GSA Announces Pilot Plan for Commercial E-Commerce Portals

Luke W. Meier

The effort to create an “Amazon-like” market for Government purchasing has taken another step forward. After completing its market consultation phase, the General Services Administration (“GSA”) has now put forth a proposal for an e-commerce test portal, through which federal agencies will be able to purchase commercial products from a select group of vendors that will set up new online marketplaces specifically for federal purchasing. (See Phase II Report here.)

To simplify regulatory requirements, all purchases on the test portal must be within the micro-purchase threshold—currently $10,000 for most types of purchases. To expand the breadth of its trial run, GSA has asked Congress to temporarily raise the micro-purchase threshold to $25,000 “for a limited period of five years,” only with respect to purchases “through GSA-approved commercial e-commerce portals.”

The scope of the trial program also will depend on which (and how many) vendors receive the “initial proof of concept contracts” to sell products through portals during the trial run. To avoid being locked in to a single supplier, GSA has said it needs “at least two [vendors] or we won’t award.” Will Amazon itself be a vendor? Right now, GSA says it is unclear “if Amazon will compete” for a spot in the pilot program.

Contractors with an interest in the direction of this effort should continue to express their views. Feedback from the pilot program will guide GSA’s next steps as it decides how to move forward with the commercial e-commerce purchasing concept.

Spring Cleaning for Government Contractors? Think Compliance.

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

If you’re like me, it’s the time of year when you clean out your garage and closets and do all those outside projects you delayed until the weather warmed up. If you are a government contractor, you should consider this to be the season to do some spring cleaning in terms of your government contract compliance programs and procedures. Not to be an alarmist, but there are numerous areas you can review now and, if you should find some compliance deficiencies, you still have ample time to get your house in order before an agency audit or the deadline for submission of certain government reports.

Set forth below is a list of areas you may want to clean up: Continue reading “Spring Cleaning for Government Contractors? Think Compliance.”

Top 10 Trends and Compliance Obligations in the Evolving World of Commercial Item Procurement

Blank Rome Partner Justin A. Chiarodo will be a presenter at BDO’s Winter 2019 Marketplace Outlook Update for Government Contractors, “Top 10 Trends and Compliance Obligations in the Evolving World of Commercial Item Procurement.” This live webinar will take place Thursday, February 28, 2019, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. EST.

For more information, please visit our website.

Who Is a Subcontractor under a Federal Government Contract?

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

Recently, clients have asked if they or a vendor or supplier are a “subcontractor” under a federal government contract. Sometimes the answer is easy—e.g., you are a subcontractor when a prime contractor contracts directly with a vendor or supplier (hereinafter “vendor”) to perform a federal contract. But the lines become less clear when a prime contractor does not inform the vendor that the subcontract is being entered into in furtherance of a federal government contract or where the vendor supplies goods that the prime contractor uses to perform commercial and government contracts.

Why Is Subcontractor Status Important?

Subcontractor status is important to prime and subcontractors. A federal prime contractor is required to flow-down multiple Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) clauses to its subcontractors. See FAR 52.212-5(e). The required flowdown clauses that receive the most attention implement three antidiscrimination laws: Executive Order 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; 29 U.S.C. § 793; and Section 402 of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, 38 U.S.C. § 4212. A prime contractor’s failure to flow down these clauses to its subcontractors could result in the prime contractor being held responsible and/or liable for its subcontractor’s noncompliance. Continue reading “Who Is a Subcontractor under a Federal Government Contract?”

What Is the Christian Doctrine and Why Should You Care?

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

The Christian Doctrine

The Christian doctrine provides that a mandatory statute or regulation that expresses a significant or deeply ingrained strand of public procurement policy shall be read into a federal contract by operation of law, even if the clause is not in the contract. G. L. Christian & Associates v. United States, 312 F.2d 418 (Ct. Cl. 1963). The doctrine is an exception to the general rule that the government must put vendors on notice of contract requirements, whether expressly or through incorporation by reference. It also is an exception to standard commercial contracting practices and contract interpretation principles. The rationale for the doctrine is that procurement policies set by higher authority cannot be avoided or evaded (deliberately or negligently) by lower government officials. Continue reading “What Is the Christian Doctrine and Why Should You Care?”

Trade Agreements Act Enforcement Loses a Couple More Teeth

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

Two recent judicial decisions involving the Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”) build on a trend reflecting a more favorable enforcement climate for contractors grappling with domestic preference regimes. Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a qui tam action that alleged fraud in connection with country of origin requirements imposed by the TAA. United States ex rel. Folliard v. Comstor Corp., 308 F.Supp.3d 56 (D.D.C. 2018) (finding the relator failed to adequately plead that the alleged TAA noncompliance was “material” to the Government’s payment decision). The decision marked a welcome early defeat of a False Claims Act case based on the enhanced materiality and scienter requirements of the Escobar decision (as we wrote about here).

Two recent federal court decisions appear to extend the trend of taking some of the bite out of TAA enforcement, and potential exposure for alleged noncompliance. Despite this welcome news, domestic preference programs remain a key legal obligation for government contractors (and an area likely to remain under scrutiny with the Administration’s professed focus on Buy American and Hire American initiatives). Continue reading “Trade Agreements Act Enforcement Loses a Couple More Teeth”

Department of Veterans Affairs Updates Pharmaceutical Federal Schedule Supply

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) National Acquisition Center (“NAC”), which administers the VA Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) Program, has already had a busy year. Among other procurement streamlining activities, the NAC currently is in the process of refreshing all nine (9) of its FSS solicitations to incorporate the most recent regulations and provide updates and clarifications.

Last month, the NAC updated the open and continuous Solicitation for Pharmaceuticals—Schedule 65 I B Pharmaceuticals FSS contract. The NAC issued Mass Modification 0006 and Solicitation Refresh 8. The Modification and Refresh update and incorporate procurement regulations and update or clarify FSS Program policy changes since the last refresh in February 2014, as amended. Refresh 8 applies to all companies submitting FSS proposals (for new contracts and renewals) after June 21, 2018. The Mass Modification is a standard bilateral modification to existing FSS terms and conditions, which the NAC is requesting manufacturers sign and return by July 30, 2018. Continue reading “Department of Veterans Affairs Updates Pharmaceutical Federal Schedule Supply”