Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR)

The FAR Council issued a final rule on December 20, 2016, amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to add FAR Subpart 24.3, requiring privacy training for all contractor employees who (1) access a system of records; (2) handle personally identifiable information (PII); or (3) design, develop, maintain, or operate a system of records. A “system of records” is a “group of any records under the control of any agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual.” 5 U.S.C. § 552a(a)(5); FAR 24.101.

Continue Reading The FAR Council Wishes Contractors a Happy New ‘Privacy Training’

Just one month after the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas shut down a Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces final rule, the District Court has enjoined the implementation of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) final rule updating its Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) exemptions. Had these gone into effect, they would have had a significant impact on government contractors’ labor costs.

In 2014, President Obama directed DOL to update and modernize its overtime regulations to be consistent with the intent of the FLSA. The FLSA provides for minimum wage and overtime pay protections for those covered by the Act. Exempted employees generally fall into the executive, administrative and professional (EAP) categories, and DOL has used the following three tests to determine whether an exemption applied: salary basis test, salary level test and duties test. “Exempt” employees are not eligible for overtime pay (time and a half) for hours worked over 40 in a work week.


Continue Reading DOL Oversteps Overtime Regulations

Over the past year, the big news for companies doing or considering business in Iran has been the scaling back of U.S. and EU economic sanctions. Many global businesses are now permitted to operate in this once prohibited market. Before we celebrate too enthusiastically, however, let’s stop for a moment to consider a potential challenge for some companies trying to capitalize on this new opportunity.

This time, we are focusing on a conundrum specific to companies that contract with the U.S. government.


Continue Reading Iran on Your Mind? The FAR Should Be, Too.

On October 24, 2016, U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone granted a preliminary injunction to halt the implementation of the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order 13673 (EO 13673), implementing provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) in the final rule, and Department of Labor (DOL) guidance that impose new reporting requirements on contractors regarding labor law violations.

Continue Reading Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Not “Fair” to Contractors, According to Texas Judge

In an article published by SmallBizDaily, Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys Todd Overman and Sylvia Yi provided insight on the regulatory improvements to the SBA’s Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program that helped the federal government finally achieve its goal of awarding five percent of its annual contracts to WOSBs. As Todd and Sylvia point

In most federal procurements, regulations require procuring agencies to consider an offeror’s past performance in evaluating proposals. However, while the consideration of past performance may be a standard element of an evaluation, what an agency actually considers as part of that past performance evaluation is not set in stone. Agencies can consider different types of past performance, and weigh the importance of different elements of past performance in various ways, changing from procurement to procurement. Agencies have the discretion to choose the kinds of past performances it will review, which personnel are relevant to an evaluation, how many references should be provided, and the cut-off date for each past performance reference. As long as the evaluation is reasonable, it is generally acceptable. However, if the agency’s chosen method or execution of its past performance evaluation is ultimately unreasonable, a challenge to the evaluation may lead to a sustained protest.

Two recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) bid protest decisions help draw the line between reasonable and unreasonable past performance evaluations. The recent decision in Logistics Management International, Inc. demonstrates that it is permissible for an agency to ignore the past performances of key individual personnel, and instead only concentrate on a company’s previous performances as a whole. In denying that protest, GAO found that it is within an agency’s discretion to define the scope of its own past performance review. On the other hand, in the recent decision of Patricio Enterprises Inc., GAO decided it was unreasonable for the agency to essentially penalize an offeror simply because it provided more past performance references than the competing contractor.


Continue Reading Learning from Bid Protests: Agencies Generally Set their Own Rules in Past Performance Evaluations

Today, one week following the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to set-aside contracts and Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) orders for eligible veteran-owned businesses under the Rule of Two, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a hearing on how the decision will affect VA procurement going forward. Chairman David Vitter (R-LA) orchestrated the two-panel hearing alongside Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Chairman Vitter made clear that the Senate wanted to understand how the Kingdomware decision will affect veteran-owned businesses and how to ensure that the VA is implementing the statute’s proper interpretation.

