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Centre Law & Consulting

Cooperating with DOL Investigation Does Not Protect You From Debarment | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA
 
On December 28, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) filed a complaint with the DOL Office of Administrative Law Judges seeking debarment of a contractor for violation of the Service Contract Labor Standards (formerly the Service Contract Act). The contractor, Restaurant Associates LLC, runs the cafeteria in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Even though Restaurant Associates won a seven year contract extension in December 2015 to continue operating the cafeteria, the company would be prohibited from bidding on future government contracts but would be permitted to retain that contract through the extension.

The DOL’s investigation began in July when they first alleged that Restaurant Associates violated the SCA by misclassifying hundreds of workers. However, what makes this case particularly interesting is that the company had no history of previous SCA violations and fully cooperated with the DOL investigation. In complying with the DOL investigation, the company agreed to and did pay $1,008,302 in back wages for 674 cafeteria workers. Despite paying the back wages, the DOL is now seeking to debar the contractor.

Perhaps the DOL is seeking debarment based on the circumstances surrounding the DOL investigation. The investigation first began after a complaint was submitted to the DOL alleging that Restaurant Associates unlawfully changed worker job classifications to avoid giving raises that were contained in the December 2015 contract renewal. After the investigation, the DOL found that the company had improperly classified workers both by paying them for lower-paying jobs than they actually performed and by requiring employees to work prior to their scheduled starting times without compensation.

This will be an interesting case to follow as it develops.

In the meantime, you can read the DOL Complaint and the DOL news release from the July investigation.

About the Author:

Heather Mims | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA Heather Mims
Associate Attorney

Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.

 

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You've Accepted Transactional Data Reporting (TDR), Now What? | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons, VA
 
The Transactional Data Reporting (TDR) Rule requires vendors to electronically report the price that the federal government paid for an item or service purchased through GSA acquisition vehicles and other data elements. The rollout of TDR across all pilot schedules is now complete. If you accepted TDR willingly or unwillingly, it’s time to understand the reporting requirements.

When are the TDR Requirements Effective?

Upon acceptance of the TDR pilot bilateral mass modification, the requirement for providing a Commercial Sales Practice (CSP) disclosure to accompany modification requests will be eliminated. In addition, vendors will no longer be required to track price reductions granted to their Basis of Award (BOA) customer or category of customers. Price Reduction Clause liability for current contractors ends with acceptance of the TDR mass modification, which will be effective on the first day of the business quarter following acceptance of the modification.

In order to ease the transition from the current 72A reporting database to the TDR reporting module, the requirement for commencement of reporting will not begin on the date the modification is signed; rather, reporting will begin at the beginning of the next full business quarter as shown below:

Modification Accepted Requirements Effective
 July 1 – September 30  October 1
 October 1 – December 31   January 1
 January 1 – March 31  April 1
 April 1 – June 30  July 1

 
If a current contractor accepts the modification during the last 15 days of a standard business quarter, reporting begins on the first day of the second business quarter following modification acceptance.

What Data Am I Required to Report?

The clause requires contractors to submit the following data elements:

  1. Contract Number
  2. Order Number or Procurement Instrument Identifier (PIID)
  3. Non Federal Entity, if applicable
  4. Description of Deliverable
  5. Manufacturer Name
  6. Manufacturer Part Number
  7. Unit of Measure (each, hour, case, lot, etc.)
  8. Quantity of Item Sold
  9. Universal Product Code (UPC), if applicable
  10. Price Paid per Unit
  11. Total Price Sold

Contractors should report Firm Fixed Price (FFP) orders as single line item representing the lump sum total for the order. For services time-and-materials (T&M) or labor hour orders, reporting should be done by labor categories and rates.

Manufacturer Name is not a mandatory field for service contractors in TDR, but Description of Deliverable is a mandatory field for both products and services. Service providers would place a brief description of the project or service offered in the Description of Deliverable field.

How Can I Complete the Reporting?

FAS Sales Reporting  (Contracts must have a digital certificate to gain access to the reporting system)
Reporting Tutorial

Contractors have multiple options to submit their sales data such as:

  • Form entry – where you fill out a form in your web browser
  • File upload – where you upload an excel or .csv template populated with your sales data
  • Electronic Data Interchange / EDI
  • Web Services / API

In summary, TDR data is reported monthly and there is a 30-day window to report after the end of the month. Your Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) must be paid quarterly. Contractors may, however, choose to remit IFF on a monthly basis when they report their sales if they prefer and must do so through the TDR system. For TDR Pilot contractors under Schedules 70 and the Professional Services Schedule, if TDR SINs are included on a contract alongside non-TDR SINs, the entire contract is subject to TDR terms and conditions, and CSP and PRC requirements are removed for the entire contract. Remember that participation in the TDR Pilot does not exempt the contractor from existing reporting requirements found elsewhere in the contract.

About the Author:

Julia Coon | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA Julia Coon
Consultant

Julia Coon is GSA and VA Contract Consultant at Centre Law & Consulting. Julia works with the GSA/VA team in preparing new schedule proposals and post-award contract administration. She has experience in producing schedule renewal packages, various modification packages, small business subcontracting plans, and updates to GSA pricelists.

 

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Of Mistletoe and Employee Misclassification | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons, VA
 
Earlier this week, a U.S. Department of Labor webpage dedicated to the issue of employee misclassification went live. Just in time for the holidays!

While much ink has been spilled in recent weeks regarding potential changes of direction at the DOL in a Trump Administration, the new webpage suggests that the agency will continue to view the abuse of independent contractor status as an enforcement priority for the foreseeable future. The new page does not provide any novel substantive content, but it does bring together at a single location a wealth of information in what the DOL self-describes (accurately, one must admit) as a “user-friendly webpage where workers, employers, and government agencies can find information and resources.”

For example, some of the substantive topics appearing on the “Pay and Misclassification” page include:

It is clear that the webpage is intended to arm individuals with the information and tools needed to understand the boundaries of independent contractor/employee status as well as the rights appurtenant to such status.

Given the widespread use (and abuse) of independent contractor arrangements in the government contracts industry, contractors would be well counseled to review their current 1099s to ensure that the status can withstand scrutiny as this issue is unlikely to move to the backburner, even with new leadership coming onto the scene in early 2017.

About the Author:

David Warner | Centre Law & Consulting David Warner
Partner

David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation, and litigation practices.

 

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Reproduced with permission from Federal Contracts Report, 105 FCR (July 27, 2016). Copyright 2016 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com

HHS Couldn’t Justify IT Competition Cancellation, COFC Says

The Department of Health and Human Services couldn’t justify its cancellation of an IT competition that a protester claimed was tainted by bias, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims said (Starry Assocs. Inc. v. United States, 2016 BL 241279, Fed. Cl., No. 16-44C, 7/27/16).

Judge Eric G. Bruggink set aside the cancellation because there was no evidence the agency meaningfully reviewed its IT needs before making that decision. The court also barred several agency employees from participating in any subsequent competition actions.

The case “shows the recent trend that courts will hold federal agencies accountable for arbitrarily canceling solicitations or failing to take meaningful corrective actions. In this case, we have both,” Wojciech Z. Kornacki of Centre Law & Consulting LLC told Bloomberg BNA.

It was noteworthy that the court granted injunctive relief, Kornacki said. “The court felt that the public interest favored the injunction because the public had an interest in the integrity of the federal procurement,” he said. “The court found that the agency actions reflected ‘a lack of fidelity to the procurement process.’”

This action was necessary for Starry to get access to discovery tools, like depositions, that aren’t available at the Government Accountability Office, said Sandy Hoe, senior of counsel at Covington & Burling LLP. “But that discovery tool in a bid protest is limited to extraordinary situations such as here,” he said. “I would expect to see that tool being used in very few other circumstances.”

Prohibiting the government from canceling a solicitation is unusual, he added.

“The reasoning makes sense given the bias here, but that relief is only a few steps short of the court directing an award to a party, which is virtually never done,” he said. “Another option the court might have exercised was to order the agency to pay Starry’s bid and proposal costs and allow the solicitation to be canceled.

“Apparently, the court was not willing to let the agency off the hook so easily given the agency’s bad conduct,” Hoe said.

Award Affirmed

Incumbent protester Starry Assocs. Inc. filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) after the agency awarded a task order to Intellizant LLC. The agency took corrective action by re-evaluating quotations, but then affirmed the award.

