The protester alleged the Air Force’s best-value tradeoff decision was unreasonable because it consisted of a “mechanical comparison of point scores that did not take into account the underlying bases for those scores” and because the source selection authority only considered the awardee’s proposal and did not compare the merits of the offerors’ proposals.
GAO agreed, noting that the award determination document discusses only the awardee’s proposal, with no reference to R&K’s proposal.
The Agency had argued that the selection authority had relied on the evaluation board’s recommendation and rationale, but GAO found that, even if that were the case, that recommendation was “based entirely on a mechanical evaluation of point scores” without a qualitative comparison of underlying strengths and weaknesses and was therefore unreasonable.
GAO recommended the agency perform and document a proper best-value tradeoff.
Selex ES argued that the solicitation, which sought proposals to replace a tactical air navigation system, was unduly restrictive of competition because it could be interpreted to require offerors meet the navigation system’s flight check qualification and readiness level requirements at the time of proposal submission rather than at the time of award or performance.
GAO found that the solicitation was patently ambiguous regarding whether the requirements are due at time of proposal submission or at time of award and that Selex ES was prejudiced by the ambiguity and GAO sustained the protest on that basis.
GAO declined to address whether it would be unduly restrictive of competition to expect offerors to meet the requirements at the time of proposal submission given the patent ambiguity.
GAO recommended the agency amend the solicitation to clarify when various requirements are due.
Welcome back to our “Lifecycle of a Claim” series. This series explores the Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”) claims process, with practical guidance stemming from recent case law every step of the way. Click the subscribe button on the right to get timely updates right in your inbox!
Click here to read our first post and here to read our second post. This post focuses on Step 5 of this process: submitting a claim.
Seven Elements for Submitting a Claim
Once a contractor has made the decision to pursue a CDA claim, the contractor must ensure that it follows the Contract Disputes Act or risk jeopardizing its ability to obtain meaningful judicial review. While the Federal Circuit has made clear that a claim need not take “any particular form or use any particular wording,” below are seven fundamental elements that should be included:
Building on recent national security initiatives to shore up the protection of U.S. critical assets from strategic adversaries (notably including China and Russia), Congress is considering new government powers to review outbound U.S. investments in certain high-technology sectors.
Inbound foreign investments in key sectors are reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). However, screening of outbound investments – a so-called “reverse CFIUS” – would be new, and could significantly impact industries ranging from aerospace and defense to fintech to pharmaceuticals.
How did we get here?
The last several years have witnessed an accelerated national security pivot from the twenty-year global war on terror to strategic competition with major state adversaries. Unclassified assessments of the U.S. national security posture reveal significant threats in domains ranging from artificial intelligence to hypersonic weapons to energy, many of which have been exacerbated by the theft of U.S. technology. The legislation proposing a “reverse CFIUS” review would seek to counter these threats by adding new controls to the flow of U.S. capital and intellectual property abroad.
The contemplated regime formally originated with the proposed National Critical Capabilities Defense Act (NCCDA), which passed the House of Representatives in February 2022 as part of the America COMPETES Act of 2022, H.R. 4521, a larger package focused on U.S. domestic semiconductor production and other aspects of U.S. competitiveness (certain elements of which, not including the NCCDA, eventually were signed into law as part of the CHIPS and Science Act in August 2022). Most notably, the NCCDA would create a Committee on National Critical Capabilities (the “Committee”), with authority to review – and block – covered outbound foreign investments.
Since December 2021, after a Federal District Court for the Southern District of Georgia issued a nationwide injunction against the federal contractor vaccine mandate, compliance with the federal contractor vaccine mandate has been in limbo. Many hoped that, on appeal, the Eleventh Circuit would bring some clarity to vaccine requirements. Unfortunately, that is not the case. On August 26, 2022, the Eleventh Circuit agreed that a preliminary injunction was warranted, however the Court narrowed the applicability of the injunction. The court held that the injunction should only apply to the specific plaintiff-states and trade associations in the case, and should not “extend nationwide and without distinction to plaintiffs and non-parties alike.” Georgia v. President of the United States, No. 21-14269 (11th Cir. Aug. 26, 2022).
The Eleventh Circuit agreed with the lower court that a preliminary injunction was warranted, stating that while “Congress crafted the Procurement Act to promote economy and efficiency in federal contracting, the purpose statement does not authorize the President to supplement the statute with any administrative move that may advance that purpose.” Therefore, the Court held that “the President likely exceeded his authority under the Procurement Act when directing executive agencies to enforce” the vaccine mandate.
In its upcoming term, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to address the issue of whether the United States can seek to dismiss a whistleblower’s False Claims Act (“FCA”) lawsuit after it has elected not to participate in the case. And, if it can seek dismissal, what standard should apply?
