In September 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) made a formal request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval of a new information collection request (ICR) to collect and monitor Affirmative Action Plans (AAP), and will soon require federal contractors and subcontractors to regularly certify that they have compliant AAPs. OFCCP recently posted on its website a new page titled “Affirmative Action Plan Verification Interface” and indicated that it was “Coming Soon.” The page further explains “Affirmative Action Plan Verification Interface (AAVI) is a secure web based interface created to improve communication and the transfer of Affirmative Action Plan data, between Federal Contractors and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.”
The increased concern about ransomware incidents from both quantitative and severity standpoints, spurred the White House to urge corporate business leaders to improve their defenses and resilience posture against ransomware attacks. In a June 2, 2021 open letter to Corporate Executives and Business Leaders (the Letter), Anne Neuberger, the White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emergency Technology, appealed for business leaders to act following on the heels of the President’s directives to federal agencies and contractors.
Bias is a frequent bid protest argument, but it is often unsuccessful because government officials are presumed to act in good faith. To overcome that presumption, a protester must provide “convincing proof” of the alleged bias. A protester cannot rely on inference or supposition alone as evidence of a government official’s unfair or prejudicial motives.
In March, we wrote about how we still were awaiting guidance from the White House about how the Made in America Office’s waiver process would work under President Biden’s January 25, 2021 EO 14005, Ensuring the Future is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers. This month, the White House released its initial guidance on the new waiver process, identifying four main areas of implementation:
In a previous post, we discussed the need to include a sum certain as part of a CDA claim. This requirement of course is but one of several needed for a CDA claim to be valid and for the Court of Federal Claims and the boards of contract appeals to take jurisdiction. Another equally important requirement is that the claim be certified. Like the sum certain requirement, failing to properly certify a claim has the potential to derail pending litigation, or worse, could even prevent an unwary contractor from asserting the claim altogether.
President Biden’s newly released Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity represents a comprehensive approach to tackling cybersecurity threats in the U.S. and will likely result in new FAR and DFARS contract requirements. It represents the next step towards the inclusion of mandatory breach notifications in government contracts following widespread speculation that breach notification requirements were on the horizon.
On June 1, 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that it intends to use the federal government’s purchasing power to grow federal contracting with small disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent, translating to an additional $100 billion over five years. This is one of many new steps intended to help narrow the racial wealth gap and reinvest in communities. In explaining this new policy goal, the Administration recognized that:
For years, I have been blogging and speaking about the very real and very serious civil and potential criminal consequences of a failure to comply with the Davis Bacon Act. Every once in a while, a case comes along that drives those points home. One such case – involving criminal convictions for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with what appears to be a blatant failure to comply with Davis Bacon Act requirements – is the recent decision in United States v. Estepa, No. 19-12272 (11th Cir. May 25, 2021).
If a dispute arises on a federal contract, the Contract Disputes Act requires a contractor to submit a written demand seeking as a matter of right a “sum certain” to the contracting officer as part of the claims process. What exactly is a “sum certain”? It is what it sounds like—contractors must provide an exact dollar amount of the overall damages they are claiming in their CDA claims. In other words, whatever damages the contractor is claiming cannot be qualified in any way. Contractors should never use the words “at least,” “approximately,” “no less than,” or “well over” with their damage figure. Instead, the contractor must provide an exact amount a set damage figure that represents the overall amount being demanded. It is okay if the damage figure is an estimate—even a flat calculation of $100,000—as long as an overall demand is made without any qualifying language.
Breaking into federal government contracting can be daunting. There are ever-changing compliance obligations to consider and complex bidding and proposal submission requirements to navigate. An entire industry of sales consultants, proposal writers, and lobbyists promising to help tap into the $600 Billion plus federal marketplace are only a Google search away. Engaging the services from one of these firms is generally allowed, but there are restrictions. This post deals with one of those restrictions—the Covenant Against Contingent Fees (FAR 52.203-5) which restricts how government contractors pay third-party sales agents.