Starry filed a second protest that the GAO partially sustained, recommending that the agency re-evaluate Intellizant’s quotation. Shortly thereafter, the agency canceled the solicitation.

Starry protested the cancellation as pretextual and biased because it argued the agency was trying to steer the award toward Intellizant. The GAO rejected the protest, so Starry pursued the matter with the court (105 FCR 22, 1/12/16).

In April, the court granted Starry’s request to depose agency officials because Starry made a strong bias case against an agency official who previously worked for Intellizant (105 FCR 306, 4/12/16).

Reevaluation Not Serious

The court concluded that it didn’t have to reach a decision on the bias claim because the cancellation was clearly arbitrary.

Once agency officials selected Intellizant, any other result was unwelcome and not seriously considered, the court said. Officials told the GAO and Starry they would undertake a serious re-evaluation of Intellizant’s proposal, but the record didn’t reflect such an effort, the court found.

The agency official charged with the cancellation decision said the cancellation was reasonable because other contract vehicles could meet the agency’s needs. However, the record didn’t show that he compared those vehicles, and his supervisor and colleagues didn’t double-check his assertion.

Agency officials also said Starry would have received the award had the GAO’s recommendation been followed. Therefore, the court set aside the cancellation decision, and said the agency should again re-evaluate Intellizant’s proposal, as the GAO said in its second decision.

In addition, the court enjoined certain officials from participating in any subsequent agency actions in this competition.

Depositions with those officials “provide an illuminating, if depressing, window” into how they misrepresented the quality of their evaluation, the court said.

Specifically, one official rated Intellizant as technically acceptable despite having insufficient knowledge of the agency’s software, the court said.
 

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This Blog is Subject to Change in a Twitter Moment | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA
 
How many of you now go to bed wondering, “What presidential tweet am I going to wake up to next?” The federal contracting space has been shaken, not stirred.

In the old news department, President Trump instituted an immediate hiring freeze this Monday, signing a presidential memorandum that would affect a large swath of the executive branch. There are exemptions, of course, for those working in the military, national security, and public safety.

In my discussions with officials at several federal agencies, it appears that the language is vague enough that different agencies are interpreting this in different ways. If your entire team is on the airplane that has the “water landing” does this mean that no one can be hired to do the work? Maybe it will become more clear in the next couple of months. The executive order directs the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Director of OPM, to recommend a long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition. The order does say that contractors cannot be hired to circumvent the intent of the order.

However, a big problem is that the federal workforce has not been growing. Federal News Radio is reporting that the size of the federal workforce has been decreasing, not increasing. The size of the federal workforce has steadily declined over the past 50 years. Approximately 2 million people worked for civilian agencies in 2015—nearly a 10 percent decline since 1967.

Regarding the workforce, and in specific the federal contracting workforce, the Obama Executive Orders are in the twilight zone. Executive Order 13673, Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces, was stopped cold by a Texas federal district court in 2016. Since this was a unilateral act by the President, it will most likely be undone along with the Executive Order on Sick Leave.

On the minor but still need to know information, a final rule came out on Privacy Act training. At a minimum, contractors must educate employees about:

  • The provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974, including penalties for violations
  • The appropriate handling and safeguarding of personally identifiable information
  • The authorized and official use of a system of records or any other personally identifiable information
  • The restriction on the use of unauthorized equipment to create, collect, use, process, store, maintain, disseminate, disclose, dispose, or otherwise access personally identifiable information
  • The prohibition against the unauthorized use of a system of records or unauthorized disclosure, access, handling, or use of personally identifiable information
  • Procedures to be followed in the event of a suspected or confirmed breach of a system of records or unauthorized disclosure, access, handling, or use of personally identifiable information

Those are today’s latest updates, but we’ll see what Twitter has to say about it in the coming days.
 
About the Author

Barbara Kinosky Barbara Kinosky
Managing Partner

Barbara Kinosky has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting and is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act. She has a proven track record of solving complex issues for clients by providing strategic and business savvy advice. Barbara was named a top attorney for federal contracting by Smart CEO magazine in 2010, 2012, and 2015.

 

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How is your relationship with the government going? Have you heard about the “transformational changes” that are being made to the GSA’s Federal Supply Schedules Program? And do you really know how many moons the Earth has?

Below is a round up of recently trending Federal Contracting issues you should know about.

Overly Restrictive Solicitations.

Nexagen Networks of Aberdeen, Maryland, challenged the terms of a task order request issued by the Army for information technology services. Nexagen argued that the solicitation’s requirements for experience with Oracle Endeca Information Discovery (OEID) was unduly restrictive of competition and created bias in favor of the incumbent contractor. GAO denied the protest. From the decision:

“Moreover, to the extent Nexagen’s premise is that there is no equivalent software available, that alone would not demonstrate that the TOR’s requirement is unduly restrictive. Again, the issue is not whether the specification restricts competition, but whether the specification is reasonably necessary to meet the agency’s actual needs. Even where specifications are based on a particular product – or, as Nexagen alleges here, a particular firm’s capabilities or experience – we have found that this type of requirement is not improper in and of itself; nor will an assertion that a specification was “written around” features offered by a particular firm provide a sustainable basis for protest if the record establishes that the specification is reasonably related to the agency’s minimum needs”.

And so it goes.

Gov Con Marketplace Musings

Elvis lives. The theme song for incumbents this year is “Heartbreak Hotel”. I am seeing fewer incumbent wins as the government cares less about the relationship and more about the cost. I am also seeing agencies take single-award contracts and, instead of the usual recompete for the follow on contract, they are awarding the work as a task or delivery order off a multiple-award contract vehicle. (Side note – usually the one you are not on.) Multiple requirements are also being bundled into single winner-take-all order awards. What are you seeing in the marketplace? Share your thoughts and observations in the comments below.

VA Privatization

Veterans Affairs privatization is moving along on several fronts. Sen. John McCain introduced a bill that will allow veterans to opt out of the VA healthcare system and use local healthcare providers. The VA Commission on Care is expected to issue a final report any day now. The draft report shifted health care to for veterans to more private providers. Most veterans groups oppose privatization.

Old News and the Creation of Mass Hysteria by Law, Accounting, and Consulting Firms

The Supreme Court issued a decision on Escobar holding that the implied false certification theory can be a basis for liability under the False Claims Act (for government contractors) when a defendant submitting a claim makes specific representations about the goods or services provided, but it fails to disclose non-compliance with material statutory, regulatory, or contractual requirements that make those representations misleading with respect to those goods or services; and liability under the FCA for failing to disclose violations of legal requirements does not turn upon whether those requirements were expressly designated as conditions of payment. Key word is material.

Final Rule Released on GSA Transactional Data

According to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) website, a final Transactional Data Reporting (TDR) rule will publish in the Federal Register on June 23, 2016. The rule “will reduce unnecessary burdens on contractors and small businesses and potentially save millions of dollars for the American taxpayer…and will be implemented through a pilot program across GSA contract vehicles.” It is seen as one of the most transformational changes to GSA’s Federal Supply Schedules Program in more than two decades.

A Trick Question

Use this when you don’t want to pick up the check. How many moons orbit the earth? Answer: 1.5 moons. NASA has just located a mini moon in our orbit.

About the Author

Barbara Kinosky Barbara Kinosky
Managing Parnter

Barbara Kinosky has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting and is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act. She has a proven track record of solving complex issues for clients by providing strategic and business savvy advice. Barbara was named a top attorney for federal contracting by Smart CEO magazine in 2010, 2012, and 2015.

 

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Have you been hacked yet? Has your personal information been exposed by foreign hackers? Worried this year’s election results might be tampered with foreign cyber attacks? Well, you are not the only one worried about future cyber attacks. The U.S. Government is worried too, and to combat that, the General Services Administration (GSA) will release four Cybersecurity Special Item Numbers (SINs) for its GSA Schedule 70 for Information Technology procurement.

A refresh of the Schedule 70 solicitation is expected to be released in September that will include these new Cybersecurity SINs. GSA is referring to these new SINs as Highly Adaptive Cybersecurity Services (HACS) SINs. The HACS SINs were mandated by the Obama Administration’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan. This is no small initiative, but rather a plan to invest $19 billion in an attempt to ensure “Americans have the security tools to protect their identities online, that companies can protect and defend their operations and information from hackers, and that the U.S. Government protects the private information citizens provide for federal benefits and services” (Source).

