On September 9, among other measures, President Biden issued an Executive Order that will result in a mandate that contractor employees “performing on or in connection with a Federal Government contract or contract-like instrument” be vaccinated against COVID-19.  The procedural steps, culminating in the issuance of a new contract clause that must occur before that mandate is effective are outlined below, along with another mandate to be implemented by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) that will apply to all companies in the U.S. with more than 100 employees.  While neither are immediately effective and both will almost certainly face significant legal challenges, contractors must be aware of these requirements and start preparing now for their implementation.

New Executive Order Requires Government Contractors to Be Vaccinated for COVID-19

Unlike some Executive Orders that rely on the president’s own determination to direct a change to government contract requirements, the September 9, 2021 “Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID-19 Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors” requires first that by September 24, 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issue protocols for contractors and subcontractors to comply with workplace safety guidance.  This guidance must include any exceptions that apply to contractor workplace locations and individuals.

Before the publication of the new guidance, the director of the Task Force, under a delegation of the president’s authority under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, must determine whether the guidance will “promote economy and efficiency in Federal contracting if adhered to by Government contractor and subcontractors.”  Given that any vaccine mandate will almost certainly result in a significant number of contractor employees leaving the workforce, it is not clear whether the guidance would meet that standard.


Continue Reading Contractors, is it Time to Get the Jab?

As we previously discussed in a 2019 blog post, since 2018 Bass, Berry & Sims Government Contracts and Litigation attorneys have successfully defended B&O JV in a host of challenges to an 8(a) small business set-aside award by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).  On May 20, 2021, the Federal Circuit gave our client and team yet another win when it denied a request for a rehearing filed by Safeguard Base Operation, LLC, a disappointed offeror that included in the joint venture the prior incumbent.

Over the past three years, we have successfully defended B&O JV against over half a dozen challenges to the award filed by Safeguard.  Our team’s undefeated record includes:

Safeguard’s primary complaint was that it had been improperly excluded from the competition for failure to include plug numbers provided by FLETC for service work request Contract Line Item Numbers (CLINs).  When multiple potential offerors submitted questions about a potential ambiguity, FLETC included the plug numbers in its answers that were incorporated into the RFP in an amendment and instructed offerors to include those amounts in the applicable CLINs.  Safeguard, however, did not follow this instruction.  Safeguard also alleged that FLETC had breached an implied-in-fact contract to fairly and honestly consider its proposal.


Continue Reading Bleak House Redux: Another Federal Circuit Win in Protracted Protest Litigation

On April 27, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) on Increasing the Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors raising the minimum wage for federal contractors, covered subcontractors, and lower-tier subcontractors by 27% from $10.95 to $15.00.

President Biden perhaps signaled his intent to make this increase on his first day in office, directing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in one of his first EOs to provide a report with recommendations to promote a $15.00 an hour minimum wage for federal employees.  After the changes directed by this EO go into effect, the minimum wage applicable to government contractor employees will be more than double the generally applicable federal minimum wage rate.

While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, in 2014 President Obama issued an EO that increased the rate required for employees of federal contractors to $10.10 and indexed it to inflation (it is currently $10.95).  The $15.00 minimum wage is a rate widely discussed by members both of Congress and the Biden Administration as a potential floor for the generally applicable minimum wage, but that proposal does not appear to have sufficient congressional support to make that legislative change.  It was initially included in the recent $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief legislation, but it was not included in the final package.


Continue Reading Government Contractors Once Again Used as Lab Rats for Higher Minimum Wage Requirements

This past January, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that procurement fraud recoveries comprised the second largest category of fraud recoveries in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, a trend that continued from FY 2019. With last November’s announcement of DOJ’s intent to expand its Procurement Collusions Strike Force (PCSF), we expect to see a continued trend

We are looking forward to participating in Solvability’s GovCon Summit 2021 of which the firm also serves as a sponsor. This year’s GovCon Summit will provide tactics and strategies from the nation’s top GovCon professionals that have helped thousands of companies win government contracts.

Attendees of GovCon Summit 2021 will learn how to increase revenue

To protect the U.S. industrial base, among other reasons, companies that sell goods to the U.S. government are required to comply with domestic source restrictions that dictate the percentage of domestic content and have the potential to impact design, sourcing, and manufacturing decisions. In many respects, these restrictions are out of step with the decades-long trend toward globalization of commercial supply chains.

Recent developments related to the Buy American Act continue to tighten these restrictions and have the potential to cause a further divergence between commercial and government production, reversing the push toward commercial contracting and eliminating the associated efficiencies and cost-savings to U.S. taxpayers.

