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Emily Theriault is an associate in the Government Contracts, Investigations and International Trade Practice Group in the firm's Washington, D.C. office.

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

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

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

On October 9, 2019, the President issued two executive orders that require agencies to formally provide official guidance before enforcing any new jurisdiction or legal standards. In other words, agencies
Continue Reading New Executive Orders Aim to Eliminate Unfair Surprise in Civil Enforcement Actions by Formalizing Guidance Documents

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently affirmed a May 2017 Court of Federal Claims decision requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) to give veteran-owned small businesses first priority before purchasing from the AbilityOne Program.
Continue Reading Federal Circuit Affirms Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Are the VA’s First Priority

On January 25, 2018, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand issued a memorandum (the “Brand Memo”) limiting the use of agency guidance documents in affirmative civil enforcement cases. The memorandum builds on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ November 16, 2017 memorandum prohibiting DOJ from promulgating guidance documents that create rights or obligations that are binding on regulated parties. When DOJ issues a guidance document with voluntary standards, it must also contain a statement that noncompliance is not subject to future DOJ enforcement actions. The Brand Memo makes clear that this principle also applies to other agencies’ guidance documents. In other words, agency guidance, in and of itself, cannot create new binding legal requirements.
Continue Reading “Brand Memo” Prohibits US DOJ From Converting Agency Guidance Into Binding Legal Obligations In Civil Enforcement Actions

On November 13, U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) published its Annual Report to Congress (B-158766, November 13, 2017), which contains the statistics for bid protests filed at GAO in FY 2017.
Continue Reading While Protests and the Sustain Rate Decrease, the Effectiveness Rate Continues Its Upward Climb – A Brief Review of GAO’s FY 2017 Bid Protest Statistics

On August 2, 2016, the Department of Defense (“DOD”) rolled out new requirements for defense contractors that provide electronic parts and assemblies containing electronic parts. The new rules impose significant risks on DOD contractors.  One clause mandates a specific purchasing hierarchy, with requirements to purchase from the original manufacturer or authorized suppliers thereof when available.  When an original source is not available, contractors are now required essentially to “vouch” for their suppliers, assuming all the risks if a vendor delivers a counterfeit or suspect counterfeit part. Simultaneously, DOD issued a second clause, which requires certain covered contractors in the DOD supply chain to establish and maintain an acceptable electronic part detection and avoidance system. Failure to implement an effective plan may disqualify a vendor from providing products to the DOD. These new rules come very close to imposing a near “strict liability” standard on DOD contractors, asking them to essentially guarantee the supply chain.  Cross your heart and hope to die.
Continue Reading Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die – New DFARS Clauses Target Counterfeit Electronic Parts

The Department of Defense (“DoD”) recently proposed to make specified costs allowable that are associated with discovering and correcting counterfeit or suspect counterfeit electronic parts.  DoD’s proposed rule would amend the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”) to implement the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) for Fiscal Year 2016.
Continue Reading DoD Proposes Cost Allowability Rule for Correcting Counterfeit Electronic Parts

On June 8, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected the doctrine of implied false certification in a False Claims Act (“FCA”) lawsuit, U.S. ex rel. Nelson v. Sanford-Brown Ltd.  No. 14-2506, 2015 WL 3541422.  In a welcome decision for government contractors, the Court held that the FCA is “not the proper mechanism” for Government enforcement of regulations.  Instead, regulatory violations should be handled by the appropriate Government agency–not the courts.
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Rejects FCA Implied False Certification Theory

In an opinion released May 26, 2015, Kellogg Brown & Roots Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Carter, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that whistleblowers cannot extend the statute of limitations for war-related civil false claims under the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (“WSLA”), reinstating an already generous statute of limitations period under the civil False Claims Act (“FCA”).  The Court also settled a split between the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the Fourth Circuit.  For purposes of the FCA’s “first-to-file” bar, the FCA only limits a lawsuit based on the same underlying facts as another case that is actually open and pending when the later lawsuit is filed.  In reaching these holdings, the Court relied heavily on the plain meaning of the statutory language, simultaneously handing a victory to both Defendants (on the statute of limitations issue) and Plaintiffs (on the first-to-file issue).  But, the holding relating to the WSLA may prove to be the greatest legacy from the KBR decision, reigning in aggressive whistleblowers and government lawyers who would try to allege a case of “fraud” decades after the conduct occurred, and long after a Defendant is able to defend itself effectively.
Continue Reading SCOTUS: No Unlimited Suspension of the Statute of Limitations Under the False Claims Act; “First-to-File” Doctrine Does Not Bar Related Suits in Perpetuity