The HACS SINs will be divided into four distinct SINs:

  • Penetration Testing under SIN 132-45A
  • Incident Response under SIN 132-45B
  • Cyber Hunt under SIN 132-45C
  • Risk and Vulnerability Assessment under SIN 132-45D

The vetting process for vendors will be the most thorough and detailed of any SIN on Schedule 70. While vendors will have requirements similar to those for services SINs such as SIN 132-51, the HACS SINs will also require vendors to pass an oral technical evaluation. These oral technical evaluations will be scenario-based in an attempt by GSA to ascertain the knowledge level of the prospective vendor. Vendors will be given a pass/fail grade after an undetermined time (target is seven days) from the completion of the oral evaluation. Vendors who are not able to pass this oral evaluation will not be allowed to submit an offer or modification for any HACS SIN for at least six months from the date of their previous evaluation. Oral evaluations will be conducted virtually and each SIN will have its own scenario that vendors will have to address and complete. GSA will allow up to five key personnel to attend these oral evaluations from the vendor, but no recording devices of any kind will be allowed during the evaluation. These evaluations could take anywhere between forty minutes to three hours by GSA’s estimates, depending on how many HACS SINs the vendor is proposing in their offer/modification.

There will be no limit to the number of awardees of the HACS SINs, but GSA is targeting to have an initial fifteen vendors awarded once the HACS SINs are officially rolled out. The turnaround time for GSA will be dependent on the number of vendors who propose the HACS SINs, but GSA is creating a dedicated tiger team to evaluate new offers and modifications that include the HACS SINs. GSA’s target for evaluation is seven days for modifications and forty five days for new offers.

While there is still more to be revealed about these new HACS SINs, it is clear GSA is making a concerted effort to put these new SINs at the top of their priority list. If you want to be in the front of the line to get these new SINs awarded on your contract, be sure to check the GSA Interact site and submit your modifications/offers through the eMod/eOffer site.

For more information regarding GSA and the HACS SINs, be sure to register to attend Centre Law and Consulting’s next Boot Camp for GSA Schedules training course on November 9-10, 2016.

About the Author

Michael Glazer
Contracts Manager

Michael Glazer focuses primarily on GSA/VA Schedule consulting. He regularly assists clients in all aspects of FSS contract management including contract negotiations, modifications, IFF reporting, subcontracting plans and reporting, IOA assessments, and other contract compliance issues. Michael also provides experience with GSA Alliant 1 & 2, ITES 3H and 3S, CIO-CS and SP3, and other large IDIQ contracts on an as needed basis to clients.

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Pentagon Issues Internal Warning Against Use of Lenovo Equipment | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA
 
Uh-oh, Lenovo…

On September 26, the Pentagon’s Directorate for Intelligence, J-2, reportedly issued an internal report warning against the use of equipment made by computer manufacturer Lenovo because of concerns regarding potential cyber spying against defense networks. J-2 supports the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, and Unified Commands, and it is the national focal point for crisis intelligence support to military operations, indications, and warning intelligence in DoD as well as Unified Command intelligence requirements.

Per a report from Bill Gertz of The Washington Free Beacon, the Chinese Academy of Science, a Chinese government research institute, owns a 27 percent stake in Lenovo Group Ltd. The J-2 report purportedly states that “cyber security officials are concerned that Lenovo computers and handheld devices could introduce compromised hardware into the Defense Department supply chain, posing cyber espionage risks.” The report also purportedly contains a warning that Lenovo is seeking to purchase U.S.-based IT companies in order to gain access to classified defense networks.

The cyber security concern surrounding Lenovo is evidently not a new one as Gertz’s article reports that, following the company’s 2014 purchase of IBM’s BladeCenter line of computer servers (for a cool $2.1 billion), the U.S. Navy replaced the IBM servers within the “Aegis” battle management systems deployed on guided missile destroyers and cruisers over concerns that China could hack the warships through the server.

And, for those wondering, “why isn’t this a TAA issue?,” the server business Lenovo purchased is based out of North Carolina. Perhaps “country of ownership” will become as relevant as “country of origin.”

About the Author:

David Warner | Centre Law & Consulting David Warner
Partner

David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation and litigation practices.

 

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Potential Intervenors Denied Intervention in Multi-Billion Dollar Protest as Having No Legal “Interest” in Protest

The Court of Federal Claims issued a decision on September 27, 2016 denying two motions to intervene in a bid protest.

Nevada Site Science Support and Technologies Corporation (NVS3T) filed a bid protest alleging that the Department of Energy’s decision to rescind a multi-billion dollar contract awarded to it based on ownership issues involving the Plaintiff was arbitrary and capricious. Following the bid protest, Mission Support & Test Services, LLC and Nuclear Security & Technology, LLC filed Motions to Intervene.

The Court, in denying the motions to intervene, relied on Rule 24 of the Rules of the Court of Federal Claims and found that the potential intervenors have no real interest in the dispute. Rather, their interest is simply potentially being awarded the contract if the Plaintiff loses the protest.

Perhaps the Court said it best: “However, the simple fact that a party might benefit form another’s legal misfortune does not lead to an understanding that said party should have a role in occurrence of that legal misfortune. If a singer suffers a voice injury and is, as result, fired from her job, it is hardly conceivable to believe that a Court would allow a rival singer to intervene in that case on the side of the employer simply because he might subsequently get the newly vacant job!”

Nevada Site Science Support and Technologies Corporation v. United States, Fed. Cl., No. 16-1118C, 9/27/16, available at https://ecf.cofc.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2016cv1118-31-0.

Protest Deemed Moot Due to Completion of Contracts

In a decision on September 26, 2016 from the Court of Federal Claims, the Court found that Plaintiff’s protest was rendered moot in light of the fact that the contracts have been completed.

This post-award bid protest involved a Plaintiff’s challenge to the Government’s use of research and development funds to develop software that the Plaintiff claims is already commercially available.

As way of background, in 2004, the U.S. Navy on behalf of the Department of Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO) awarded a contract to Georgia Tech Applied Research Corporation (GTARC) for development of a program to aid first responders dealing with hazardous materials. In 2008, GTARC received a contract to enhance the program it developed. The resulting system was developed as “freeware” – a product free of charge to first responders at all levels of government.

The contracts at issue in Alluviam’s bid protest were not awarded until 2013 and 2014 – the Broad Agency Announcements (BAA) were issued in 2013 and 2014, seeking development of technologies related to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosives. Alluviam submitted a proposal to the 2013 BAA but was eliminated from competition at an early stage, which it did not protest; Alluviam declined to submit a bid for the 2014 BAA. Both contracts were awarded to GTARC and are now near completion.

In February 2016, Alluviam filed an agency protest challenging the 2014 contract claiming that the agency improperly used the BAA procedure and that a member of the agency staff had a conflict of interest with GTARC. After the protest was denied at the agency level, Alluviam filed the protest at the Court of Federal Claims.

The Court, in determining that Plaintiff lacks standing to bring this bid protest, noted the fact that Alluviam did not protest the agency’s rejection of its proposal under the 2013 BAA, nor did it submit any proposal for the 2014 BAA. The Court further found that Alluviam is essentially challenging the Government’s procurement method in developing an already available commercial product, but Alluviam should have challenged that method when the agency begun this process in 2004 – now, nearly twelve years later, Plaintiff lacks the standing to object to the completed contracts.

The agency made its decision to approach the development of hazardous material response programs nearly twelve years ago when it awarded its first contract to GTARC in 2004, and the work performed is now nearly complete. Because Alluviam was aware of this development approach since 2004, it lacked standing to bring the protest. The Court also found that the completion of the contracts rendered the case moot.

Alluviam , LLC v. United States, et al., Fed. Cl., No. 16-614C, 9/26/16, available at https://ecf.cofc.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2016cv0614-87-0.

Kim Kardashian Has Made It to the Supreme Court – Kind Of

In more fun news – thanks to Justice Stephen Breyer, Kim Kardashian will be forever included on the transcript for a Supreme Court case.

On October 4, 2016, Justice Breyer brought up the celebrity in oral arguments in the matter of Shaw v. United States, a case involving whether the bank-fraud statute’s language “scheme to defraud a financial institution” requires proof of a specific intent to cheat a bank. Specifically, the case involved the appeal of Lawrence Shaw, who was convicted of bank fraud after transferring $300,000 to his account from another’s.