On June 21, 2022, the Court agreed to consider the matter of United States ex rel. Polansky v. Executive Health Resources, Inc. (Case No. 19-3810). In his cert petition, the whistleblower presses the theory that after the United States declines to intervene in an FCA qui tam case, it lacks any authority to dismiss the action. At a minimum, the petitioner argues that the Court should resolve a long-standing split among the Circuit Courts regarding the standard that applies to such a motion—a split that has splintered even further in response to an uptick in such motions since 2018.
In July 2022, the Accreditation Body (“AB”) of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program (“CMMC”) released a 47-page CMMC Assessment Process guide (“CAP Guide”). The CAP Guide outlines the assessment process for contractors seeking a CMMC level 2 certification, which, as we discussed in earlier posts, is the required certification level for all contractors who expect to receive or store Controlled Unclassified Information (“CUI”).
The CAP Guide has been widely criticized by members of the Defense Industrial Base for being overly complicated and contrary to the Department of Defense’s (“DoD”) stated intention to reduce the complexity and cost of the CMMC program for small businesses. However, assuming it is adopted by the DoD, the CAP Guide includes helpful guidance for contractors that are beginning to prepare for their CMMC level 2 assessment.
Stay up to date by subscribing to our blog. Add your e-mail address to the Subscribe box on the right to get our timely posts delivered directly to your inbox.
Attorney Michael Montalbano and Blank Rome’s Government Contracts group are raising money for Salute, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to U.S. veterans and their families. The fundraiser will culminate on October 9 with Michael running the Chicago marathon on behalf of both Salute, Inc. and Blank Rome. Michael provided the following statement about the fundraiser:
Many of our clients are led by or employ U.S. veterans. I have seen these veterans accomplish tremendous feats, whether it is developing state-of-the-art technology for the Government or supporting U.S. bases across the world.
I was looking for a veterans organization to support when I found that Salute, Inc. was sponsoring runners for the Chicago marathon. I have been an avid runner since law school, so I thought this was a good opportunity to both run the marathon and raise money for a good cause, supporting individuals who are such an integral part of the Blank Rome Government Contracts legal practice.
When I approached the head of our Government Contracts practice group, Justin Chiarodo, about the fundraiser, he immediately encouraged me to take on this challenge. He said to reach out to the attorneys in our practice group. They have a deep appreciation for our veteran clients and would certainly donate to this cause.
Justin was absolutely right. The attorneys and staff in my practice group and across the firm were eager to donate to the fundraiser. Within a few days, we exceeded our initial fundraising goal, and I am proud to say that we recently surpassed our revised fundraising goal.
As for training, I am on target to run the marathon on October 9. My goals are just to finish the race and raise money to help Salute, Inc. continue its important mission. Thanks to the support of my colleagues both of those goals are well within sight.
If you are interested in supporting this fundraiser, you can learn more and donate by clicking here.
Federal government contractors and subcontractors often struggle with flow-down clauses. Fundamentally, prime and subcontractors squabble over flow-down clauses because they involve assumption of risk. A prime contractor has committed to comply with all of the clauses in its prime contract. To the extent a prime contractor does not flow down a clause to its subcontractor, the prime contractor assumes the risk of any subcontractor non-compliance. This is because, if a contracting officer identifies regulatory non-compliance, the government only looks to the party with which it has privity to enforce compliance: the prime contractor. If the prime contractor has not flowed down the applicable clause to its subcontractor, the prime contractor is responsible for its subcontractor’s non-compliance. If the clause has been flowed down, the prime contractor can enforce compliance upon its subcontractor. From a subcontractor perspective, the more flow-down clauses it accepts from its prime contractor, the more compliance risk it assumes.
As a result, prime contractors seek to flow down as many FAR clauses as possible—well beyond the mandatory flow downs discussed below. Subcontractors, meanwhile, seek to keep flow-down clauses to a minimum. Subcontractors must analyze when it is appropriate and productive to resist non-mandatory flow-down clauses, and sometimes the answers to these questions may not be straightforward. Below we address the mandatory flow-down clauses for commercial subcontracts with commercial and non-commercial prime contractors, how subcontractors can handle irrelevant clauses, and best flow-down practices for prime contractors and subcontractors.
A July 2022 report relayed the news that the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) is investigating the installation of Huawei equipment into cell towers situated near U.S. military bases and missile silos, based on concerns the equipment could hoover up sensitive data and transmit it to China.
The report indicates that Commerce is carrying out the investigation pursuant to its rules implementing Executive Order (EO) 13873 on “Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain” (the ICTS Rules).
What are the ICTS Rules, and how will they be enforced? The ICTS Rules empower Commerce to review — and as warranted, to mitigate, block, or unwind — dealings in information and communications technology and services (ICTS) that have a nexus with a designated “foreign adversary,” including China and Russia.