ISDC Report Highlights New Flexibilities as Alternative Remedies Increase

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Dominique L. Casimir and Tjasse L. Fritz


The Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (“ISDC”) has released its annual Section 873 Report to Congress for FY2020. The data in this report provides a big picture view of trends in suspension and debarment. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Debarments Increased in FY2020.

Debarments were up slightly, with 1,256 debarments in 2020 compared with 1,199 in 2019, bucking the downward trend of the previous six years. It is reasonable to expect that the increase in debarments will continue, particularly as the Government progresses in investigating CARES Act fraud.

2. Suspensions and Proposed Debarments Decreased.

Suspensions decreased, after a brief uptick in 2019, from 722 in 2019 to 415 in 2020, consistent with the general downward trend of years prior. Similarly, proposed debarments fell from 1,437 in 2019 to 1,317 in 2020. Interestingly, the ISDC attributes these decreases, “in part, to delays in mail service, travel restrictions, and postponements in court proceedings,” which means the FY2020 decrease is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic rather than an actual Governmentwide downward trend in activity. And the decrease was not uniform: 13 of the 29 agencies reporting their FY2020 metrics actually increased the number of suspensions.

Continue reading “ISDC Report Highlights New Flexibilities as Alternative Remedies Increase”

Report on the State of Competition within the Defense Industrial Base

Brian S. Gocial, Sara N. Gerber, and Tjasse L. Fritz

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As the federal government prepares to roll out infrastructure grants and contracts in amounts not seen since the New Deal and the defense industrial base (“DIB”) gears up to support billions in new spending to support Ukraine, a new Department of Defense (“DoD”) report raises serious concerns about the state of competition within the DIB. The report recently released by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment analyzes the state of competition within the DIB and concluded that it can be summarized in one word: poor. The report discusses the causes for the lack of competition and makes recommendations for improving the solicitation process to increase competition, inspire innovation, reduce prices, and improve quality.

Consolidation

Foremost among the causes for the lack of competition identified by the report is consolidation of the DIB. Of 51 aerospace and defense prime contractors in the 1990s only five exist today. Although the report failed to find significant correlation between this consolidation and increased pricing, the consolidation raises additional concerns for DoD, such as national security, mission risk, and strategic technology innovation. The report notes that “having only a single source or a small number of sources for a defense need can pose mission risk and, particularly in cases where the existing dominant supplier or suppliers are influenced by an adversary nation, pose significant national security risks.” The report recommends that when a merger is likely to harm one of these interests, DoD work closely with the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice to take structural or behavioral measures deemed necessary, up to and including blocking the merger.

Continue reading “Report on the State of Competition within the Defense Industrial Base”

A Contractor’s Guide to Trump’s Diversity Training Order

Dominique L. Casimir, Brooke T. Iley, and Tjasse L. Fritz






An expanded version of our September 24, 2020, post, Trump Administration Bans Contractors from Providing Certain Types of Diversity Training, was published in Law360 on October 2, 2020. Read on for more information about the order and how contractors should respond.

Federal contractors have long provided various types of anti-harassment, nondiscrimination and diversity and inclusion, or D&I, training to their employees. After the death of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed, D&I training has proliferated in workplaces across the country, including within federal agencies and in the contractor community.

In response to the widespread public protests for racial equality, many companies and executives issued public statements denouncing racism. Many also pledged millions of dollars to social justice organizations. In numerous workplaces, employees have taken the initiative to organize book clubs and discussion circles focused specifically on promoting open workplace discussions about race. Some employers have provided lists of resources for employees seeking to learn more about issues of race.

On Sept. 22, the Trump administration issued a bombshell executive order purporting to ban certain types of D&I training,[1] leaving federal contractors scrambling to determine how best to comply, and how to identify and mitigate the new risks they now face.

Why now?

President Donald Trump has been vocal about his views on the discourse of racial issues following the nationwide protests for racial equality that started at the beginning of the summer.

In June, the president rejected calls to rename military bases honoring Confederate generals.[2] The Trump administration issued a memorandum on Sept. 4,[3] directing agencies to identify:

all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on critical race theory,[4] white privilege, or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil [and to] identify all available avenues within the law to cancel any such contracts and/or to divert Federal dollars away from these un-American propaganda training sessions.

