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).Continue reading “State Vaccine Mandate Bans: What Are Federal Contractors to Do?”
It has been a busy week on the federal contractor COVID-19 vaccine mandate front. We answer questions below about the new class deviations that should start showing up in new contracts and solicitations, and key open issues on exemptions and coverage.
Where do things stand right now?
The Executive Order (“EO”) contemplated formal FAR amendments to be published by October 8, 2021. That date looks like it will slip. The open FAR Case shows an Ad Hoc Team has been tasked with drafting a FAR rule, with a report due on November 17. In the interim, both the Civilian and Defense Agency Acquisition Councils issued class deviations (here and here, respectively) implementing the EO. The deviations largely mirror the September 24, 2021, guidance.Continue reading “Government Contractor Vaccine Mandate FAQ: Status of Class Deviations and Accommodations Process”
Blank Rome LLP is pleased to announce that partners Dominique L. Casimir, Justin A. Chiarodo, Stephanie M. Harden, Luke W. Meier, and Jennifer A. Short; senior counsel David M. Nadler; and associate Robyn N. Burrows, of the firm’s nationally recognized Government Contracts group, have been appointed to leadership roles for the American Bar Association’s (“ABA”) Public Contract Law Section.
They will serve in the following roles for the 2021–2022 term:
- Dominique Casimir: Co-Chair – Debarment & Suspension Committee; Vice-Chair – Diversity Committee
- Justin Chiarodo: Vice Chair – Mergers & Acquisitions Committee
- Stephanie Harden: Vice Chair – Accounting, Cost & Pricing Committee
- Luke Meier: Vice Chair – Bid Protest Committee
- Jennifer Short: Vice Chair – Procurement Fraud & False Claims Committee
- Dave Nadler: Vice Chair – Procurement Fraud & False Claims Committee
- Robyn Burrows: Associate Editor – Procurement Lawyer
The ABA Section of Public Contract Law serves to provide balanced recommendations on procurement policy, provide a forum to engage with colleagues across all segments of the procurement industry, and gain insight into and develop unique perspectives of federal, state, and local public contract law. For more information, please visit the Section’s webpage.
Answering some questions and raising others, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued its highly anticipated COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors on Friday, September 24. The Guidance follows the president’s September 9, 2021, Executive Order (“EO”), which we summarized in FAQ: Government Contractor COVID Safeguards Executive Order.
In short: a broad vaccine mandate for employees of government contractors is coming. But the exact details on application, exemptions, and compliance remain unclear. New rules due by October 8, 2021, should better address those questions. Adding to this uncertainty, the Guidance encourages individual agencies to issue their own (potentially broader) guidance. That said, we can infer a lot from Friday’s guidance.Continue reading “Breaking Down the COVID-19 Safety Guidance for Government Contractors and Subcontractors: What We Know, What We Don’t, and What’s Next”
“If you want to work with the federal government, do business with us? Get vaccinated” – President Biden, White House Remarks, September 9, 2021
We forecast in March (Will Federal Contractors Be Required to Certify Employee COVID Vaccinations?) possible COVID safety mandates for government contractors. They’ve arrived. President Biden issued a September 9, 2021, executive order (“EO”) that will implement sweeping COVID Safety protocols for government contractors, including potential vaccine mandates, to be established by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.
This FAQ breaks down the basics and includes our assessment of best practices pending forthcoming rulemaking.Continue reading “FAQ: Government Contractor COVID Safeguards Executive Order”
As directed in President Biden’s January 25, 2021, Executive Order we discussed six months ago, last week the FAR Council proposed increases to the Buy American Act (“BAA”) domestic content requirements, and previewed enhanced price preferences and reporting obligations for “critical” domestic products and components under the BAA.
The proposed rule, issued on July 30, 2021, contains three key elements: (1) Phased increases in domestic content thresholds from the current 55% to 75% by 2029, (2) enhanced price preferences for critical products and components, and (3) post-award reporting requirements for critical products and components.
A virtual public meeting to discuss the proposed rule will be held on August 26, 2021, and comments are due by September 28, 2021. The DAR Council also has an open DFARS Case relating to BAA provisions (2019-D045).
We provide an overview of the rule below along with practical takeaways for contractors to consider in light of these potentially significant changes.Continue reading “Buy American Act Domestic Content Requirements Likely to Increase Soon”
Does the mere existence of a deadly epidemic entitle a contractor to monetary relief when it experiences cost increases stemming from that epidemic? Not without Government direction, ruled the Federal Circuit in affirming a decision of the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA”) in Pernix Serka JV.
The facts of Pernix Serka are striking: a contractor repeatedly requests guidance for dealing with a major health crisis, the Government refuses to provide guidance, and the contractor is unable to recoup the additional costs it incurs in order to proceed with performance because the Government provided no guidance.
