In a decision issued on November 17, JKB Solutions v. United States, the Federal Circuit held that the commercial item termination for convenience provision at FAR 52.212-4(l) incorporated by reference into a contract for commercial services did not apply because that provision “governs the termination of commercial item contracts for the government’s convenience, and it does not apply to service contracts ….” (emphasis added).

If taken to its logical conclusion, this remarkable decision would mean that no commercial “item” provision in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) applies to services even if incorporated in the contract, effectively overturning a decades-long understanding that the commercial item definition encompasses both goods and services. In one fell swoop, the Federal Circuit effectively eliminated the entire category of commercial services.

Background

JKB had entered into a three-year ID/IQ contract with the Army for instructor services, under which the Army issued three yearlong task orders.  The price of each task order included 14 classes, but each year the Army used JKB for fewer than 14 classes, using Army personnel to teach the balance of the classes, paying JKB only for the classes it actually taught.

As a result, JKB sued for breach of contract.  The Court of Federal Claims (COFC) held that the Army had constructively terminated the contract for convenience pursuant to FAR 52.212-4, which was incorporated by reference, and that the termination for convenience had not been in bad faith or an abuse of discretion because the contract was never actually terminated for convenience.  In so holding, the court concluded that JKB could only recover its termination for convenience costs, which it had not sought in its complaint. JKB appealed.

Continue Reading Did the Federal Circuit Just Eliminate Commercial Services?

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