Contract Administration

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.

Continue Reading Terminations for Convenience Clauses vs. Mutual Termination Clauses: What are the Limits on the Government’s Right to Terminate?

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.

Continue Reading Government Contracting Implications of Texas Senate Bill 19: Navigating State Regulation of Corporate Firearm Policies

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.

Continue Reading Proposed FAR Amendments to Buy American Act Increase Competition for Federal Contracts and the Supply Chain

A unique aspect of doing business with the federal government is the built-in limits on a contractor’s right to assign the contract or the right to payment under the contract to third parties. The Anti-Assignment Act (41 U.S.C. § 6305) prohibits the transfer of a government contract or interest in a government contract to a third party. An assignment of a contract in violation of this law voids the contract except for the Government’s right to pursue a breach of contract remedies. What’s a contractor to do when it is acquired/merged with another firm, is restructured, or goes through a variety of other types of corporate transaction? The Federal Acquisition Regulations recognize that firms involved in government contracts get bought and sold from time to time and includes procedures for the novation of contracts in certain situations to avoid a potential violation of the Anti-Assignment Act.

Continue Reading Novation Agreements Under Federal Contracts

Sorting through domestic preference requirements applicable to government contracts is no simple task. Different agencies like the DOD, FTA, FAA, FHWA, have their own rules applicable to certain programs. Exceptions from those rules can differ when a small business is making the offer. And the rules are subject to change. With the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s (“Federal Circuit”) decision in Acetris Health LLC v. United States (Fed. Cir. 2/10/2020), the situation is now a little more complicated. The same product may be “U.S. made” for government contracts purposes but considered foreign origin for customs and international trade purposes which triggers US customs duties and tariffs.
Continue Reading Federal Circuit weighs in on Trade Agreements Act compliance and the meaning of “manufacture”

Federal agencies and contractors are working hard to address the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, work must stop. In others, the work will increase or change dramatically. While contractors should look to contracting officers for guidance with respect to specific contracts, agency-wide guidance documents are beginning to shed light on the government’s expectations. We will be using this blog entry to collect and share agency guidance on performance of government contracts during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Department of Defense—

Department of the Army—

  • Planning for Potential Novel Coronavirus Impacts (Mar. 12, 2020). Encourages increased communication, notes that contracting officers do not bear the responsibility to determine whether the excuse of COVID—19 applies, outlines causes for performance delays that are excusable and FAR provisions that excuse performance delays, and clarifies situations in which compensation is an option.


Continue Reading Federal agency guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic

In response to the growing Coronavirus pandemic, President Trump announced that the federal government will invoke the Defense Production Act to obtain necessary medical equipment and supplies from private industry. In this post we address some of the most frequently-asked questions about the DPA.

What is the Defense Production Act?

Originally conceived during the Korean War, the DPA allows the President to divert goods and supplies from civilian use to promote the national defense. This authority is not limited to sourcing aircraft parts or ammunition, or to supporting active military operations. The text of the Act expressly extends to matters involving “national economic security and national public health or safety.”

The Defense Priorities and Allocations System regulations in 15 C.F.R. Part 700 implement the Defense Production Act. The DPAS regulations provide detail about how the government will issue rated orders and what contractors and commercial suppliers must do to respond.

How does the government prioritize orders for specific supplies?

The government specifies the relative priority for specific supplies by issuing a “rated order,” which may be designated “DX” or “DO.” A DX order has the highest priority. It must be fulfilled before any other DO or unrated order. A DO rated order must be fulfilled before an unrated order. A rated order must be fulfilled first, even if it means the contractor must divert items already in process or ready for delivery under another contract.
Continue Reading Contractor FAQs on the Defense Production Act

The spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) remains unclear, but its impacts are already being felt. Supply chains are being disrupted and companies are implementing preventative measures to protect their employees. Many businesses have already suspended non-essential travel, encouraged remote working arrangements, and advised employees to follow the Centers for Disease Control risk-reduction strategies. Given these delays and disruptions, it’s logical to wonder:  Are delays or impacts related to the Coronavirus an excusable delay?

The answer is yes, if you can prove it. Below we outline the standard contract clauses dealing with delays from epidemics and discuss how courts have interpreted those clauses in the past when contractors claimed their delays should be excused due to an epidemic.
Continue Reading Is Coronavirus an excusable delay?

Under the Christian Doctrine, prime contractors face the risk of having a court or a board of contract appeals read a clause into their contracts, even if it was omitted from the contract that they signed. In this entry we discuss whether the Christian Doctrine applies to subcontractors.

The Christian Doctrine is almost certainly inapplicable to subcontractors. For the reasons why, consider the decision in Energy Labs, Inc. v. Edwards Engineering, Inc., (N.D. Ill. June 2, 2015). A subcontractor contracted to manufacture and deliver HVAC systems for the Chicago Transit Authority. In its own contract, the prime contractor certified that the HVAC system would comply with the Buy America Act. But the prime contractor failed to flow the requirement down to the HVAC manufacturer, which planned to manufacture the units in Mexico. After learning that the plan to manufacture the units in Mexico would not meet the Buy America requirement, the prime contractor canceled the order and purchased the units from another manufacturer.

The original manufacturer sued for breach of contract. In its motion to dismiss, the prime contractor made two arguments. The subcontract was “illegal” because it omitted the Buy America requirement. Or it was legal only because the Christian Doctrine meant that the Buy America requirement was read into the subcontract by operation of law. The court rejected both arguments. There was nothing “illegal” about the prime’s failure to include a Buy America requirement in the subcontract. And there was no basis to read the requirement into the subcontract through the Christian Doctrine. “The Christian doctrine . . . was intended to apply to contracts between the federal government and government contractors, not to subcontracts.”

This result is consistent with our experience.
Continue Reading Does the Christian Doctrine apply to subcontractors?

Every year or so, the U.S. Postal Service changes the standard Terms and Conditions that apply to its newly awarded Highway Contract Route (HCR) and Contract Delivery Service (CDS) contacts. When this occurs, the new terms only apply to newly awarded contracts–existing contracts are unaffected and retain the same terms as when awarded.

But this year, the Postal Service has sought to apply new Terms and Conditions to existing CDS contracts as well as newly awarded ones. In an email to its CDS contractors, the Postal Service asked them to sign, without any “alterations or additions,” a contract modification that incorporated the new terms. If the contractor did not so, the Postal Service’s email threatened contract termination:

“Because of the Postal Service’s interest in maintaining consistency across its many CDS contracts, please note that a failure to respond to this correspondence … may lead the Postal Service to consider termination of the subject contract.”

After receiving this email, many contractors asked me: “Can the Postal Service really do this?” In my opinion, several legal arguments, if upheld, would make the resulting modification unenforceable. For example, the modification might fail for lack of consideration, because it gave the Postal Service what it wanted without giving anything that contractors valued in return. And it might fail for violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, because it seeks to recapture benefits that were foreclosed at the time of contract award. But I think the best argument against its enforceability is based on the legal theory of coercion and duress. Normally, this is a difficult argument to make, but here the elements seem apparent from the Postal Service’s email itself.
Continue Reading Can you be forced to sign this contract modification?