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Centre Law & Consulting

In its August 25, 2017 decision the GAO sustained a bid protest from David Jones CPA PC (“Jones”) on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (“VA”) refusal to establish a blanket purchase agreement following a request for quotations on Equal Employment Opportunity claims investigations. The principle issue of the decision revolved around the VA’s elimination of Jones’ proposal because of a single line item.

The solicitation advised offerors that technical approach was significantly more important than past performance and that, combined, technical approach and past performance were significantly more important than price. The solicitation also warned the VA would not establish a blanket purchase agreement with any vendor if the price submission was “questionable for reasonableness.” Jones was assigned a “good” technical rating but the VA also determined Jones had submitted an unreasonable price for a single line item. Ironically, every other line item in Jones’ proposal was lower than the mean of the other offerors. Following this initial evaluation, Jones was eliminated from consideration, with no further analysis from the VA.

The VA unsuccessfully argued that the solicitation supported exclusion based on a single high priced line item because the solicitation required not-to-exceed quantity for each line item. The GAO noted the premise of this argument was flawed because the solicitation did not provide any estimated quantities for the lines items.  Most importantly, the GAO took issue with the VA lack of evaluation on the effect of this single item’s price on the agreement as a whole. In order to justify exclusion, the VA needed to evaluate if that single line item would have created an overall unreasonably high price, or at least created an unacceptable risk that the price would be too high on a typical government order.

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.

The post GAO Rejects “One and Done” Line Item Evaluation appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


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Centre Law & Consulting

 

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report recommending several changes to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) deployable biometrics programs. Deployable biometric capabilities like fingerprint scanners, voice recognition hardware, and iris scanning devices are used as intelligence collection platforms by the DoD. According to the report, these programs are responsible for DoD capturing or killing 1,700 individuals and preventing 92,000 more from accessing DoD bases over the past decade.

While the GAO acknowledged several successful components of DoD’s biometric capabilities, it also made six recommendations to enhance biometric strategic planning. Further, GAO warned that DoD “may have missed an opportunity to leverage existing, viable, and less costly alternatives.”

A critical recommendation was GAO’s final one: DoD should stop determining which contract support to use based on the lowest price. Too often, DoD relies on lowest cost, technically-acceptable solicitations (i.e. choosing the lowest priced bid by a contractor that meets the minimum requirements.) According to the report, this absolute preference for low bidding has resulted in staffing shortages in contractor provided services. While the GAO still supports use of the lowest price solicitation structure for low skilled services, GAO expressed concern of its usefulness for highly technical/skilled tasks, such as information technology security and latent fingerprint examination. GAO recommends using tradeoff selection criteria in determining contract support; this approach could enhance the quality of contract offers and improve contractor hiring and retention through better compensation.

The advantages of using a best value solicitation for these more advanced DoD services are clear. The Department would have greater discretion to determine if a price discount is worth a reduction in quality, and what effect that sacrifice could have on the end goal – for example, quickly and properly processing a potentially hostile individual’s DNA. With the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, DOD will almost certainly follow GAO’s recommendation for a solicitation method. The Act directs the DoD to avoid using lowest price solicitations for information technology contracts, to the maximum extent practicable. (Pub. L. No. 114-328, div. A, title VIII, subtitle C, § 813(c) (Dec. 23, 2016)). Further, DoD reviewed a draft of the GAO report, and concurred with all six recommendations. DoD also cited actions it plans to take to address the recommendations. GAO believes that if DoD completes these actions, it will adequately address the concerns outlined.

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.

The post GAO to DoD – Acquisitions for Intelligence Collection Capabilities: there’s a better way. appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


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Centre Law & Consulting

There is an aphorism that goes “Buyer Beware”; time-honored sage advice to be sure.  But perhaps a new aphorism is in order for the Federal marketplace: “Seller Beware.”

Many vendors and contractors selling to the Federal Government under contracts awarded under some type of small business set-aside are frequently unaware of an important requirement tucked neatly away in set-aside clauses.  This requirement is set forth as portion of the clause which normally begins with the word “Agreement.”

