Last week, in response to the Omicron variant, President Biden announced the Government intends to purchase 500 million at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests for distribution to Americans. According to the announcement, Americans will be able to order test kits to be delivered to their homes starting in January. While this may have been a good sound bite, as discussed below, it does not appear realistic. More likely, while Americans may be able to place orders in January, those orders may not be filled until several months into 2022.
As widely reported, rapid COVID-19 at-home test kits are already in short supply. Moreover, the Government has yet to enter into additional contracts beyond the limited contracts to a small number of suppliers previously announced by the Defense Logistics Agency (“DLA”) and a handful of “prototype” contracts finalized in 2020 under the Trump administration. The Government has not made any recent additional contract awards for rapid COVID-19 at-home test kits.
On December 22, one day after the president’s announcement, the Department of Defense (“DoD”), on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), issued a Request for Information (“RFI”) seeking information to assess market availability and sourcing for rapid COVID-19 at-home tests. The RFI, however, is not an actual procurement nor contract award and merely seeks information for 500,000 test kits for agency “personnel use.” Responses were due by 3:00 p.m. on December 24. (See, Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test Kits.) Proposals to supply test kits are unlikely until after a Request for Proposal (“RFP”) has been issued. As of today, no RFP has been issued.
Yesterday the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of Executive Order (“EO”) 14042, under which prime contractors and subcontractors are required to ensure that all of their employees working “on or in connection with” covered federal contracts are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (“Vaccine Mandate”). The order was issued in a lawsuit filed by the States of Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia; governors of several of those states; and various state agencies that challenged the Biden Administration’s authority to issue the Vaccine Mandate. In its decision, State of Georgia, et. al. v. Biden, No. 1:21-cv-163, the court agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that the Administration improperly relied on the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act (“FPASA”) to issue the Vaccine Mandate, concluding that the FPASA’s authorization for the President to impose policies to promote economy and efficiency in procurement did not extend to polices focused primarily on public health.
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Blank Rome LLP is pleased to announce that Elizabeth N. Jochum has joined the firm’s Washington, D.C., office as a partner in the Government Contracts practice group. A skilled litigator and counselor with a significant background in white collar defense and investigations matters, Elizabeth joins Blank Rome from Smith Pachter McWhorter PLC where she was a partner.
“We are pleased to welcome Elizabeth to our firm and leading Government Contracts practice,” said Grant S. Palmer, Blank Rome’s Managing Partner and CEO. “Government contractors face a complex landscape right now, and Elizabeth’s significant experience will greatly benefit our clients in both achieving their goals and successfully working with the public sector.”
Blank Rome LLP and the National Defense Industrial Association (“NDIA”) Delaware Valley Chapter are pleased to present this new live webinar on Monday, December 6, 2021, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. EST.
The rules and guidance around the federal contractor COVID-19 vaccine mandate are changing by the day. Please join Blank Rome’s Government Contracts and Labor & Employment attorneys for timely analysis of what federal contractors need to be prepared, including an in-depth discussion of:
Latest guidance: What do prime contractors need to know to comply?
Which of my employees are covered by the mandate?
Does the mandate apply to subcontractors?
How do I deal with exemption requests?
What should I do if my workforce is not fully vaccinated?
Brian S. Gocial, Partner, Government Contracts, Blank Rome LLP, and Partner and Member of the Board, NDIA Delaware Valley Chapter
The National Defense Industrial Association drives strategic dialogue in national security by identifying key issues and leveraging the knowledge and experience of its military, government, industry, and academic members to address them. You can learn more about them on their website.
QUESTIONS? Please contact Alena Leon, Business Development Consultant.
In response to more than 850 public comments, the Department of Defense (“DOD”) has decided to significantly revamp the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (“CMMC”) program. On November 4, 2021, DOD announced that it was replacing the current CMMC program with CMMC 2.0, which is expected to significantly reduce the regulatory burden on companies in the Defense Industrial Base (“DIB”). DOD made three significant changes through the new CMMC 2.0 program:
Reduces the number of CMMC levels. As we explained in earlier posts, CMMC 1.0 originally had five CMMC levels of ascending sophistication. CMMC 2.0 now only has three levels:
CMMC 2.0 Level One: This level will apply to most DIB companies and requires compliance with 17 basic cyber hygiene practices.
CMMC 2.0 Level Two: This level applies to DIB companies who will receive controlled unclassified information (“CUI”) and is expected to align with the requirements under NIST SP 800-171. Notably, DOD already requires most DIB companies receiving CUI to comply with NIST SP 800-171 through the cybersecurity DFARS clause 252.204-7012.
CMMC 2.0 Level Three: DOD is still developing the requirements for this level, but we expect that this level will apply to only the most sensitive and high-risk DOD projects.
Earlier today, November 4, 2021, the White House issued a fact sheet addressing its vaccination policies, including the government contractor mandate under EO 14042. Three key points stand out: (1) the compliance deadline for “full vaccination” status will be extended from December 8, 2021, to January 4, 2022; (2) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) vaccine rule for larger employers (which may permit weekly testing in lieu of vaccination) will not apply to workplaces covered by the federal contractor mandate; and (3) the Government continues to take the position that its mandates will preempt conflicting state or local laws. The full press release can be found at Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Announces Details of Two Major Vaccination Policies.
How does this new guidance impact government contractor compliance with EO 14042?
Most notably, the guidance extends the deadline for full vaccination status for covered contractors from December 8, 2021, to January 4, 2022. Covered contractor employees should receive their final vaccine dose by the new January 4, 2022, deadline.
Yesterday, November 1, 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued significant new guidance for contractors implementing vaccine mandates. The two key takeaways are: (1) contractors are not required to terminate unvaccinated employees immediately when the mandate goes into effect on December 8, and (2) federal agencies should not terminate contracts if a contractor is actively working toward compliance, even if the contractor faces challenges to achieving full compliance. The full updated FAQ is available on the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force website.
Are contractors still required to mandate vaccination by December 8?
Yes, covered contractors are still required to mandate that employees get vaccinated by December 8. However, rather than terminate noncompliant employees after the December 8 deadline, contractors should “determine the appropriate means of enforcement” for their employees.
On October 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced a new Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative to pursue cybersecurity fraud matters using the enforcement mechanisms of the False Claims Act (“FCA”).
This initiative follows DOJ’s four-month effort to review its cybersecurity strategy and reflects the government’s increased focus on contractor data security. Led by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section—i.e., the DOJ Section responsible for investigating and litigating FCA matters—the initiative targets government contractors and grant recipients that “put U.S. information or systems at risk” by “knowingly”:
providing deficient cybersecurity products or services;
misrepresenting the company’s cybersecurity practices or protocols; or
violating their obligations to monitor and report cybersecurity incidents and breaches.
We discuss the cybersecurity landscape preceding the new initiative, possible impacts and focus areas of the initiative, and how contractors should prepare for potential enforcement.
To read the full client alert, please visit our website.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott just raised the stakes in the inevitable tide of litigation about President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates by issuing an Executive Order banning vaccine mandates in Texas. We expect other states to follow suit. This raises important questions for federal contractors, who are working against the clock to ensure compliance with the new vaccine mandate applicable to most federal contracts by December 8, 2021 (see our most recent blog post about the details of the mandate, Government Contractor Vaccine Mandate FAQ: Status of Class Deviations and Accommodations Process).