In discussing the necessary intent for bank-fraud and questioning whether the defendant must have the intent to cause the bank to lose money, Justice Breyer analogized the situation to more recent events (for those of us that don’t keep up with the Kardashians, Kim was recently robbed of nearly $10 million in jewelry while in Paris): “Even Kardashian’s thief, if there is one, believes that all jewelry is insured. Indeed over insured. So it’s not theft?” Breyer continued, “I’m asking you, if the local person comes to the door and says, dear Miss Kardashian, I am your local jewelry cleaner. Please give me your jewelry. She does. And that’s not fraud. He wanted to get the jewelry. He tried to get the – he also believed that the friend has just loaned it for the evening, that she’s triple insured, and that she won’t even lose any money because the publicity will be worth it. Okay?”

A full copy of the Supreme Court transcript is available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/15-5991_7648.pdf.

About the Author:

Heather Mims | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA Heather Mims
Associate Attorney

Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.

 

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FAR Updates That May Impact Your Small Business | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA
 
On January 13, 2017, several Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) updates went into effect that you should be aware of if you have a small business. The highlights of each rule include:

  • Uniform Use of Line Items – A revised policy statement that requires the use of line items and, as necessary, subline items to improve accuracy, traceability, and usability of procurement data.

Acquisition Threshold for Special Emergency Procurement Authority – The simplified acquisition threshold for special emergency procurement authority has been raised from $300,000 to $750,000 within the United States and from $1,000,000 to $1,500,000 outside the United States for acquisitions that, as determined by the head of agency, are used to support a contingency operation or facilitate defenses against or recovery form nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological attack.

Contractor Employee Internal Confidentiality Agreements – This change prohibits the use of appropriated funds to entities that require employees to sign confidentiality agreements that prevent the lawful reporting of fraud, waste, or abuse.

Contracts Under the Small Business Administration 8(a) Program – Offers and acceptances are required for individual orders under multiple award contracts that were not set aside for competition among 8(a) contractors.

Prohibition on Reimbursement for Congressional Investigations and Inquiries – No new requirements on small businesses, but records will need to be maintained.

 
About the Author

Michael Glazer | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA Colin Johnson
Contracts Manager

Colin Johnson is a Contracts Manager who focuses on business development and federal contracts management. His expertise is in preparing quotes and responses for both government and commercial entities for training and legal support services.

 

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As we lead up to Thanksgiving later this week, many of us are in final preparations for the holiday. Some are making last minute trips to the grocery store while others are looking for pants with elastic waistbands.

However you’re celebrating this year, we at Centre Law & Consulting hope you enjoy a feast filled with friends and family. We hope you have many things to be thankful for this holiday season.

happy-thanksgiving
 
About the Author

Barbara Kinosky Barbara Kinosky, Esq.
Managing Partner

Barbara Kinosky has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting and is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act. She has a proven track record of solving complex issues for clients by providing strategic and business savvy advice. Barbara was named a top attorney for federal contracting by Smart CEO magazine in 2010, 2012, and 2015.

 

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New Overtime Rule Blocked by Federal Judge | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA
 
Hopefully you had already heard by now that the Department of Labor issued a new overtime rule that would require employers to pay time and a half to employees that worked more than forty hours a week and earned less than $47,476 a year. This raised the minimum earning level by about two times – from the current standard of $23,660 – and would have affected about 4.2 million American workers. The rule also established an automatic updating mechanism that would adjust the minimum salary level every three years. It was supposed to take effect on December 1, 2016; however, this rule has been blocked from going into effect by a federal judge in Texas.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant issued a preliminary injunction on November 22 in a case filed by several states (twenty-one to be exact) challenging the rule against the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. The state plaintiffs argued that that new rule would cause an increase in government costs in their states and would cause businesses to have to pay substantially larger salaries.

In issuing the preliminary injunction, Judge Mazzant found that the plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits because the rule exceeds the Department’s authority under Chevron. He further found that the plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm if the preliminary injunction is not granted as agencies operating within budget constraints will have to comply with the rule to the detrimental effect on government services that benefit the public.

Furthermore, the judge found that the balance of hardships favors the plaintiff because: “(1) the States will be required to spend substantial sums of unrecoverable public funds if the Final Rule goes into effect; and (2) the Final Rule causes interference with government services, administrative disruption, employee terminations or reclassifications, and harm to the general public.”

In issuing the injunction, Judge Mazzant found a nationwide injunction to be proper as the new overtime rule is applicable to all states, not just the states participating in the suit. Furthermore, it is unclear the duration of this nationwide preliminary injunction. Specifically, Judge Mazzant enjoined the Department from implementing and enforcing the new overtime regulations “pending further order of this Court.”

In a prepared statement, the Department of Labor stated that it “strongly disagrees with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work for millions of hardworking Americans.”

The statement goes on to read, “The Department’s Overtime Final Rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rule-making process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule. We are currently considering all of our legal options.”

Read the statement in full or find more information, including Judge Mazzant’s order.

About the Author:

Heather Mims | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA Heather Mims
Associate Attorney

Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.

 

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GSA has finally acted on the request from customer agencies and industry partners to allow Order Level Materials (OLMs), frequently called Other Direct Costs (ODCs), into the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program.

GSA is proposing to amend the General Services Administration Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) to establish special ordering procedures per FAR 8.403 (b). These new procedures will clarify the authority to acquire OLMs when placing an order or establishing a BPA against a Federal Supply Schedule contract.

As background, currently most commercial Indefinite-Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts have the flexibility to acquire OLMs. This authority extends to contracts awarded pursuant to FAR Part 12 and orders awarded pursuant to FAR Subpart 16.5 and 8.4. However; Subpart 8.4 was never updated and as a result the ability to acquire OLMs was never fully implemented in the MAS program.

The proposed GSA rule includes some of the following amendments (a full list can be found in the proposed rule):

  • Add to GSAR 515.408 (c) that “offerors are not required to complete the commercial sales practices disclosure for order level materials”
  • Prohibiting order-level materials from being the primary basis of the order
  • Limiting the total value of order-level materials to 33 % of the overall order value
  • Require the order-level materials to be purchased under a separate Special Item Number (SIN) to allow GSA to monitor sales and evaluate use
  • Requiring the ordering activity contracting officers to determine that all prices for these materials are fair and reasonable
  • Include controls to ensure any ceiling increases have been justified and approved in accordance with FAR 8.405.6.

The final rule will only apply to the following GSA Schedules:

  1. Federal Supply Schedule 03 FAC: Facilities Maintenance and Management
  2. Federal Supply Schedule 56: Buildings and Building Materials/Industrial Services and Supplies
  3. Federal Supply Schedule 70: General Purpose Information Technology Equipment, Software, and Services
  4. Federal Supply Schedule 71: Furniture
  5. Federal Supply Schedule 84: Total Solutions for Law Enforcement, Security, Facilities Management, Fire, Rescue, Clothing, Marine Craft, and Emergency/Disaster Response
  6. Federal Supply Schedule 00CORP: All Professional Services
  7. Federal Supply Schedule 738X: Human Resources and EEO Services

The proposed GSAR rule was published September 9, 2016 and is open for a 60 day comment period.

About the Author:

Maureen Jamieson | Centre Law & Consulting Maureen Jamieson
Executive Director of Contracts and Consulting

Maureen Jamieson has more than twenty-five years of experience managing federal contracts. She is highly experienced in solving client pricing problems and implementing effective pricing strategies for placing products and services on GSA Schedule contracts.

 

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Preparing For A Successful CPSR Audit - training course for federal contractors | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA
 
Let’s face it. We’d all rather be out selling and growing our businesses than having to deal with paperwork and audits, right? So when you hear that you have a Contractor Purchasing System Review (CPSR) coming up, it may cause a little anxiety and leave you wondering if it is really time well spent.

Now the government will tell you that the purpose of a CPSR is to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the way a contractor spends federal funds and complies with federal policy. It provides the Administrative Contracting Officer (ACO) a basis for granting, withholding, or withdrawing approval of the contractor’s purchasing system.

So what does that really mean to you? Here are the Top 5 reasons that having an approved contractor purchasing system is important:

  1. Advance Notification and Consent: The first reason that usually comes to mind is the FAR Part 44 requirement for advance notification and consent to subcontract. If the purchasing system hasn’t been approved or the approval has been withdrawn, then the ACO will be required to perform consent reviews under flexibly price contracts and unpriced contractual actions to insure the Government’s interests are protected. The down side of that is these reviews take time, and while the ACO is performing the review, the subcontract award is delayed. In other words, nobody is happy about it! The client’s program manager and the company program manager want the award made to meet schedule, but the ACO has other things to do and may not put your subcontract award at the top of the list. The result is that you (the buyer/subcontract administrator) are under pressure to somehow make it happen and tensions can rise on all sides.

