The recently enacted coronavirus COVID-19 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act stimulus package (the “CARES Act” or “the Act”) includes billions of dollars earmarked for the Department of Defense (“DoD”) and defense industry contractors. It does this in two ways:
- By providing billions of dollars in loans, loan guarantees, and other financial assistance to businesses through the Department of the Treasury, including up to $17 billion specifically for businesses “critical to maintaining national security;” and
- By providing $10.5 billion in supplemental appropriations to DoD, much of which is likely to go to procuring goods and services from federal contractors, including in areas ranging from healthcare to information technology. The Act also contains provisions intended to streamline DoD contracting during the present emergency.
Although the procedures to obtain these loans were not established by the Act, the Secretary of the Treasury is required to publish procedures for applying for these loans within 10 days of enactment. It is expected that DoD will issue solicitations very soon to meet these pressing needs. We expect many contractors in the defense industry will be eligible for these loans, or for the parallel loan program for small businesses being administered by the Small Business Administration under the Act. Continue reading “CARES Act: Significant Funds for Defense Department and Defense Contractors”
Albert B. Krachman
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) creates several new contracting authorities that will present new business opportunities to firms offering COVID-19-related supplies and services. In some cases, the CARES Act also establishes specialized contracting priorities or preferences to contractors with particular service experience or qualifications, expertise, or ownership characteristics. The law also permits certain awards to be made without competition—in other words, sole source contracts—without the Justification and Approval normally required for such awards. This post surveys some of these new contracting authorities and award preferences.
New Contracting Authorities
The CARES Act delegates extensive new contracting authorities to the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) and creates many new organizations with specific contracting authority. Here is a brief list of some of the key delegations and new organizations with contracting authority:
Blood Donor Awareness
The Act charges the Secretary of HHS with starting a national campaign about the importance of blood donation. Section 3226(b) of the Act gives the Secretary authority to contract with one or more public or private nonprofit entities to establish this campaign. These nonprofits will then engage advertising and public relations firms to execute the awareness programs. Media firms with public health communications experience will have an edge in securing this work. Continue reading “New Contracting Authorities and Preferences Established Under the CARES Act”
Albert B. Krachman and Scott Arnold
Contractors that have submitted final proposals and are awaiting award on negotiated procurements may find themselves in an unusual position these days—questioning whether they still want the award in the dramatically changed landscape created by coronavirus COVID-19. In some cases, key personnel may no longer be available or critical supply chains may have become so disrupted that the proposal would require major changes to the technical approach. Assumptions that went into proposal pricing may no longer be valid.
Contractors in this posture may face a Hobson’s choice. Should they hold firm, accept the award, and hope the government is flexible post award? If they believe that they likely cannot perform as proposed, should they withdraw their proposals or risk proposal rejection by submitting late proposal revisions?
In some cases, depending on the stage of the acquisition, there may be opportunities for proposal revisions, but the government typically notifies offerors of a time after which revisions will not be accepted. In a FAR Part 15 acquisition, before the closing date for receipt of proposals, a contractor is generally free to submit proposal revisions. If the government conducts discussions, a contractor is also generally able to revise its proposal, subject to limitations that can be imposed on the permissible scope of revisions. Offerors may withdraw proposals at any time before award. Continue reading “Pending Federal Contract Proposals and COVID-19”
Albert B. Krachman
Although firms that offer coronavirus COVID-19 solutions can use many routes to access the federal marketplace, very few of these routes can lead to a sole source contract. One such vehicle is the unsolicited proposal. An unsolicited proposal can result in a sole source contract if the firm’s proposed solution is unique enough to support a Contracting Officer’s sole source Justification and Approval. Recent case law has established that the government has a legal obligation to fairly evaluate unsolicited proposals, so in effect, submission of an unsolicited proposal creates an implied contract with the government that obligates the government to evaluate the firm’s proposal fairly (but not necessarily to award a contract to the firm). Scott v. U.S., No. 17-471C, 2017 WL 4785353 (Fed. Cl. Oct. 24, 2017).
