This past week, the FAR Council issued a proposed rule that would potentially speed up payments to small business prime contractors and subcontractors across the federal government. The proposed rule, found at 86 Fed. Reg. 53,923, seeks to incentivize agencies to pay prime contractors that are small businesses within 15 days instead of 30 days after receipt of a proper invoice if no payment date is specified in the contract. It also would apply to prime contractors that subcontract with small businesses, applying a similar 15-day requirement to pay small subcontractors when accelerated payments are received. According to the proposed rule, the FAR Council will apply this to most federal contracts by seeking determinations to make this new rule applicable to commercial contracts as well as those under the Simplified Acquisition Threshold.
President Biden’s September 9, 2021 Executive Order 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, directs the federal Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (“Task Force”) to develop COVID-19 workplace safety guidance for federal contractors and subcontractors providing services to or for the federal government. The Executive Order requires the guidance to apply broadly, not only to contracts governed by the Federal Acquisition Regulations (“FAR”), but also to “contracts and contract-like” instruments not covered by the FAR. The Executive Order also directs the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council to develop new contract clauses that will incorporate the Task Force’s guidance into new and newly-amended federal contracts.
Imagine as a supplier of medical oxygen cylinders and tanks in your region, you enter into an arrangement with HHS or DHS to provide oxygen to nearby hospital facilities dealing with surges in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, due to the recent dramatic surge in your area and the significant demand for oxygen, the government moved quickly to award you a contract that appears very different from other federal contracts you have previously signed.
Effective September 1, 2021, Texas Senate Bill 19 prohibits government entities from contracting with companies that have policies that restrict business with the firearms industry. The bill specifically targets banks and other financial institutions that have at least ten employees and are seeking government contracts of at least $100,000. Under the bill, such institutions are required to provide written verification that they do not have practices, policies, guidance, or directives that “discriminate” against a firearm entity or firearm trade association.
On September 9, 2021, President Biden held a press conference introducing the administration’s “Plan to Stop the Delta Variant and Boost COVID-19 Vaccinations.” At this conference, the President announced a pair of executive orders that mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for (1) employees of the executive branch of the federal government and (2) employees of federal contractors and subcontractors, and also announced a forthcoming Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding vaccinations and/or routine testing for employers with more than 100 employees.
On July 29th, 2021, President Biden announced additional efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates and to protect the federal workforce, including strengthening safety protocols for federal employees and contractors. Under the Biden Administration’s new guidance, in areas of high or substantial transmission of COVID-19, federal employees, contractors, and visitors must wear a mask inside federal buildings with limited exceptions. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask regardless of community transmission level.
A proposed amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (“FAR”) published on July 30, 2021 will “strengthen the impact of the Buy American Act” (“BAA”) over the next eight years, according to the Federal Register notice. Federal contractors and subcontractors were put on notice of coming proposed changes in January when President Biden issued Executive Order (“EO”) 14005 revoking or superseding multiple EOs issued by the Trump Administration. The Proposed Rule arising from Section 8 of EO 14005 would alter and build upon existing requirements of the BAA. The Proposed Rule includes immediately higher domestic content thresholds that will increase over time, price preference enhancements for “critical” items, and contractor reporting of domestic content within 15 days of an award to the newly created Made in America Office of the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”). The new proposed Buy American restrictions will not apply to acquisitions subject to various trade agreements under the Trade Agreements Act.
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.