The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) recently announced that, yet again, the federal government exceeded its small business contracting goal by awarding $145.7 billion dollars in federal prime contracts – 26.01% of the government’s total procurement spending – to small businesses last year, with at least an additional $82.8 billion in small business subcontracts. The SBA released statistics in its FY 2020 Small Business Procurement Scorecard, available here. Notably, while small business contracting increased $13 billion in prime contracts, small business subcontracting may have decreased by an estimated $7.9 billion. Other Scorecard highlights include that the U.S. government exceeded the service-disabled veteran-owned small business goal of 3% and far-exceeded the small disadvantaged business goal of 5%. The government failed, however, to meet the women-owned small business goal of 5% and the HUBZone goal of 3%.

Continue Reading Small Business Federal Government Contracting Dollars Continue to Increase

Change is in the air for the Buy American Act (“BAA”). On July 30, 2021, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council published a proposed rule to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) to implement President Biden’s Executive Order 14005, on “Ensuring the Future is Made in America by All of America’s Workers,” which seeks to further strengthen U.S. Buy American laws and further encourage domestic procurement (previously discussed here). A public meeting to discuss the proposed rule is scheduled for August 26, 2021, and comments will be due September 28, 2021. This blog article summarizes the new BAA proposed rule, offering a primer in advance of the public meeting next week and the public comment deadline next month. Yes, folks – change is in the air. Fasten your seatbelts; we may encounter some turbulence ahead.

Continue Reading Fasten Your Seatbelts – Proposed Rule Implementing Biden’s “Buy American” Mandates

On July 30, 2021, the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (“SIGPR”), Brian D. Miller, submitted his quarterly report to Congress.  SIGPR was created as an independent watchdog of the Department of the Treasury under the CARES Act.  It is tasked with investigating fraud and abuse of federal stimulus funds in response to COVID-19, and works in collaboration with law enforcement and U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country.  These investigative efforts have resulted in civil and criminal enforcement actions against recipients of federal funding throughout the country, and such enforcement action investigations are sure to continue.  The quarterly report showed that the federal government has been active in investigating fraud and abuse related to stimulus funds, and its call for additional funding signals an increase in future enforcement against recipients of federal stimulus funds.

Continue Reading The Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery Calls For Increased Funding and Expanded Jurisdiction In Its Quarterly Report To Congress

On August 5, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that a French banker may seek dismissal of an indictment  without having to physically appear in the United States.  The decision limits the application of the “fugitive disentitlement” doctrine – which has long prevented foreign nationals from challenging criminal prosecutions without appearing in the United States to do so.

Continue Reading The Second Circuit Court of Appeals Finds That French Banker Need Not Travel to the United States to Seek Dismissal of Her Indictment

In Securities & Exchange Comm’n v. Fowler, No. 20-1081, 2021 WL 3083655 (2d Cir. July 22, 2021), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a lower court judgment awarding the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) civil penalties, disgorgement, and injunctive relief in a securities fraud action against a broker engaged in unsuitable and unauthorized high-frequency trading.  The district court entered its judgment following a jury trial finding the defendant guilty of violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, and Sections 17(a)(1), 17(a)(2), and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933.  On appeal, defendant asserted that the action was subject to a five-year statute of limitations imposed by 28 U.S.C. § 2462 despite the parties having entered into tolling agreements.  Defendant also argued that the civil penalties assessed against him were excessive, and the disgorgement award failed to properly account for legitimate business expenses as required by Liu v. Securities & Exchange Comm’n, 140 S. Ct. 1936 (2020).  After reviewing its text and legislative history, the Second Circuit concluded in this matter of first impression that § 2462 is non-jurisdictional and, therefore, the district court had the power to hear the case in light of the parties’ tolling agreements.  The decision is important because it reaffirms the enforceability of tolling agreements between the SEC and its investigative quarries.  The court also rejected defendant’s arguments alleging improper civil penalty and disgorgement calculations.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Upholds Enforceability of SEC Tolling Agreements

The FedRAMP Program Management Office is seeking comments on its draft FedRAMP Authorization Boundary Guidance, Version 2.0, released on July 13, 2021. The public comment period currently is open and closes on September 13, 2021.

Continue Reading Watch Your Boundaries – FedRAMP Releases Draft Authorization Boundary Guidance for Public Comment

Many small businesses learn the hard way that a “bid protest” and a “size protest” differ in much more than name only. Whereas generally a “bid protest” challenges agency action taken in connection with a procurement and can be timely brought at the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) or in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) after award, a “size protest” challenges an offeror’s eligibility as “small” for a small business set-aside and must be filed with the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) within 5 days of contract award; otherwise, a disappointed offeror will forfeit its right to challenge the awardee’s size. While this consequential distinction may seem clear in a vacuum, a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“Federal Circuit”) demonstrates that distinguishing between a “bid protest” and a “size protest” may not always be so easy. Instead, the Federal Circuit’s decision leaves open the possibility that even when a timely size protest was not filed with the SBA, a disappointed offeror still may be able to challenge the contracting officer’s failure to refer an awardee of a small business set-aside to the SBA for a size status determination by filing a bid protest at the COFC.


Continue Reading “What’s In A Name?”: Federal Circuit Holds Claims Court Blurred Distinction Between ‘Size Protests’ And ‘Bid Protests’ In Dismissal For Failure To Exhaust Administrative Remedies

As called for in the May 12, 2021 Cybersecurity Executive Order (“EO”) released by the Biden Administration (discussed here), NIST met its deadline to release a definition of “critical software” within 45 days of the date of the Order.  The determination of what constitutes “critical software” is a key step in the process set forth in the Order for securing the software supply chain, which will culminate sometime next year in new Federal Acquisition Regulations for contractors that supply software.

Continue Reading Right on Time – NIST Releases Definition of “Critical Software” Per Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order