As an example, Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Clause 52.219-5, Notice of Total Small Business Set-Aside (Nov 2011), contains the following as part of the clause:

“(d) Agreement. A small business concern submitting an offer in its own name shall furnish, in performing the contract, only end items manufactured or produced by small business concerns in the United States or its outlying areas. If this procurement is processed under simplified acquisition procedures and the total amount of this contract does not exceed $25,000, a small business concern may furnish the product of any domestic firm. This paragraph does not apply to construction or service contracts.”

So why do set-aside clauses contain such an agreement?  The answer is simple:  The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Nonmanufacturer Rule, often referred to as “NMR.” (Ref:  13 C.F.R. Section 121.406(b)).

In brief, the NMR requires small businesses receiving awards under the various set-asides used in government procurements, to provide their own product, or that of another domestic small business manufacturer or processor, unless SBA has granted an individual waiver to NMR for the procurement, or the procurement is covered by a class waiver to the NMR, also issued by SBA, and the contracting officer uses the class waiver.

The NMR also addresses how nonmanufacturers may qualify as a small business concern for a requirement to provide manufactured products or other supply items as a nonmanufacturer as well as for Kit Assemblers.

Unfortunately, all too often companies rely on the fact the government issued and awarded the procurement using small business set-aside procedures believe they are somehow protected or immunized from the consequences of non-compliance.  The agreement provision in the various set-aside clauses can only be waived by an SBA issued waiver for an individual procurement, or when the contracting officer uses an existing class waiver.  Unless the procurement is covered by an SBA waiver.

SBA amended its regulations in 2016 indicating the NMR does not apply to procurements between $3,500 and $150,000.   However, the FAR still sets the applicability threshold for NMR at $25,000.

Non-compliance with NMR can have significant consequences for a company, ranging from contract enforcement actions to potential liability under the False Claims Act (FCA).  FCA looms large these days as increasingly more qui tam lawsuits are being filed under FCA by disgruntled and former employees, and even a company’s competitors, as the person bringing the qui tam lawsuit can receive a lucrative payout.

Other set-aside clauses contain agreements relating to the NMR as well.  Please be sure to thoroughly review the requirements of the set-aside clause(s) under which you are submitting an offer.

Sellers Beware!  Protect your company by ensuring absolute compliance with NMR.  Centre Law and Consulting offers a comprehensive 90-minute webinar on the NMR to help small businesses mitigate vulnerabilities in this area and to fully understand the requirements of NMR and ensure their compliance.

Best wishes for every continued success in the Federal Marketplace!

 

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.

The post Seller Beware! appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


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Centre Law & Consulting

On April 18, 2017, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to amend its regulations to adopt and incorporate the U.S Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) revisions for 2017, identified as “NAICS 2017.”  SBA proposes to adopt the updated table of size standards effective October 1, 2017, to coincide with beginning of the government’s next fiscal year.

NAICS 2017 creates 21 new industries by reclassifying, combining or splitting 29 existing industries under changes made in “NAICS 2012.”

SBA’s proposed size standards for the 21 new industries have resulted in an increase in size standards for six NAICS 2012 industries and part of one, a decrease to size standards for two, a change in the size standards measure from average gross annual receipts to average number of employees for one industry.  There are no changes for 20 industries and part of one.

SBA included six tables in its proposed rule showing the changes, which occur in the following NAICS Sectors:  21, Mining; 33, Manufacturing; 45, Retail Trade; 51, Information; 53, Real Estate and Rental Leasing; 54, Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; and 72, Accommodation and Food Services.  We recommend consulting these tables if your business is engaged in one of these NAICS Sectors to determine if your business is impacted by the changes.

A note to large business prime contractors with Small Business Subcontracting Plans:  These changes could also impact the size status of your suppliers and subcontractors which may impact your ability to meet your Small Business Subcontracting Goals.