Consent Doesn’t Mean Approval: Okay, you’ve gone through the gauntlet and the ACO has issued the consent to subcontract notice. But, the notice will have a disclaimer that reserves the Government’s rights to second guess all aspects (i.e. adequate competition, price reasonableness, audit disallowance) of your subcontract award. You feel like you have gained nothing, and the program manager is still upset with you because of the delay in award. You want an approved system, not just a consent to subcontract. So without that approval, you’re just sitting in limbo.

Business System Clause: The Department of Defense added clauses to their contracts – 252.242-7005, Contractor Business Systems and 252.244-7001, Contractor Purchasing System Administration – that have become key components of the CPSR process. In addition, should a “significant deficiency” be identified in your purchasing system, the ACO is obliged to reduce your interim payments (i.e. progress payments, cost-reimbursement vouchers, monthly Time and Materials invoices) by as much as 5% to protect the government’s interests until the deficiency has been corrected and re-audited. The impact for you is that not only is the program manager upset with you, but so is the CFO!

Impact on Other Major Proposals: With subcontracting being a large part of major contracts, the impact of your purchasing system on proposals for new work can be critical. First, having a government approved purchasing system gets you a better rating on the management portion of your major proposals. Second, with subcontracts often accounting for as much as 60% or more of major proposal costs, the ability of an approved purchasing system to provide good quality pricing support can make the difference between winning or losing.

Documentation: Securing approval of your purchasing system relies largely on your documentation. In my earlier article, CPSR Easy As 1-2-3?, all three steps rely on clear and complete documentation. Think of it this way: an approved system by its nature should produce good documentation. So when the government reviews your work product for proposal support, business system adequacy, incurred cost, small business plan efforts, sustainability initiatives, or anything else, you can be confident that your procurement files will clearly demonstrate how efficiently and effectively your purchasing system is spending government funds and implementing government policy.

 
Take the Next Step
If you’d like to dive more in depth to the details of CPSR, learn best practices, and set yourself up for successful CPSR audits, then join us for our upcoming course on March 28-29 at our national training center in Tysons, VA.

 
About the Author

Jack Hott headshot | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons, VA Jack Hott
Instructor

Jack Hott is an Instructor for Centre Law & Consulting. He has more than two decades of experience as a contracts professional in Government and the private sector. A retired Air Force officer, he served multiple acquisition related assignments where he managed administration, pricing, CAS and overhead approvals, supplier quality, and subcontract management.

 

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Earlier this week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a publication related to the rights of individuals with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when requesting leave from work as a reasonable accommodation. While the ADA clearly requires employers provide qualified disabled individuals with a “reasonable accommodation” to permit the individual to perform the essential functions of the job, the entitlement to leave as such an accommodation has been a focus of the EEOC and litigation in recent years. The EEOC noted in its press release, that “[d]isability charges filed with the EEOC reached a new high in fiscal year 2015, increasing over 6 percent from the previous year” and that the EEOC has identified a “prevalence of employer policies that deny or unlawfully restrict the use of leave as a reasonable accommodation.” Thus, the publication seeks to provide general information related to assessing requests for leave under the ADA and also provides examples of leave requests and the EEOC’s determination of appropriate action.

Employee requests for leave linked to medical conditions (e.g., stress, depression, etc.) have been on the rise including, for example, requests for telework, breaks, reduced schedules, and extended time off. Given the ADA’s now more expansive definition of disability, these requests must be assessed by employers for compliance with ADA in addition to other various state or federal laws prior to making a determination. Being informed about the ADA requirements is essential in ensuring these requests are handled in an appropriate manor. The required “interactive process” is not a one-size fits all approach and specifically contemplates a review of whether alternative forms of reasonable accommodations may be effective in meeting the employee’s needs. Thus, while an employee may seek leave as an accommodation, the employer may propose other accommodations that may permit the employee to return to work sooner or be more productive while at work.

In addition, while the EEOC still has not provided a bright-line on what length or frequency of leave may become an undue burden, it is worth repeating that when an employee requests “indefinite leave” (i.e., leave without any indication as to when or whether the employee will return) the EEOC has determined that such leave would be an undue burden and, thus, not required to be provided by the ADA.

This publication supplements other available resources available from the EEOC and should be consulted by those responsible for reviewing reasonable accommodation requests and company leave policies. The publication also covers modifications to existing leave policies, maximum leave policies, communication with employees on leave (including when returning to work from leaves covered by FMLA), the “interactive process” in assessing reasonable accommodation requests, and undue hardship considerations.

About the Author:

Marina Blickley | Centre Law Group Marina Blickley
Associate Attorney

Marina Blickley focuses on the Government Contracting and Non-Profit industries. She regularly assists clients in all aspects of employment and labor law including employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation/whistleblower, compensation practices, and wage and hour violations. Marina also represents companies in commercial litigation matters concerning contract disputes, restrictive covenants/non-competes, business conspiracy, misappropriation of trade secrets, and computer fraud and theft.

 

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Effective July 1, 2016, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) began using its new scheduling letter for compliance evaluations.

One of the most significant changes in the form document relates to the agency’s use of data and information submitted by contractors. The “old” letter stated:

Rest assured that OFCCP considers the information you provide in response to this Scheduling Letter as sensitive and confidential. Therefore, any disclosures we may make will be consistent with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.”

In contrast, the new letter states:

Please also be aware that OFCCP may use the information you provide during a compliance evaluation in an enforcement action. We may also share that information with other enforcement agencies within DOL, as well as with other federal civil rights enforcement agencies with which we have information sharing agreements.”

The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) issuance of its memorandum on July 1, 2016 concerning the collection of information regarding labor law violations per the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order must be purely coincidental, no? (OM 16-23)

“Interesting times ahead,” contractors.

About the Author:

David Warner | Centre Law & Consulting David Warner
Partner

David Warner is a seasoned counselor in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David has extensive experience representing contractors in affirmative action, Davis-Bacon Act, and Service Contract Act compliance audits. He also represents businesses with regard to wage and hour compliance, DOL audits, and litigation.

 

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Give Me 5 Webinar Features Barbara Kinosky and Marina Blickley to Discuss HR Issues for Government Contractors | Centre Law & ConsultingOn May 11, Centre Law & Consulting’s attorneys Barbara Kinosky and Marina Blickley were featured guests on Give Me 5, a webinar hosted by Women in Public Policy (WIPP). The online series is designed to educate women business owners on how to apply for and secure federal procurement opportunities.

Give Me 5: Where Human Resources and Government Contracts Intersect

Webinar Summary: Federal contractors are subject to a unique set of rules, laws and regulations. Many of these laws and regulations also apply to subcontractors. This session covers the more complicated areas where HR and government contracts intersect, including:

  • OFCCP – latest news on increased HR compliance requirements
  • Executive Order actions and recent regulatory changes
  • Common challenges to complying with the Service Contract Labor Standards/Service Contract Act
  • Tips for handling whistleblower and relator complaints
  • Handling mandatory disclosures
  • Changes to implement now

 
Listen to the Podcast  |  View the Presentation

In addition, Marina also wrote a post for Women in Biz Blog discussing new regulations that came out after the webinar and are planned to go into effect on December 1, 2016.
 

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Bid Protest: “Professional Compensation” Sinks Contract Award | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons, VA
 
Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the public version of its decision sustaining the protest of contractor A-P-T Research, Inc. with respect to a procurement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for various support services. In addition to a potential impaired objectivity organizational conflict of interest, the protest was sustained because the awardee’s proposed professional compensation was at the low end of the experience and compensation scales used for evaluation. With that, the contemporaneous record lacked a reasoned basis for finding the professional compensation and related costs to be acceptable or realistic.

Because a cost-reimbursement contract’s cost is driven in significant measure by labor costs, the procuring agency is required to evaluate each offeror’s direct labor rates to ensure that they are realistic. The purpose of a review of compensation for professional employees under the provision at FAR § 52.222-46 is to determine whether offerors will obtain and keep the quality of professional services needed for adequate contract performance and to evaluate whether offerors understand the nature of the work to be performed. As the FAR provision states, the “professional compensation proposed will be considered in terms of its impact upon recruiting and retention, its realism, and its consistency with a total plan for compensation.” Further supporting information including “data, such as recognized national and regional compensation surveys and studies of professional, public, and private organizations, used in establishing the total compensation structure” are to be provided.

