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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 “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”

You got to know when to hold ‘em,
Know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk way,
And know when to run.

Such is the advice of the unnamed gambler from the late Kenny Rogers’ 1978 hit single, “The Gambler.”  While the eponymous hero of that song may have believed his advice to be sound, there remains the undeniable fact that regardless of whatever skill you may have “out of readin’ people’s faces,” there always will be an element of chance to whether you will win at the table.  You can never know when to hold ‘em or when to fold ‘em a hundred percent of the time.  More often than not, for the casual card player, luck is the determinative factor.  Indeed, it is the risk of not really knowing whether “every hand’s a winner” or “every hand’s a loser” that makes the game exciting in the first place.
Continue Reading “You Got To Know When To Protest”: Federal Circuit’s Inserso Decision Stretches the Blue & Gold Waiver Rule For Bid Protests To New Lengths

In a case of first impression, the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA”) ruled that a contractor performing task orders issued against a government-wide acquisition contract (“GWAC”) properly submitted its claims to the Agency Ordering Contracting Officer (“OCO”) instead of the Procuring Contracting Officer (“PCO”). The case – Sotera Defense Solutions, Inc. v. Department of Agriculture, CBCA 6029, 6030, 2019 WL 1977388 (Apr. 25, 2019) – involved two task orders issued by the Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) to Sotera Defense Solutions, Inc. (“Sotera”) for the provision of information technology (“IT”) support services at agency locations throughout the country. The USDA issued the task orders against a GWAC awarded by the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”). A GWAC, as explained by the CBCA in its decision, is defined by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) as a “task-order or delivery order contract for [IT] established by one agency for Governmentwide use.”
Continue Reading CBCA Rules Contractor Under GWAC Task Orders Properly Submitted Claims to the Agency Ordering Contracting Officer Instead of the Procuring Contracting Officer

If you follow professional football, you are familiar with the message generally given to an aspiring player just before he is cut – “Coach wants to see you.  Bring your playbook.”  The playbook, that step-by-step guide to on-the-field success, is something that teams guard zealously.

Not all teams, however, maintain the secrecy of their playbooks, and the U.S. Government is a case in point.  The Government actually publishes its playbook of bargaining techniques recommended for its contract negotiators.  Like the Commandments Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, the Government playbook consists of 10 Rules.  These Rules can be found in Chapter 6 of Volume 5 of the DoD’s Contract Pricing Reference Guides.  The Rules are all reasonable and, in many ways, predictable. Because “Forewarned is forearmed,” here they are –
Continue Reading The Government’s Playbook – Your Guide to Uncle Sam’s Negotiating Techniques

The April issue of National Defense Magazine brought a well-written article by Susan Cassidy and her colleagues at Covington & Burling LLP on a recent DOD IG report analyzing (and criticizing) spare aviation parts pricing, even though the report concluded that the contractor in question had complied with the Truthful Cost or Pricing Data Act. The article addresses the IG’s concept of a fair profit – which is abjectly divorced from reality – and it notes that the GAO has been conducting a study of spare parts purchasing with a promise of recommendations to improve transparency in this area. I commend the article to anyone who operates in the spares market and wants to know where the Government is heading in relation to spares pricing.

With the IG and the GAO injecting themselves – yet again – into the spare parts market and decrying the rapacious contractors who dare to sell at prices that the Government regards as outrageous (after all, why in the world would anyone think that a profit rate in excess of 15% on a firm fixed price contract was reasonable?) it seems like a good time to revisit the reasons why the Government’s periodic complaints about spare parts pricing are generally myopic and wrong. And so, because no criticism of Government contractors ever goes away forever, I offer for your consumption a refresher: the re-publication of a posting that I authored in November 2014, entitled “How Dare You Charge That for a Spare Part!” – The Untold Story of the X27 Interface Assembly” –
Continue Reading Resurrecting the Spare Parts Bogeyman – A Refresher on Why the Government Gets It Wrong

On November 27, 2018, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released its Bid Protest Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2018.

Under the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984 (“CICA”), GAO is required to report annually to Congress on each instance in which (1) a federal agency did not fully implement a recommendation made by GAO in connection with a bid protest decision, or (2) a final decision in a protest was not rendered within 100 days after the date the protest was submitted to the Comptroller General, during the prior fiscal year. GAO reported no such instances for Fiscal Year 2018.
Continue Reading GAO Annual Report On Bid Protests: 2018 Yields More Protests, More Merit Decisions, But Fewer Sustains and Fewer Hearings

By memorandum dated June 7, 2018, Shay Assad, DoD’s Director, Defense Pricing/Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy, has reversed decades of procurement practice that has been embraced by industry and the government alike in attempting to manage the often unmanageable process of providing the government with cost or pricing data that is current, accurate and complete as of the date of agreement on price. Recognizing that inherent “lag time” often makes it impossible for contractors to provide “up to the minute” data in real time at the point when the parties “shake hands,” contractors have customarily performed immediate post-handshake “sweeps” of their databases to provide the government with any data that may have escaped the pre-handshake dragnet. The government, in turn, has customarily accepted the data, evaluated its impact on the price, and negotiated, if and as appropriate, adjustments to the price. The net result was that the government had all the data, its impact on price was addressed, and the contractor avoided liability under the Truth in Negotiations Act and, possibly, under the False Claims Act. Everyone was happy.

Not anymore.
Continue Reading OSD Issues Policy Guidance Rejecting “Sweeps” Data

Auditing by the Defense Contract Audit Agency (“DCAA”) is a ubiquitous cost of doing business with the Department of Defense, and one which many defense contractors have come to dread. Unfortunately, far too often the DCAA’s audit reports rely upon faulty evidence and/or unreasonable interpretations that ignore the plain language of contracts, procurement regulations, and existing decisional law. When this happens, contractors typically have no choice but to engage in the costly process of challenging the audit findings and, when contracting officers lack the will to butt heads with the DCAA, to pursue litigation (and incur unallowable costs) to obtain relief from noncompliance determinations that never should have issued in the first place.
Continue Reading Clearly Erroneous Audit Assertion – An Expensive Thorn in Contractors’ Sides

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.

As discussed in parts 1–4 of this series, the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement cybersecurity clause, Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting, mandates contractor compliance with the security controls in National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-171 by December 31. DFARS 252.204-7012.
Continue Reading Achieving Cyber-Fitness In 2017: Part 5—Cyber Incident Reporting And Response

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

Recent studies show that the percentage of overall research and development spending sponsored by the government has dropped sharply over the last 50 years.

Whereas government funding accounted for 67 percent of R&D in 1964, it accounted for 23 percent in 2015, a 44 percent reduction. For the government, this is not a salutary development. Increasingly, “state of the art” is being defined by the commercial marketplace, without government participation and often without its access to the resulting technological advances.
Continue Reading Industry Struggles With Ever Changing Acquisition Rules

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.

Our “Cyber-Fitness” series thus far has focused on a contractor’s individual obligations and best practices for compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation and Defense FAR Supplement cybersecurity rules. But cybersecurity is not an insular discipline, disconnected from the relationships that contractors have with third parties. The acts and omissions of third parties can compromise information furnished to them as members of a contractor’s supply chain, and those same third parties can also compromise the contractor’s systems.
Continue Reading Achieving Cyber-Fitness In 2017: Part 4—Subcontracts, Joint Ventures And Teaming Agreements