Companies with innovative solutions that have not been the subject of procurement contracts or grants can use this vehicle to offer their goods or services to the federal government on this exclusive basis. Continue reading “Using Unsolicited Federal Contract Proposals for Sole Source COVID-19 Related Contract Awards”
Merle M. DeLancey Jr.
In response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) has relaxed procurement rules and regulations to facilitate purchases from VA federal supply schedules (“FSS”). On March 20, 2020, the VA National Acquisition Center (“NAC”) informed all VA FSS holders that, based upon the President’s invocation of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121-5207 (the “Stafford Act”), state and local governments, territories, and tribes have full access to VA FSS contracts. See Presidential Declaration of National Emergency COVID-19 – State and Local Government Ordering Procedures.
Thus, even if a contractor did not elect to participate in Disaster Recovery Purchasing at the time of contract award, contractors are now permitted to accept any orders by state and local governments. However, whether to accept any state or local government order is voluntary not mandatory. Continue reading “VA Federal Supply Schedule Contracts and the Coronavirus”
Justin A. Chiarodo and Stephanie M. Harden
Coronavirus COVID-19 is rapidly disrupting the performance of federal government contracts across all sectors, leaving contractors and subcontractors with more questions than answers on how to structure their operations. In the following Q&A, we address some of the top issues contractors are currently facing.
- The Government has closed my work site, precluding my employees from performing their work. If I continue to pay the employees, can I recover those costs?
If your employees cannot perform their work because the work site is closed (and telework is not an option due to the nature of the work), this may be construed as an actual or constructive stop work order. As with a government shutdown, contractors facing this scenario may be entitled to an equitable adjustment to account for idle employee time because they are expected to be ready to perform as soon as the Government reopens facilities.
A March 20 Memorandum from Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert (“Weichert Memorandum”) confirms that equitable adjustments may be appropriate if the requested costs are reasonable. Specifically, the Weichert Memorandum advises that such requests “should be considered on a case-by-case basis” and that agencies may consider such factors as “whether it is beneficial to keep skilled professionals or key personnel in a mobile ready state for activities the agency deems critical to national security or other high priorities (e.g., national security professionals, skilled scientists).” Continue reading “COVID-19 Disruptions and Work Stoppages: A Q&A for Federal Contractors”
Merle M. DeLancey Jr.
On March 19, 2020, the General Services Administration (“GSA”) issued guidance regarding its process for issuing Defense Priorities and Allocation System (“DPAS”) Rated Orders. Significantly, however, GSA reminded its contracting officers that “[e]xisting Government sources of supply and contract vehicles should be considered first. Check to see if the required supplies are available.” See gsa.gov/buying-selling/purchasing-programs/gsa-schedules/gsa-schedule-offerings/consolidated-schedule/industrial-products-services-category and gsaadvantage.gov/advantage/search/specialCategory.do?cat=ADV.DR. GSA federal supply schedules (“FSS”) can be a contracting officer’s one-stop shop for protective equipment, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and other products and supplies to combat the coronavirus COVID-19. The GSA FSS also offers a variety of solutions for agencies looking for teleworking options. See gsa.gov/buying-selling/purchasing-programs/gsa-schedules/gsa-schedule-offerings/consolidated-schedule/professional-services-category.
The largest active buyer in the market right now remains the federal government. FSS is an important tool for the government to get supplies and services, but do not be fooled. With these potential opportunities, there also are potential risks for FSS contractors that fail to follow the terms and conditions of their FSS contracts and/or seek to cut corners.
As is often the case, FSS vendors go above and beyond to provide services or deliver supplies to federal agencies to respond to emergency situations like the COVID-19 pandemic. As is also the case, months later, after the dust settles, agency offices of inspector general arrive to audit contracts. Inevitably, in the effort to expeditiously fill government orders, things get overlooked or ignored, and “but I was helping the agency fulfill its mission in response to a pandemic” is not a defense that will resonate with government auditors.
Based upon our experience, here are some tips for FSS vendors to follow and/or traps to avoid: Continue reading “GSA Federal Supply Schedules Contracts and the Coronavirus: Risks and Rewards”