In brief, the Agency sustained the protest because “the record contains no meaningful explanation of how [NASA] concluded that [the awardee] would be able to retain” the proposed incumbent employees at the compensation offered, which would result in significant pay decreases. Rather, the record contained only general statements that concerns regarding compensation had been addressed via discussions.

Notably, the Agency did not express a view on the argument that FAR § 52.222-46 requires a direct comparison of proposed compensation and actual incumbent compensation rates. However, it is clear that under-cutting on professional salaries can be a dangerous gambit.

About the Author:

David Warner | Centre Law & Consulting David Warner
Partner

David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation, and litigation practices.

 

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Employees are expensive. It’s little surprise market forces incentivize companies to search for a way to get the same work out of people without paying for holidays, accommodating disabilities, and paying overtime, among countless other requirements. Imagine if you could save all this money within the law and avoid the risk of employment discrimination lawsuits. With all these savings your company could lower the price of your services/goods and edge out the competition. Figure out how to replace the lion’s share of your workforce as independent contractors and you could be living the dream, right?

Well, if your current company is currently staffed entirely by “independent contractors,” then madam/sir I am happy to meet with you to discuss both your unique staffing model and your likely immediate need for outside legal services.  Very rare is the government contractor that truly has “no employees” (though we’ve seen a few try).

That said, statistics show that there are currently an estimated 40 million independent contractors in America.  Clearly not everyone who takes money from you in exchange for a service should be called your employee. But where is the line between my contracting with a freelance plumber and a commercial company drawing billions in revenue from hundreds of thousands of its drivers? As we’ve discussed in prior blog posts, the government contracts industry is rife with the use (and abuse) of independent contractor status; and federal regulators have been tightening the screws on the use of the status.  This past year, arguably more than ever, the courts and legislators across the country are wrestling with the employee/independent contractor distinction with messy results.

Federal courts have increasingly grown skeptical of massive independent contractor agreements but don’t seem sure how to address it given the long precedent defining the relationship. One way is to decrease the incentives of an independent contractor relationship like the 1st Circuit recently did in Oliveira v. New Prime, Inc., restricting the use of mandatory arbitration agreements on independent contractors. In California, the court forced an extra $15 million out of Lyft in a settlement agreement designed to avoid the costly test of their independent contractor classification.

Coast to coast, states are trying to get a handle on independent contractors too. New York’s recent “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” requires that all entities that engage a freelance worker for $800 or more in services execute a written agreement. Where Nevada is attempting to tackle the problem industry by industry rather than with general rules.  Not everyone wants to put breaks on the independent contractor train though. Alaska and Florida have more clearly defined boundaries in favor independent contracting status, though it may just add problems for employers still wrestling with federal regulations on the same issues.

Perhaps the most hopeful part of the confused situation, is this wide variation in responses. There will certainly continue to be growing pains as the legal standards develop, but the unique effects of these policies may offer a chance to evaluate which can keep independent contractor status alive and appropriately limited.

 

About the Author:

Tyler Freiberger Headshot | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons, VA Tyler Freiberger
Associate Attorney

Tyler Freiberger is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting primarily focusing on employment law and litigation. He has successfully litigated employment issues before the EEOC, MSPB, local counties human rights commissions, the United States D.C. District Court, Maryland District Court, and the Eastern District of Virginia.

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Reenlistment Bait and Switch, Revolving Doors, and Another GAO Report on the VA | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA
 

Raise Your Hand if You Want a Reenlistment Bonus to Redeploy – Oops Sorry, You Didn’t Read the Fine Print, Pay it Back Later

Really? Seriously, this cannot be true. You, by that I mean you the Pentagon, as in The Pentagon, why are you making soldiers pay back reenlistment bonuses they were promised? This is wrong. As in really, wrong. Their job was to show up, redeploy (“re” as in go back again to a place you wouldn’t take your family to on a vacation), and do their job. They did that. You, the Pentagon, your job was to pay the bonuses that you promised them. Oops, fine print error. Bring out the lawyers. The fine print was that after you paid the bonsues you could try and get the money back years later due to payment error that you, the Pentagon made. This is about fundamental unfairness. It seems a lot like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, only a lot less comical. Do we need to start a Go Fund Me for the serviceman and women who were duped by this bait and switch? The Washington Post has more.

Then the Pentagon Asks Congress for $6 Billion More

I was hoping this $6 billion was for paying back the so-called bonuses they collected back from the service members, but no, life is not that fair. This money is to pay for troop increases in Iraq, a slower draw-down of troops from Afghanistan and more intense air operations, according to Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord. The “budget amendment” also will respond to an urgent request from field commanders for additional systems to counter Islamic State drones, McCord said in an interview. Nothing will be happening until after the election though. Read more at Bloomberg online.

Former Pixar Exec to Head GSA’s TTS

Former Pixar executive Rob Cook is the new Commissioner of the Technology Transformation Service (TTS) at the General Services Administration (GSA). GSA created TTS earlier this year to help improve the technology of the federal government. Americans increasingly interact with vital services online and the job of TTS is to help agencies deliver digital products and services that are easy to use, efficient, effective and secure. Cook started October 31, 2016 and GSA’s website has more details.

Another Revolving Door

Patricia A. Shiu will step down as the director of the OFCCP on Nov. 6, and Thomas M. Dowd, the agency’s deputy director, will serve as the acting director until a new labor secretary appoints a permanent director. Under Shiu, OFCCP established new data collection and analysis requirements for the hiring of protected veterans and individuals with disabilities; instituted nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity; sanctioned pay transparency; and rescinded 1970 sex discrimination guidelines, replacing them with regulations based on new cases and amendments to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as related to discrimination based on gender. Read more on Bloomberg BNA.

Government Sourcing Saves, but Not Enough

When the government spends $2 billion, you would think that saving $470 million in the process would be a good thing. And it is, but to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) it’s not enough. The GAO recently issued a report that looked at agency spending that occurred within blanket purchase agreements and other FSSI programs. The report concluded that the relatively low use of FSSIs diminished the potential savings. Having a lack of accountability to use the programs was partly to blame. As an example, even the Strategic Sourcing Leadership Council who is responsible for FSSI governance only directed 10% of their collective spending to FSSIs. The bottom line? As the report says, “Although federal strategic sourcing initiatives have saved agencies almost $500 million in the past four years, the Government Accountability Office said the millions could become billions if the initiatives were more widely used.” Read more on FCW’s website.

Could DC Metro Woes Lead to the Creation of Another Federal Agency

After being appointed to the Metro Board of Directors only about two years ago, Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans has consistently reported on the Metro’s failings over that time period. And now, Evans says, it is time for a change. Evans has now urged for a federal takeover of the transit system, stating that only a body that can fire employees and restructure without outside interference can fix the agency’s dire problems. Evans proposes a small board to run the Metro with five members appointed by the President. Evans believes that this board is necessary as a condition to get federal funds to help cover Metro’s operating deficits, which is estimated at $290 million in the next fiscal year. While the idea might be great in theory, Evans admits that the creation of the board would face major legal and political challenges. In facts Evans admits that he might not even have support behind the idea: “The region is resistant to change of any kind. Nobody wants to change anything, even as the house is burning down.” More information is in the Washington Post.

Another GAO Report on the VA

The GAO did a review on Veterans Health Administration (VHA) operations. They identified deficiencies in its organizational structure and recommended changes that would require significant restructuring to address, including eliminating and consolidating program offices and reducing VHA central office staff. However, VHA does not have a process that ensures recommended organizational structure changes are evaluated to determine appropriate actions and implemented. This is inconsistent with federal standards for internal control for monitoring, which state that management should remediate identified internal control deficiencies on a timely basis. Read more on the GAO website.

 
About the Author

Barbara Kinosky Barbara Kinosky
Managing Partner

Barbara Kinosky has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting and is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act. She has a proven track record of solving complex issues for clients by providing strategic and business savvy advice. Barbara was named a top attorney for federal contracting by Smart CEO magazine in 2010, 2012, and 2015.

 

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GSA Reviews FY2016 and FedRAMP Looks Ahead to 2017 | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA
 
As we now have FY2016 in the rear-view mirror, the government has begun to look back at the past year and look ahead to 2017.

