After several Federal District Courts issued injunctions against the federal contractor vaccine mandate in December 2021, the Federal Government issued guidance fully suspending its enforcement of the federal contractor mandate. Despite the guidance, the future of the federal contractor vaccine mandate continued to remain in a state of limbo. This was best demonstrated two weeks ago when the Ninth Circuit sided with the Federal Government by lifting the district court’s preliminary injunction of the federal contractor vaccine mandate. The Ninth Circuit’s decision created a split with the Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuits that have enjoined the mandate. This Circuit split was likely headed to the United States Supreme Court.
On May 1, 2023, all of this changed. The Biden Administration announced its plan to end its federal contractor vaccine mandate on May 11, 2023, the same day the public health emergency ends. Accordingly, the Administration plans to issue an Executive Order “rescinding the vaccination requirement for federal employees and COVID-19 safety protocols for federal contractors, effective at 12:01 am on May 12, 2023.” For Federal Contractors | Safer Federal Workforce. Until then, the guidance suspending the enforcement of the federal contractor mandate remains in effect.
This should be the end of the federal contractor vaccine mandate; however, we will know more by May 11, 2023. Stay tuned for further developments.
On January 31, 2022, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) released its annual drug lists in accordance with its Drug Transparency Reporting Program. DHHS published four drug lists: List #1 Essential Diabetes Drug Summary List; List #2 Essential Diabetes Drug List with WAC; List #3 Essential Diabetes Drug List (with Significant Price Increase); and List #4 Over $40 Drug List (with Significant Price Increase). (Nevada Drug Transparency Drug Lists 2023)
Drug manufacturers with drugs identified on Lists #2, #3, and/or #4 are required to submit reports to the Transparency Program on or before April 1, 2023. The reporting templates and instructions can be found here: Manufacturers. Do not wait until late March to prepare the reports because the information requested is detailed and will likely require input from multiple divisions or functions within a company. Examples of the information required to be reported include: total cost of producing the drug; total administrative expenditures related to the drug; profit manufacturer earned from the drug; percentage of manufacturer’s total profit attributed to drug during marketing period for drug; and, for lists #3 and #4, an explanation for the applicable drug’s price increase.
Effective January 1, 2023, the certification process for veteran-owned small businesses (“VOSBs”) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (“SDVOSBs”) will be transferred from the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) to the Small Business Administration (“SBA”). Except for implementation transitioning discussed below, to be eligible for sole-source and set-aside acquisitions, VOSBs and SDVOSBs will need to be certified by the SBA.
Previously, VOSB and SDVOSB verifications were made by the VA’s Center for Verification and Evaluation (“CVE”). To be eligible for VA contracts, VOSBs/SDVOSBs had to be verified by the CVE; there was no government-wide certification program, and firms seeking SDVOSB sole-source or set-aside contracts outside the VA only needed to self-certify their status pursuant to Section 36 of the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 657f.
On November 29, 2022, the SBA published a final rule implementing Section 862 of the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) transferring authority for VOSB/SDVOSB certifications from the VA to the SBA. The final rule consolidates the eligibility requirements for the Veteran Small Business Certification Program, and the SBA is assuming control of VOSB/SDVOSB certification for purposes of nearly all small business federal contracting. SBA also published a Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”) page regarding the final rule.
In case you have not been following this development, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (“OFCCP”) intends to release certain EEO-1 data in response to a FOIA request. Specifically, OFCCP intends to release EEO-1 Type 2 Reports submitted by federal contractors from 2016 to 2022. All multi-establishment companies (i.e., any corporation that does business out of multiple physical locations) are required to submit Type 2 Reports. These reports must include data for all employees of the company (i.e., all employees at headquarters as well as at all establishments) categorized by race/ethnicity, sex, and job category.
OFCCP is notifying contractors who have not objected that it intends to release the requested EEO-1 Data after the start of the new year. In e-mails sent to contractors at the end of November 2022, OFCCP stated:
The objection period is now closed, and we are sending this message to confirm we have not received an objection from your organization regarding release of the requested data. Because we have received no objection, we are providing your organization with notice that its Type 2 EEO-1 data is subject to release under FOIA, and OFCCP intends to release this data after January 2, 2023.
The e-mail notice instructs companies to contact OFCCP “as soon as possible but no later than January 2, 2023” if OFCCP has erred and the company did timely object to release of its data or the company was not a federal contractor during the applicable time period.