Please join us Wednesday, March 24, 2021 at 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. CT / 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET
for this timely webinar where government contracts attorneys at Bass, Berry & Sims will discuss the current state of affairs, including the following:

  • Overview of the Buy American Act.
  • Implementation and impact of EO 13881’s changes to the Buy American Act.
  • President Biden’s EO on “Ensuring the Future is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers.
  • Takeaways for government contractors.

Please join us Wednesday, March 24 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. CT | 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET for this informative discussion. To register, please click here.

Who Should Attend?

We are looking forward to presenting a training webinar titled, “The Federal Government’s Continuing IT Upgrade – Changes in Cloud Computing & Cybersecurity” for the Maryland Procurement Technical Assistance Center (Maryland PTAC). The US government, the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world, is in the midst of an IT revolution. Much of

After a successful challenge last year to the award of a service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) set aside task order for technology service desk operations by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP or the Agency), our government contracts team successfully defended the award of that task order after the re-evaluation to our client, Patriot, LLC. The challenge and subsequent successful defense of the award highlight the usefulness of the protest process, a process some contractors are hesitant to use.

CBP initially awarded the task order, issued under the Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 3 (CIO-SP3) indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC), to Candor Solutions, LLC in April 2020.  Patriot protested the award to Candor on April 16, 2020, and less than two weeks later the Agency took corrective action.

Candor’s September 2020 Protest

In September 2020, after re-evaluation, CBP awarded the task order to Patriot.  Candor protested, alleging the agency:

  1. Used a facially unreasonable adjectival rating scheme.
  2. Unreasonably deviated from the rating scheme.
  3. Unreasonably evaluated Candor’s proposal.
  4. Did not evaluate Patriot’s proposal in accordance with the solicitation.


Continue Reading Bass, Berry & Sims Successfully Protests—And Then Defends—Client Award of a Task Order Before the GAO

To protect the U.S. industrial base, among other reasons, companies that sell goods to the U.S. government are required to comply with domestic source restrictions that dictate the percentage of domestic content and have the potential to impact design, sourcing, and manufacturing decisions.  In many respects, these restrictions are out of step with the decades-long trend toward globalization of commercial supply chains.

Two recent developments, the implementation of former President Trump’s July 15, 2019, Executive Order 13881, Maximizing Use of American-Made Goods, Products, and Materials, and President Biden’s January 25, 2021, Executive Order 14005, Ensuring the Future is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers, continue to tighten these restrictions. These requirements have the potential to cause a further divergence between commercial and government production, reversing the push toward commercial contracting and eliminating the associated efficiencies and cost-savings to the U.S. taxpayers.

Overview of the Buy American Act

The Buy American Act (BAA), 41 U.S.C. §§ 8301-8305, provides a price preference for goods sold to the U.S. government that are deemed to be “domestic end products.”  To qualify for that designation, a product has to be both manufactured in the United States and the majority of its components have to be sourced domestically.  For decades prior to the January 2021 final rule, the domestic component, or content, requirement, was set at 50%.  In addition, that domestic content requirement was waived for all commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) items.


Continue Reading Heightened Buy American Act Requirements Are Here and More Are on the Way

The Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (ISDC) recently released its annual report to Congress regarding suspension and debarment across the federal government in FY 2019.  The report serves as a yearly reminder that while selling to the federal government – the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world – may present tremendous opportunities, it is not without risk or obligation.  As Justice Holmes stated in Rock Island, Arkansas & Louisiana R.R. Co. v. United States, 254 U.S. 141, 143 (1920), people “must turn square corners when they deal with the Government.”  Those that don’t may lose access to the federal marketplace altogether, a loss that can prove fatal to companies that are heavily reliant on government contracts or grants.

Overview of ISDC Report

The ISDC report, which is available here, shows that while the total number of actions nearly doubled over the last decade, the number of proposed debarments and debarments continues its steady decline that began in FY 2014.  While this might suggest that agencies are utilizing this administrative tool less frequently, a closer analysis of the report shows that is not the case.

In fact, the number of referrals to suspending and debarring officials (SDOs), as well as the number of suspensions, increased significantly from FY 2018 to FY 2019: referrals were up from 2,441 to 2,806 and suspensions increased from 480 to 722, due in large part to increased activity by the Air Force, the EPA, and the Department of Labor.  This uptick is likely the result of a multi-year effort to educate contracting officials about the importance of referring contractors to SDOs when their conduct indicates either serious poor performance or a lack of business honesty or integrity such that excluding them from the federal marketplace to protect the government from potential harm might be appropriate.


Continue Reading Annual Suspension and Debarment Report Serves as a Reminder to “Turn Square Corners” When Dealing with the Government