GSA

In the case of GSA, the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) commissioner, Tom Sharpe, reflected on the successes of the FAS program over the past year in a recent blog post. In it, he explains that GSA has achieved its three-year goal as the government acquisition marketplace. Sharpe then goes on to explain that the FAS initiative, Category Management, has helped with those goals. He defines Category Management as “the process of managing product or service categories as strategic business units and customizing them to meet customer needs.” What this means to contractors is that they should expect more initiatives like the Government-wide Laptop/Desktop initiative that includes GSA Schedule 70, SEWP, and CIO-CS.

FedRAMP

FedRAMP has also released its goals for 2017. These goals fall under three categories: More Cloud to Choose From, Transform Security Authorizations, and Stronger FedRAMP Community. To achieve these goals, FedRAMP wants to increase Cloud Services offerings from 72 to 150 and raise the number of FedRAMP ready service providers to 50 within the next year. Over the next six months, FedRAMP wants to increase the efficiency of providers who are able to receive a Provisional Authorization to Operate (P-ATO), redesign the Continuous Monitoring authorization process to be smoother and more agile, and focus on increasing the number of authorizations for low impact Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. FedRAMP will work to achieve a stronger community over the course of 2017 by hosting two industry days to connect agencies with service providers and two industry roundtables to help agencies connect with one another. With these goals in place, GSA contractors can anticipate an increase in competition on the Cloud Computing Services SIN 132-40 on the IT 70 Schedule as well as an increase in opportunities.

For More Information

If you would like more information or additional training regarding IT 70’s FASt Lane initiative, the Formatted Pricing Tool (FPT), Transactional Data Reporting (TDR), the IT 70 Health SIN, the Cloud SIN, or the Cyber SINs, then be sure to attend the next Bootcamp for GSA Schedules training course on February 7-8, 2017.
 
About the Author

Michael Glazer | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA Michael Glazer
Contracts Manager

Michael Glazer focuses primarily on GSA/VA Schedule consulting. He regularly assists clients in all aspects of FSS contract management including contract negotiations, modifications, IFF reporting, subcontracting plans and reporting, IOA assessments, and other contract compliance issues. Michael also provides experience with GSA Alliant 1 & 2, ITES 3H and 3S, CIO-CS and SP3, and other large IDIQ contracts on an as needed basis to clients.

 

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Ten Things I Hate About Incurred Cost Proposals | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA
 
If you remember the late 1990’s romantic comedy “10 Things I Hate About You” you might know that it did a lot of great things. It provided the platform for the venerable Heath Ledger’s coming out party, introduced the world to Julia Stiles, reminded us the kid from Third Rock from the Sun was, in fact, still here on Earth, and made more than $50M at the box office. Not too bad.

But as the law of unintended consequences often works, it also inspired this blog article about Incurred Cost Proposals.

With all apologies to the awful heading, the Incurred Cost Proposal does evoke some very specific emotion from those tasked with preparing, auditing, re-auditing, reading, reviewing, negotiating, or most importantly – signing them. They are a necessary evil for most services-based U.S. Government contractors. While the purpose of the Incurred Cost Proposal is a simple enough merit – to settle indirect costs under cost-type contracts between contractors and the U.S. Government – the evolution of the Incurred Cost Proposal has caused pain easily on par with that of Ms. Stiles’ loss of her Australian beau. And while Ms. Stiles was capable of some beautiful poetry to express her torment, I am not as skilled in that trade and so you will simply get an unpoetic list of 10 Things I Hate About Incurred Cost Proposals.

  1. The ICE Model – Using a model that every time you open it tells you “An error has occurred” is not a confidence inspiring event for a document that is supposed to be current, accurate, and complete.
  2. Your Name – Why did the FAR give you one name, the “Indirect Cost Rate Proposal”, but the industry and DCAA give you so many others? The Incurred Cost Proposal, the Incurred Cost Submission, the Indirect Cost Submission, The Indirect Cost Proposal, the ICS, the ICE Model, etc. We are happy to call them anything the government desires – just don’t call them delinquent.
  3. Audits Focused on Direct Costs – While I also hate that audits are untimely, I think I more dislike that the current audit environment is focused on direct costs. We had a recent experience where not a single indirect cost was sampled. For an “Indirect Cost Rate Proposal” audit, it’s a little odd that the indirect cost rate received so little attention. And, of course, forget the fact that all the direct costs have been submitted for government review already on each and every monthly invoice. This trend has found its way into the T&M labor costs specifically through MRDs, which have cost enormous sums of questioned costs to contractors who don’t have labor qualification support in the way of resumes more than 5 years ago.
  4. Unallowable cost sampling – What would this list be without mention unallowable costs. It must be done, but it sure is tedious. Now if we could just get to an agreement on which costs are expressly unallowable.
  5. Schedule J Subcontract Information – How much more information on my supply chain can I provide? Every new iteration of the ICE Model asks for more. It is becoming easier to acquire a subcontractor than monitor and report on them.
  6. Inconsistent Application of the DCAA Adequacy Checklist – The concept is great; however, the execution lacks some consistency. We’re even okay with the annual updating of the checklist to provide even greater comfort that our submissions are in fine shape for an audit. What we do hate is the inconsistent application of what meets adequacy within the checklist. DCAA is provided great liberty to accept or not accept certain elements of adequacy for purposes of commencing with an audit. Some consistency would nice. And, worst of all, the off-checklist item that leads to inadequacy determination takes the prize for most frustrating element of the process.
  7. When Total Cost Absorption reconciliation doesn’t work – Okay, not everything about the Indirect Cost Rate Proposal is a procedural flaw of our friends at the Government. Few accounting frustrations rival completing your proposal and performing the total cost reconciliation only to see that something isn’t working. You can always diagnose them, but not without a strong cup of coffee.
  8. Corporate Home Office “Incurred Cost Proposals” – If you have a corporate home office you may have been asked for one of these. Or maybe you haven’t. It’s impossible to tell since the request for these is not consistent across DCAA offices. In the event you are unfamiliar with what they are, they are a summary of those corporate home office costs allocated to the G&A pools of cost accounting segments. They’re easy to hate since all of this information is already included in the segment-level indirect cost rate proposal. It’s duplicative and with all the work done to be compliant, duplication of effort is not something we like to deal with (or clients like to pay for). However, it has been our experience that if you don’t submit it, you risk being deemed inadequate – even though this isn’t on the adequacy checklist, see # 7 above. They are a particular quagmire for entities with overseas parents where certification of G&A costs for U.S. Government accounting is an unfamiliar task.
  9. Executive Compensation – Figuring out the award dates of contracts in the middle of the year, determining which agencies each contract belongs to, then evaluating which employees the executive compensation applies to. Determining executive compensation limits in the current environment is a game of labyrinth. Once you figure this rubix cube out, you have to get an Advance Agreement with your customer to use blended rates in order to comply. Then once you have the maximum allowable amount determined, you need to evaluate if the labor costs beneath that are “reasonable” through market data searches, surveying, and a host of similar corroborative evidence.
  10. IR&D and B&P costs – These are everyone’s favorite bouncing ball. They’re in the overhead base, but also the G&A pool. This topic dominates almost all new contractors’ first FAR lesson. And when they’re not specifically identified in the project ledger they can become quite tricky. Forget if you’re a major contractor with heavy IR&D expenses and have to now both report on them and get pre-approval from your Contracting Officer or risk them being deemed unallowable.

 
But wait, there’s more!
If you’d like to share your own stories of Incurred Cost Proposals, or – even better – learn more about best practices for handling them, then join us for the “Incurred Cost Proposals: A Year In Review” webinar on January 12. Just one hour of your time now might save you many more if you’re up to speed on these current insights!

AUTHOR’S NOTE: As consultants, we routinely assist clients with the preparation of their Indirect Cost Rate Proposals. Please do not take our poor attempt at humor in this article as a lack of enthusiasm in any way for these services. We just liked the article heading as a forum to illustrate some of the contracting community’s frustrations.

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VA Reduces Administrative Burden on SDVOSBs and VOSBs | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons, VA
 
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published an Interim Final Rule in the February 21, 2017, edition of the Federal Register, increasing the period for re-verification examination by VA’s Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) of Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) and Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) program participants from two years to three years.