On October 18, 2022, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a press release signaling a potentially significant expansion of Section 889 through a proposed amendment to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”). Schumer’s proposal is aimed at extending the telecommunications supply chain prohibitions in Section 889 to the semiconductor manufacturing industry.
Section 889 currently prohibits contractors from providing the federal government or using any products or services that incorporate “covered telecommunications equipment or services” from five Chinese telecom companies and their affiliates and subsidiaries: (1) Huawei Technologies Company, (2) ZTE Corporation, (3) Hytera Communications Corporation, (4) Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company, and (5) Dahua Technology Company.
Schumer’s 2023 NDAA amendment would expand Section 889 by banning semiconductor products like microchips from the following three Chinese entities: (1) Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (“SMIC”), (2) ChangXin Memory Technologies (“CXMT”), and (3) Yangtze Memory Technologies Corp. (“YMTC”). Schumer noted that these companies have known links to the Chinese state security and intelligence apparatuses. The amendment is aimed at filling a gap in federal procurement restrictions that currently do not include semiconductor technology and services, creating a vulnerability for cyberattacks and data privacy. The amendment would not take effect until three years after the NDAA’s enactment, or until 2025.
Although we do not yet know whether Schumer’s amendment will be incorporated into the final NDAA bill, contractors should nevertheless begin evaluating their supply chains to identify any semiconductor products from any of the three named Chinese manufacturers. Schumer’s amendment signals a continually expansive interpretation and enforcement of Section 889, which may be reflected in the final rulemaking for Section 889. The current FAR docket anticipates a final rule in December 2022, although these deadlines continue to be moving targets.
Effective October 25, 2022, the domestic content requirements for government purchases subject to the Buy American Act (“BAA”) will increase. A March 7, 2022, final rule implemented significant domestic content threshold increases over a seven-year timeframe for procurements subject to the BAA requirements of FAR Part 25. These increases were based on President Biden’s January 25, 2021, Executive Order 14005, Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers. (See, Buy American Act—Final Rule: What Has Changed?) Note that these changes apply to the BAA as implemented in non-Department of Defense (“DoD”) purchases—the rules for implementing the BAA in DoD acquisitions are set forth in the DFARS, and differ from the FAR implementation in several important respects that we will address in a future post.
Unlike the Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”), which bans government purchases of non-compliant products, the BAA applies pricing preferences to encourage government agencies to purchase “domestic end products.” Thus, items that are not BAA compliant may still be purchased by government agencies, but they must be significantly less expensive. Currently, FAR Part 25 provides that large businesses offering domestic end products receive a 20 percent price preference and small businesses offering domestic end products receive a 30 percent price preference. The FAR sets forth a two-part test to determine whether a manufactured end product or construction material qualifies as a domestic end product: (1) the end product or construction material must be manufactured in the United States; and (2) the cost of any components mined, produced, or manufactured in the United States must exceed a certain percentage of the cost of all components.
Effective October 1, 2022, Department of Defense (“DoD”) contractors must comply with Part B of Section 889 of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”). The approximately two-year long Part B waiver granted to the Director of National Intelligence expired October 1. DoD contractors cannot seek a DoD agency-level waiver as DoD cannot grant waivers under the statute. Thus, as with other agencies, DoD is prohibited from entering into, extending, or renewing contracts with contractors who use covered telecommunications or video surveillance equipment and services from certain Chinese companies in any part of their business.
Compliance with Part A of Section 889 was straightforward. Part A prohibited contractors from selling covered technology to the federal agencies. Comparatively, compliance with Part B is much more complicated. Part B requires a contractor to certify that it does not use “any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system.” The prohibition applies to all contracts at any dollar value. “Covered telecommunications equipment or services” is defined as equipment, services and/or video surveillance products from Huawei Technologies Company, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company, Hytera Communications Company, Dahua Technology Company, ZTE Corporation, or any entity controlled by the People’s Republic of China.
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.
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.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) recently issued a final rule that creates new opportunities for small businesses to submit relevant past performance, and new requirements for large/other than small prime contractors to provide past performance reviews to first-tier small business subcontractors.
The final rule is intended to help small businesses overcome the hurdle of having minimal past performance to use in competitive procurements. The rule creates new mechanisms to permit small businesses to use the past performance of a joint venture in which it was a member, or to use its performance as a first-tier subcontractor. The new rule takes effect on August 22, 2022.