On March 18, President Trump issued an Executive Order invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA), a tool that may help the administration combat the COVID-19 pandemic. With companies like 3M, GE, and others voluntarily ramping production of medical supplies to accomplish the nation’s significant needs, the president is yet to unleash his recently invoked authority. Still, the Executive Order activates far-reaching executive powers to prioritize production of key medical supplies, including protective medical equipment and ventilators. With the apparatus needed to deploy the DPA now in place, government contractors should prepare themselves for what may come.

By way of background, Congress passed the DPA during the Korean War to ensure sufficient production of materials deemed critical to the nation’s defense. Echoing economic controls imposed in World War II, the DPA gives the executive branch extraordinary powers, including the authority to require manufacturers to produce and prioritize certain items; allocate raw materials and facilities for the production of these items; and, in certain circumstances, even set price and wage controls.


Continue Reading Administration Ready to Use DPA to Address COVID-19 Shortages

Last night the Senate passed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, (CARES Act), by a vote of 96 to 0.  This rescue package will now be considered by the House, which, according to the latest reports, will likely vote on the legislation this Friday.

The bill, which is 883 pages long, will provide immediate assistance to American workers and companies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  For the 3.28 million Americans who filed initial unemployment claims last week, this is welcome, and much-needed legislative action that includes extended unemployment benefits, direct cash payments, small business loans, among other emergency assistance.

Like any complex legislation that is passed so quickly, it will take time to fully digest the implications of all of the provisions, many of which have not been debated or widely discussed.  Among them is a section that has received little notice to date that, if included in the bill when it is signed into law by the president, gives agencies the authority to provide relief to government contractors by authorizing them to pay contractors for paid leave, including sick leave, to maintain employees in a ready state during the shutdown.


Continue Reading Possible Federal Contractor Reimbursement for Keeping Employees in a “Ready State” During the COVID-19 Shutdown

The federal government has taken and will continue to take a host of actions to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.  Our Government Contracts Practice Group at Bass, Berry & Sims is carefully monitoring these developments and will keep you updated through our blog and through our Firm’s COVID-19 Response website page.

While the health of our citizens is, as it must be, the primary focus of the response, Congress and the Executive Branch are scrambling to ensure that companies have sufficient liquidity to continue operations, and continue employing people, notwithstanding the global economic shutdown that could run for months.  Given that the federal procurement budget is in the hundreds of billions of dollars and government contracting involves hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide, our government procurement workers play an important role in facing this crisis.


Continue Reading Increased Progress Payments: DoD Adjusts Procurement Rules to Increase Liquidity

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) manages nine healthcare related ‘schedules,’ groups of umbrella contracts used to order medical supplies and services, under the Federal Supply Schedules (FSS) program. These schedules allow VA medical centers to more easily obtain goods and services to support veterans.

The VA requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce a report focusing on the following:

  • Program challenges.
  • The timeliness of contract awards.
  • The extent to which the schedules and the Medical Surgical Prime Vendor-Next Generation (MSPV-NG) program provide overlapping or duplicative offerings.

In addition to analyzing the requested issues, the report also contains a series of corrective recommendations to which the VA has largely agreed.


Continue Reading GAO Recommends Steps to Ensure VA FSS Program Remains Useful

By failing to object to solicitation terms before the close of bidding, a protester typically waives those objections in a post-award bid before the Court of Federal Claims (COFC). An exception exists, however, where a protester filed a timely pre-award agency-level protest challenging patent errors or ambiguities.

But, as powerfully illustrated by the COFC’s decision in Harmonia Holdings Group, LLC v. United States, this exception is limited. In that case, Harmonia, one of the offerors on the procurement, initially brought an agency-level protest to challenge the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) issuance of two amendments to the solicitation, arguing that the agency improperly denied offerors the opportunity to revise their proposals in response to these amendments. CBP denied the protest.


Continue Reading The Importance of Being Timely: Protester Waives Protest Ground by Unduly Delaying Protest

A recent dispute between a government contractor and the Army in the Court of Federal Claims has raised the issue of whether procedures for validating restrictions on technical data apply to military contractors’ vendor lists. In Raytheon Co. v. United States, Raytheon had a contract with the Army to provide engineering support for the Patriot weapon system. The contract required Raytheon to supply the Army with vendor lists. The company, however, attached legends to those lists which purported to limit the Army’s ability to disclose the lists’ contents. The Army objected to these markings, and a contracting officer eventually ordered Raytheon to replace the offending legends with a standardized legend granting the Army “government purpose rights,” in their vendor lists.

Continue Reading Are Vendor Lists Technically Technical Data?

The Department of Defense (DoD) has now finalized its new cybersecurity standards, which we discussed last year.  The new cybersecurity standards, which are intended to protect controlled unclassified information, will be implemented by the Cyber Maturity Model Certification program (CMMC), which was finalized last week after multiple draft iterations.  CMMC Version 1.0 is available here.

CMMC Will Require Third-Party Certification of Cybersecurity Maturity Level

Among other changes from the prior cybersecurity compliance regime, this new approach will require that to be eligible for DoD awards, contractors must be certified by a third-party commercial certification organization to have achieved one of five cybersecurity maturity levels, with higher levels representing more advanced cybersecurity. Later this year, DoD solicitations will contain the applicable CMMC requirement, and contractors failing to meet this standard will be unable to bid. The requirements will apply to all parties within the supply chain (although subcontractors may not have to meet as high a CMMC standard as the prime contractor, depending on their scope of work).


Continue Reading DoD Finalizes Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification

Please join the Bass, Berry & Sims Government Contracts & International Trade attorneys as they continue a series of complimentary briefings via webinar that will serve as an extension of our GovCon & Trade Blog and feature timely and practical guidance on key topics of interest.

The next GovCon & Trade briefing, hosted by Bass,

The GovCon 2020 Small Business Summit will take place in less than two months in Tampa. Todd Overman will be a panelist with industry representatives discussing the importance of the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) for growing companies, and Richard Arnholt will moderate a panel with several mid-tier firm representatives on the use joint

On November 8, 2019, the Small Business Administration (SBA) released an expansive proposed rule to merge its two mentor-protégé programs, while also modifying a number of rules applicable to participants in the program. Under the proposed rule, the SBA will combine its 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program into its All Small Mentor-Protégé Program (ASMPP).

The 8(a) program is about two decades old and is reserved for 8(a) firms, while the ASMPP was created in 2016 and is open to any small business. According to the SBA, the benefits to participants in both of the programs are identical and the merging of the two programs is being done to “eliminate confusion regarding perceived differences between the two programs, remove unnecessary duplication of functions within SBA, and establish one, unified staff to better coordinate and process mentor-protégé applications.” Below is a summary of the material proposed changes and new recertification rule that could have a big impact on who qualifies for set-asides under unrestricted multiple award contracts.


Continue Reading Merging Mentoring Programs: SBA’s Proposed Rule to Simplify its Mentor-Protégé Programs