Purpose

The purpose of this change, effective February 21, 2017, is to reduce the administrative burden on SDVOSBs and VOSBs participating in VA acquisition set-aside for these types of firms pursuant to the authorities of Public Law 109-461, the Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act of 2006 (the Act), implemented by the VA as the “Veterans First Contracting Program.”

The Act requires VA to verify ownership and control of SDVOSBs and VOSBs in order for those firms to participate in acquisitions VA sets aside for SDVOSBs and VOSBs. VA has continuously administered the verification program since February 2010, at which time re-verification was required annually. In June 2012, the re-examination period was extended to two years.

In changing from a biennial re-examination eligibility period to three years, VA believes it adequately balances maintaining program integrity while reducing the administrative burden on SDVOSBs and VOSBs. In reaching this determination, VA cited statistical data from Fiscal Year 2016, which showed out of 1,109 reverification applications, only ten were denied, ergo, only 0.9 percent of reverification applications were found to be ineligible after two years.

VA relies very heavily on its initial eligibility examination of firms, which it describes as robust, and as such believes the integrity of the program will not be compromised by extending the period for reverification.

Process

As part of its initial examination, VA CVE reviews personal and company documentation to verify ownership and control by Veterans of the business applying for verification. Documents include personal and company financial statements; Federal personal and business income tax returns; personal history statements; articles of incorporation/organization; corporate by-laws or operating agreements; organizational, annual, and board/member meeting records; stock ledgers and certificates; State-issued certificates of good standing; contract, lease, and loan agreements; payroll records; bank account signature cards; and various licenses.

Additionally, VA conducts random, unannounced site examinations of participants in order to examine or further examine a participant’s eligibility, including upon VA’s receipt of specific or credible information that the participant is no longer eligible. Additionally, VA contracting officers and competing SDVOSBs and VOSBs have the right to raise a SDVOSB/VOSB status protest to VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization should either have a reasonable basis upon which to challenge the SDVOSB/VOSB status of a VA CVE-verified firm.

VA regulations mandate program participants maintain eligibility during its tenure, and if ownership or control changes occur, participants are required to notify VA’s CVE of any changes which would adversely affect the participant’s eligibility as a VA CVE-verified SDVOSB/VOSB.

VA maintains the Vendor Information Pages (VIP) Database, a database of firms verified by CVE and eligible to receive awards under the Veterans First Contracting Program. As of February 24, 2017, the VIP Database list 9,287 firms (6,917 SDVOSBs and 2,370 VOSBs).

VA’s current Veteran Small Business Regulations are codified at 38 C.F.R. Part 74.

Comments

Written comments on the Interim Final Rule must be submitted on or before April 24, 2017. Comments may be submitted directly to VA at the address shown in the Federal Register Notice or at www.regulations.gov. Comments should indicate they are submitted in response to “RIN 2900-AP93—VA Veteran-Owned Small Business Verification Guidelines.” Note that all comments received will be available for public inspection at VA’s Central Office in Washington, DC.

About the Author:

Wayne Simpson | Centre Law & Consulting Wayne Simpson
Consultant

Wayne Simpson is a seasoned former Federal executive and acquisition professional who is also a highly-motivated and demonstrative small business advocate, with nearly 38 years of Federal Civilian Service with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and its predecessor organization, the Veterans Administration.

 

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On June 23, 2016, the General Services Administration (GSA) amended the General Services Administration Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) to include clauses that require vendors to report transactional data from orders placed against certain Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts, Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), and Governmentwide Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) contracts.

What does this mean and what do you need to know?

First, it’s important to clarify what Transactional Data is. Transactional data refers to the information generated when the Government purchases goods or services from a vendor. It includes specific details such as descriptions, part numbers, quantities, and prices paid for the items purchased.

With this final rule, key points to note are:

  • The TDR clause is being implemented under the GSA Schedules program on a pilot basis. TDR implementation for several Schedules and Special Item Numbers (SINs) will begin in August 2016 and extend through Q1 FY2017.
  • Currently, GSA plans for a 3-year pilot affecting specific SINS at which point the pilot will be reassessed. The following Schedules/SINs are impacted by the pilot:
    • 03FAC
    • 51V
    • 58 I
    • 72
    • 73
    • 75
    • Professional Services Schedule (only for the Engineering SINs)
    • 70 (only for the following SINs: 132 8, 132 32, 132 33, 132 34, 132 54, and 132 55)
  • The new TDR requirements will be mandatory only for new Schedule contracts awarded after the Schedule becomes subject to the pilot and at the time to extend the term of the Schedule contract. Please note that vendors holding existing contracts under pilot Schedules will be encouraged to accept the new clause via a bilateral contract modification. Once accepted, vendors will not need to comply with the Commercial Sales Practices (CSP) and Price Reductions Clause (PRC).
  • Contractors in the pilot program will have ninety (90) days to accept the Mass Mod incorporating TDR.
  • TDR data is reported monthly, and there is a 30-day window to report after the end of the month.
  • GSA is amending its pricing instructions in the General Services Administration Acquisition Manual (GSAM) to place greater emphasis on price analysis when negotiating prices with Schedule vendors.
  • IFF must still be paid quarterly. However, Contractors may choose to remit IFF on a monthly basis when they report their sales, but they must do so through the TDR system.

The impact of this new rule remains to be seen, so Centre Law and Consulting will continue to report on TDR news as it develops.

About the Author

Maureen Jamieson | Centre Law & Consulting Maureen Jamieson
Executive Director of Contracts & Consulting

Maureen Jamieson has more than twenty-five years of experience managing federal contracts. She is highly experienced in solving client pricing problems and implementing effective pricing strategies for placing products and services on GSA Schedule contracts. Maureen also frequently works with clients on effective selling and marketing strategies in the federal market space.

 

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A Quick Guide to the Bid Protest Process | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons VA
 
If you’ve ever encountered the need to file a bid protest, you may remember feeling lost or overwhelmed the first time through the process. Maybe you were just confused and unsure of what would happen as you progressed from one step to the next. If you’re in the middle of a bid protest or foresee the need to enter into one in the future, the quick guide below walks you through a potential scenario of what can be expected.

SITUATION

Your company just received a non-award letter or have been excluded from the competitive range. You know your team worked hard on the proposal and you have proof that there have been some serious procurement law violations.

PROTEST GROUNDS

There are two types of protest grounds: pre-award and post-award. Pre-award grounds include protests that solicitations were unduly restrictive, ambiguous, unfair, or biased. Post-award protest grounds include protests that agencies did not follow evaluation criteria; engaged in misleading discussions; or had conflicts of interest, unstated criteria, or unequal treatment. In some situations, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will also consider non-procurement protests when agencies did not follow their own rules and regulations.

STRATEGY

Step 1: Do you request a debriefing?
Agency debriefings are mandatory in some but not all procurements. Centre
will assist you in determining whether the debriefing is mandatory, in drafting questions, and in preparing for it. The debriefing may reveal agency errors and procurement violations. Not all violations warrant filing a protest.

Step 2: Decision Point
Deciding whether to protest, at what level, and based on what protest ground(s) is critical. In such a case, Centre Law & Consulting will quickly conduct legal research and fact analysis to advise you on whether you should file a protest, where, and what relief could be expected.

Step 3: Review the Agency Report
Once you protest, a federal agency has 30 days to file its report along with additional documents relating to its source selection decision. Centre Law & Consulting will review all the documentation. In some cases, the report uncovers new protest grounds that were not apparent during the debriefing. Emails or other documents may also reveal agency bias, conflicts of interest, inaccurate calculations, misleading discussions, or improper evaluations.

Step 4: Corrective Action or Outcome Prediction
Once an agency realizes that it made serious mistakes, it may take corrective action. In other situations, the GAO may conduct an outcome prediction analysis. This allows all parties to get to the result quicker and cut costs. If everything else fails, the GAO will issue a decision either sustaining, denying, dismissing, or sustaining in part the protest within 100 days.

Step 5: Cost Reimbursement
Centre Law & Consulting will request cost reimbursement during the initial protest filing when appropriate. We will also document all costs associated with protest litigation to ensure that agencies reimburse the protester once the GAO recommends it.

IMPACT

The bid protest process is designed to ensure equal competition, fair evaluation, and prejudice to none. Successful protests ensure procurement integrity and result in favorable GAO recommendations including:

  1. Re-evaluation of proposals
  2. Corrective actions
  3. Re-solicitation
  4. Cost reimbursement

Other remedies include contract termination, contract re-compete, or a new solicitation.

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