The executive order that followed three weeks later takes aim at contractor-provided workplace D&I training that the Trump administration considers divisive and objectionable.

Please click here for the full article.

Trump Administration Bans Contractors from Providing Certain Types of Diversity Training

Brooke T. Iley, Dominique L. Casimir, and Tjasse L. Fritz







On Tuesday evening, the Trump administration surprised the federal contracting community by issuing an Executive Order (“EO”) titled “Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” that will ban federal contractors from conducting certain types of anti-discrimination training. In particular, the EO prohibits workplace racial sensitivity and diversity and inclusion (“D&I”) training programs that contain so-called “divisive content,” defined in the EO as instilling a belief in the existence of systemic racism and inherent bias. The EO expands an earlier ban issued in a September 4, 2020, memorandum that prohibits certain anti-discrimination training from being conducted within federal agencies.

The EO comes on the heels of a widespread social and racial justice movement that dominated much of the summer of 2020, in response to which corporate America has taken a stand, with companies pledging millions to social justice reform movements. An overwhelming number of employers either have offered or plan to offer some form of diversity training to their employees. This latest EO leaves many federal contractors and subcontractors wondering whether and how to proceed, and what penalties they may face if they offer such training. Continue reading “Trump Administration Bans Contractors from Providing Certain Types of Diversity Training”

A Federal Contractor’s Five-Part Guide to the CARES Act

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) was signed into law. This massive $2.2 trillion economic package provides a host of opportunities and resources for all varieties of federal contractors—from those who need financial assistance through the coronavirus pandemic to those who can leverage their resources to assist the federal government in its response.

The five timely posts below discuss discrete portions of the CARES Act, how they might affect federal contractors, and what federal contractors can do to take advantages of the many programs and opportunities offered under the Act. Please contact us for assistance with any of these, or other components, of the Act.

1. The CARES Act Provides Much Needed Financial Relief for Small Businesses

Michael Joseph Montalbano
This article discusses the expanded $349 billion loan program set aside for small businesses under the CARES Act.

2. CARES Act § 3610: An Immediate Lifeline for Qualifying Federal Contactors Displaced by COVID-19

Michael J. Slattery
This article discusses § 3610 of the CARES Act, which provides funds that federal agencies can use to alleviate disruptions to federal contractors caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

 3. CARES Act Grant Programs: Searching for Opportunity in the Coronavirus Relief Effort

Tjasse L. Fritz
This article discusses the wealth of grant programs available to federal contractors and other businesses under the CARES Act.

4. CARES Act: Significant Funds for Defense Department and Defense Contractors

Adam Proujansky
This article discusses the billions of dollars in loans, loan guarantees, and other financial assistance available through the Department of Defense to defense industry contractors.

5. New Contracting Authorities and Preferences Established under the CARES Act

Albert B. Krachman
This article discusses new contracting authorities delegated under the CARES Act as well as sole source opportunities available under the Act.

As COVID-19 issues permeate virtually all aspects of commerce nationally and internationally, we stand ready to help. Blank Rome’s Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force includes interdisciplinary resources across every business sector from insurance recovery to HR.

CARES Act Grant Programs: Searching for Opportunity in the Coronavirus Relief Effort

Tjasse L. Fritz

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act” or “the Act”) is a $2.2 trillion legislative package designed to stabilize the United States’ economy as the country deals with the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Included in the Act are a wealth of grant programs that may hold opportunities for companies able to position themselves appropriately during this crisis.

Of particular interest are grant programs related to healthcare, technology, and workforce sustainment, which include:

1. Entrepreneurial development grants

Section 1103 of the CARES Act provides a $240 million grant fund for development of programs to provide education, training, and advising to covered small business concerns. Training topics include:

    • How to apply for Small Business Administration (“SBA”) resources, including business resiliency programs;
    • COVID-19 transmission prevention practices; and
    • How to manage and practice teleworking.

An additional $25 million grant is available for development of a centralized information hub where these educational materials may be accessed. Continue reading “CARES Act Grant Programs: Searching for Opportunity in the Coronavirus Relief Effort”

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