Proposed Bill Would Amend the Arms Export Control Act and Establish AUKUS Advisor and Task Force: 3 Highlights

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Anthony Rapa and Patrick F. Collins 

On July 19, 2023, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a bill to ease trade restrictions among parties to the AUKUS agreement—a trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. House Republicans separately have proposed granting the UK and Australia blanket exemptions from requirements under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”), while a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Action for Fiscal Year 2024 from Senate Democrats stops short of blanket exemptions. The McCaul bill offers a compromise—it amends the Arms Export Control Act (“AECA”) to allow the President to exempt select exports of defense items from licensing requirements for countries that meet certain conditions, and requires the U.S. State Department to appoint a senior AUKUS advisor and establish an AUKUS task force.

Background

The AUKUS agreement, initially announced in September 2021, aims to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines and deepen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region with the United States and UK. A White House fact sheet highlights the agreement’s other goals, including cooperation on cyber capabilities, quantum technologies, artificial intelligence, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities, electronic warfare, and undersea capabilities.

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DDTC Extends Open General Licenses for the UK, Canada, and Australia: 3 Takeaways

Anthony Rapa and Patrick F. Collins 

On June 1, 2023, the U.S. Department of State, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (“DDTC”) published under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”) updated Open General License (“OGL”) Nos. 1 & 2, extending a pilot program facilitating certain defense trade within and among the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia through July 31, 2026. OGLs 1 & 2 were initially set to expire on July 31, 2023.

The updated OGLs signify further enhanced defense cooperation between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

Background

On July 20, 2022, DDTC published OGL Nos. 1 & 2, authorizing retransfers within, and reexports among, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia of certain ITAR-controlled defense articles, services, and technical data. The initial OGLs, issued as part of a pilot program, were to be effective from August 1, 2022, through July 31, 2023.

The OGLs authorized retransfers and reexports of certain unclassified defense articles to the governments and DDTC-authorized export communities (as described at Sections 126.17(d) and 126.5(b) of the ITAR) of the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. The OGLs applied only to unclassified defense articles previously exported pursuant to a DDTC-issued license or other approval, and imposed certain exclusions and limitations with respect to: items exported pursuant to the Foreign Military Sales program; certain defense articles relating to missiles and certain missile technology, UAVs, and space launch vehicles; certain ITAR-controlled technical data; and certain “major defense equipment.”

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Three-year extension of OGL pilot program. DDTC’s new rule extends the validity period of OGL Nos. 1 and 2 through July 31, 2026.
  2. DDTC objectives: industry certainty and data collection. DDTC states that it is extending the OGLs for three years (a) to provide industry with comfort that it can use the OGLs without fear that they will expire more quickly than a specific license, and (b) to collect sufficient data on the usefulness of the OGL pilot program.
  3. Clarification. DDTC made what it described as “non-substantive” revisions to the OGLs clarifying that the OGLs can be used to retransfer or reexport a single defense article, and that multiple defense articles need not be retransferred or reexported simultaneously.

Veteran-Owned Small Business Certification Moves from VA to SBA

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Merle M. DeLancey, Jr. and Patrick F. Collins 

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.

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Complying with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act’s Strict Supply Chain Rules

Anthony Rapa, Matthew J. Thomas, and Patrick F. Collins 


The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (“UFLPA” or “Act”), which took effect last month, ushers in a new era of supply chain diligence for importers. The Act creates a rebuttable presumption that any goods produced in whole or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (“XUAR”) of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”), or by entities identified by the U.S. government on the UFLPA Entity List (“Entity List”), are presumed to be made with forced labor and thus are prohibited from entry into the United States under Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. § 1307). Notably, the presumption applies to downstream products that incorporate restricted goods, regardless of where the downstream products are made.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) is now authorized to detain and exclude and/or seize goods that it suspects were produced in the XUAR or by entities on the Entity List.

Importers whose supply chains have links to the XUAR and China should be aware of the implications of UFLPA enforcement, including with respect to due diligence considerations, supply chain tracing and management, and the evidence required to overcome the UFLPA’s rebuttable presumption. There is no grace period for enforcement.

UFLPA OVERVIEW

President Biden signed the UFLPA into law on December 23, 2021. Effective on June 21, 2022, the UFLPA established a rebuttable presumption that the importation of any “goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part” in the XUAR, or produced by entities designated by the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force (“FLETF”) as involved in specified XUAR-related activity, is prohibited by Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which prohibits the importation of items made from forced labor. The presumption applies unless CBP determines that the importer completely and substantively responded to all CBP inquiries, fully complied with FLETF’s guidance, and established by clear and convincing evidence that the goods were not produced using forced labor.

To read the full client alert, please visit our website

New Federal Circuit Guidance Regarding Patent and Latent Ambiguities

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Stephanie M. Harden, Patrick F. Collins, and Ustina M. Ibrahim*

Stephanie Harden's Headshot Photo

Ambiguities in a solicitation or contract have long been one of the greatest traps for unwary contractors. At the solicitation phase, a failure to identify a “patent” (i.e., obvious) ambiguity often results in the contractor losing the competition with no viable bid protest challenge. This is because such ambiguities are construed in the agency’s favor. A contractor seeking to recover added costs based upon an ambiguous contract term will be unable to recover such costs if the ambiguity is “patent” and the Government disagrees with the contractor’s interpretation.

Traditional Test for Patent vs. Latent Ambiguities

So how does one distinguish between “patent” and “latent” ambiguities? Numerous Federal Circuit authorities tell us that a patent ambiguity arises where there is “an obvious omission, inconsistency or discrepancy of significance” that “could have been discovered by reasonable and customary care.” E.g., Per Aarsleff A/S v. United States, 829 F.3d 1303, 1312-13 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (internal quotations omitted). By contrast, a latent ambiguity is a “hidden or concealed defect which is not apparent on the face of the document, could not be discovered by reasonable and customary care, and is not so patent and glaring as to impose an affirmative duty on plaintiff to seek clarification.” Id. (internal quotations omitted).

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