The first panel featured Thomas J. Leney, the Executive Director for the VA, and John A. Shoraka, an Associate Administrator of Government Contracting and Business Development for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Speaking on behalf of the VA, Leney stated that the VA is committed to implementing the Supreme Court’s decision and has already started its review of current procurements. According to Leney, to enforce the decision, the VA is working on creating formal rules and new policy guidelines to regulate how veteran-owned businesses are considered under the Rule of Two. The Supreme Court clarified that the Rule of Two requires setting aside contracts for every competitive VA acquisition, including FSS orders, when two or more eligible veteran-owned concerns will submit offers and an award can be made at a fair and reasonable price. While his remarks emphasized the VA’s approach moving forward, Leney struggled to respond to Senator Vitter’s inquiry into why the VA has spent years improperly applying the Rule of Two to veteran-owned small businesses. While the VA was unable to set a hard cutoff date for when it can assure that all awards will comply with the guidelines of the decision, Senator Vitter set a July 15, 2016, deadline for the VA to issue an update to the Committee to demonstrate their improved procurement methods. According to the chairman, a delay in implementing the Rule of Two would be equivalent to resisting the decision of the Supreme Court – even a three month delay would be unwarranted.


Continue Reading Senate Hearing: Ramifications of the Supreme Court’s Kingdomware Decision

In Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc. v. Murphy, Kellogg Brown & Root Services (KBR) filed a claim with the Army to recover costs associated with a subcontractor’s work on a dining facility in Iraq. The Army denied the claim and KBR appealed to the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (the Board). On the Army’s motion, the Board dismissed the claim, finding the six-year statute of limitations under the Contracts Dispute Act (CDA) had expired. KBR appealed to the Federal Circuit, which reversed the Board’s decision, finding the claim did not accrue, and thus the limitations period did not begin to run, until KBR had a basis for a “sum certain” to “fix” its liability.

Under a cost-plus-award-fee contract with the Army, KBR subcontracted work to the joint venture of KCPC/Morris. KBR later terminated the subcontract for delay and KCPC/Morris stopped work on September 12, 2003. On January 24, 2005, after KCPC/Morris had filed suit against KBR, the parties entered into a settlement agreement that liquidated a portion of KCPC/Morris’ claim. On the remainder of the claim, the parties agreed to cooperate to submit an invoice to the government.


Continue Reading Federal Circuit Clarifies “Accrual” of Claims under Contract Disputes Act

Preparing a proposal in response to a government solicitation can be a daunting project. It’s not always possible to discern from the solicitation language exactly what the procuring agency wants, and so a certain amount of guessing and hoping is usually involved. However, this process is made doubly more frustrating when it seems that the agency is holding out on you. It is probably unwise for an agency to withhold important information about their procurement, if only for the sake of competition. Even so, there are certain situations where an agency holding back crucial information is a violation of the FAR, and may lead to a successful protest.

This principle was on display in a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) bid protest decision, Crowley Logistics, Inc. GAO’s decision in Crowley hinged on the discussions between the procuring agency and the offerors, and whether those discussions were proper. In a negotiated procurement, agencies have the ability to make an award based solely on the proposals initially submitted by offerors. However, the procuring agency also has the option to use the initial proposals to establish a competitive range that includes the offers most likely to receive an award. Once the competitive range is established, the agency then holds discussions with the offerors in the competitive range, allowing those offerors to submit revised proposals in response to the discussions with the agency. If a procuring agency chooses the latter option, the discussions that it holds must be meaningful and equitable across all offerors in the competitive range.


Continue Reading Learning from Bid Protests: Procuring Agencies Cannot Hold Out on You

The Department of Energy (DOE) has proposed an amendment to the Department of Energy Acquisition Regulation (DEAR) that, among other changes, clarifies that FAR Subpart 22.12, Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts, and the associated Department of Labor regulations, applies to subcontracts under DOE’s management and operating (M&O) contracts. M&O contractors and their subcontractors need to be aware of these changes, particularly the impact on the requirement to hire service employees working on incumbent contracts set forth in contract clause FAR 52.222-17.

FAR Subpart 22.12 implements Executive Order 13495 (January 30, 2009), and requires a successor contractor and its subcontractors to offer “service employees,” as defined by the Service Contract Act, under the predecessor contract (of the same or similar services at the same location) and whose employment will be terminated as a result of the successor contract award, a right of first refusal of employment under the new contract. Employment openings are generally prohibited until such right of refusal has been provided, meaning an incoming contractor will have limited opportunity to staff its current employees on the contract. Importantly, each bona fide express offer of employment must have a stated time limit of not less than 10 days for an employee response, a time period that successor contractors should account for when determining how long it will take to transition the contract. The contract clause, FAR 52.222-17, has to be flowed down to service subcontracts over the simplified acquisition threshold, typically $150,000. The requirements of FAR Subpart 22.12 do not apply to service contracts performed entirely outside the United States. 77 Fed. Reg. 75768 (Dec. 21, 2012).


Continue Reading DEAR Department of Energy M&O Contractors: The FAR Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Requirements Apply To You, Too