This timely ruling sheds light on strategies contractors should consider for recouping costs stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. We provide a roadmap below for navigating these issues in light of Pernix Serka JV.
The 2014 Ebola Crisis
Pernix Serka was in the midst of performing a contract in Sierra Leone when a deadly Ebola outbreak struck the country in 2014. Pernix Serka diligently sought guidance from the Contracting Officer on its State Department (“DOS”) contract, but the Government refused to weigh in on whether it should temporarily shut down its work on the contract. Ultimately, Pernix Serka decided to temporarily withdraw its personnel, which the Government then characterized as Pernix Serka’s “unilateral” decision. When Pernix Serka sought advice on whether and when to resume work, the Government went so far as to say that “DOS will not provide any instructions or directions” regarding whether and when to return to the work site. The contractor ultimately decided to resume performance, but incurred additional costs when it decided to contract for medical facilities and services on the project site.Continue reading “Tips to Maximize Contractor Recoveries for Public Health-Related Claims: Lessons from Pernix Serka and the Ebola Crisis”
Companies providing information technology products and services to U.S. government agencies are now required to notify such agencies of cyber incidents and meet specific cybersecurity standards. The executive order attempts to modernize the federal government’s cybersecurity defenses by “protecting federal networks, improving information-sharing between the U.S. government and the private sector on cyber issues, and strengthening the [United States]’ ability to respond to incidents when they occur.” The executive order is just one example of the Biden administration’s push to improve the nation’s data privacy and cybersecurity practices in response to the recent series of ransomware attacks.
On May 12, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order to bolster the federal government’s cybersecurity practices and contractually obligate the private sector to align with such enhanced security practices (“the Order”). The Order comes on the heels of a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline that occurred on May 6, 2021, which shut down the largest oil pipeline in the United States and disrupted supplies of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel to the East Coast. This initiative to improve the security of the software supply chain also stems from the SolarWinds cyberattack that occurred last year. In the attack, Russian hackers used a routine software update that Texas-based SolarWinds Corp. provided to its customers to install malicious code, allowing the hackers to infiltrate nine federal agencies and about 100 companies.
Proposed amendments are expected soon from the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”) that will increase compliance obligations for government contractors and their vendors, building on a string of supply chain and cybersecurity regulation in recent years (including Section 889’s prohibition on the use of certain Chinese telecommunications, new registration requirements in the Supplier Performance Risk System, and the Department of Defense’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program). We see the biggest impacts on government contractors, such as developers and users of software.
To read the full client alert, please click here.
As 2021 shifts into high gear, Blank Rome’s Government Contracts practice is pleased to share our 2020 Year-in-Review, covering key government contracts issues, recent practice news and recognitions, and our look at the year ahead.
Thanks to the trust and support of our clients and colleagues and our dedication to our Client Service Principles, we helped guide clients through an unprecedented 2020, and look forward to partnering with them to forge ahead in 2021.
We are particularly proud of Blank Rome’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, including our practice’s facilitation of the ABA Public Contract Law’s 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge. We will continue to actively support these important issues in 2021 and beyond, and firmly believe our collective and sustained action will make a difference in our profession.
Finally, if you have not already, we invite you and your team to subscribe to this Government Contracts Navigator blog, where we cover issues of importance to our government contracting community. We know there are a lot of blogs out there, but we keep a strong focus on the practical, with day-to-day business considerations in mind. Interested in the greatest hits? We’ve included in this report a list of the top 10 read posts in 2020. You can also follow us on Twitter @GovConBR.
Thank you for reading. And please let us know how we can help you and your business. Wishing you and your families health and success in 2021.
Please visit our website to read our entire Blank Rome Government Contracts: 2020 Year-in-Review.
We are thrilled to share that Stephanie Harden—a long-time and integral member of our practice group—has been elected to the partnership. For those who haven’t had the chance to connect or work with Stephanie—which we highly recommend!—we wanted to share the highlights of our virtual chat with Stephanie (edited for the blog) to help everyone get to know her better.
First of all, congratulations on your promotion! This is obviously the culmination of many years practicing in the field—but how did you first get interested in government contracts law?
Thank you! I’m very excited about this milestone and helping our clients succeed in my new role.
I spent one of my law school summers at GAO’s Office of General Counsel, where I was first exposed to bid protest litigation. I loved the fast-paced nature of bid protests and was interested in learning more about the field. After law school, I clerked for Judge Victor Wolski on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, where I learned about a host of government contracts issues and really solidified my interest in government contracts law. Being able to observe and learn from the Judge and the advocates practicing before the Court (both from the Justice Department and private bar) gave me a strong foundation for success.
What do you enjoy most about your practice area?
I love that every day brings new challenges and the opportunity to learn about something new. Whether it’s learning about a new technology or researching a novel legal question or a FAR clause you’ve never examined before, there is rarely a dull moment in this field. Continue reading “A Conversation with Our Newest Partner, Stephanie Harden”