Why are NAICS Codes Important to Federal Contractors?

NAICS classifies business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. economy.  NAICS Industry Codes define establishments based on the activities in which they are primarily engaged.

NAICS Codes are important in the conduct of U.S. Government procurements, as a NAICS Code is assigned to each procurement by the procuring contracting officer.  NAICS Codes have a size standard assigned by SBA which will determine whether a business is small or other than small (large) business in response to a government procurement.  Companies may be a small business under one NAICS Code, and other than small (large) business under another.  Click here to view SBA’s Size Standards Table, updated February 26, 2016.

The corresponding size standard to a NAICS Code assigned by the contracting officer to a government procurement is especially important when the procurement is conducted using a set-aside for small business, as it will determine a company’s eligibility to participate under a small business set-aside.

More Information on NAICS Codes

Visit the U.S Census Bureau’s North American Industry Classification System website where you can use their useful tool to search NAICS by key word, sector, or NAICS Code:

https://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/

 

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.

 

The post “NAICS 2017” Revisions appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


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Centre Law & Consulting

Mark your calendars to join Barbara Kinosky at the upcoming Section 809 Panel meeting on April 27 at 11:30am where she will be an invited featured speaker.

Section 809 Panel stakeholder meetings provide a forum for external experts in the defense acquisition community to provide input to representatives of the panel for consideration in the panel’s work. The Section 809 Panel is looking at reforming and streamlining acquisition regulations with a view toward improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the defense acquisition process and maintaining a defense technology advantage. The panel is charged with making recommendations for the amendment or repeal of such regulations that the panel considers necessary, as a result of such review, to:

  • Establish and administer appropriate buyer and seller relationships in the procurement system
  • Improve the functioning of the acquisition system
  • Ensure the continuing financial and ethical integrity of defense procurement programs
  • Protect the best interests of the Department of Defense
  • Eliminate any regulations that are unnecessary for the purposes described

All Section 809 Panel meetings are open to the general public and details are posted to the panel’s website.
 
Section 809 Panel logo
 

The post Barbara Kinosky to Be Featured Speaker at Section 809 Panel appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


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Centre Law & Consulting

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an agency-wide memorandum entitled “Revised Treatment of Transgender Employment Discrimination Claims Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” The memorandum expressly withdraws a December 15, 2014 memorandum in which then-current Attorney General Eric Holder opined that Title VII “encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.”

While the new memo is undoubtedly a reversal of the Obama DOJ’s policy (ed., “Elections  have consequences.”), the Sessions’ memo is consistent with the weight of federal case authority that has held that gender identity (as well as sexual orientation) is not covered by the plain language of Title VII. Thus, in many ways, the current policy prescription is less a “reversal” than a return to the status quo ante, circa 2014.

That said, since 2012 the EEOC has consistently taken the position that Title VII does encompass discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The Sessions memo creates clear tension, if not outright conflict, between the respective agencies’ policy positions. And, given that the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled specifically on the question, the issue will likely not be resolved until the Justices speak on the same. Of course, were it inclined to do so, Congress could resolve the matter by amending Title VII, though such an outcome is unlikely at best.

With respect to federal contractors, it should be understood that the revisions to E.O. 11246, which amended federal EEO requirements to include sexual orientation and gender identity, are not affected by the Sessions memo. That is, even if Congress did not intend to include those criteria within the statutory concept of “sex” – the executive branch has (to date) concluded that companies choosing to do business with the federal government will continue to treat sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics.

 

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.

The post Trump DOJ Withdraws Obama Administration Memo Regarding Title VII And Gender Identity appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


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Centre Law & Consulting

The Department of Labor has published its annual list of Labor Surplus Areas (LSA) for Fiscal Year 2018.  What is a LSA you ask?   A LSA is a civil jurisdiction that has a civilian average annual unemployment rate during the previous two calendar years 20 percent above the average annual civilian unemployment rates for all states & Puerto Rico during the same period.  Civil jurisdictions are defined as follows:

  1. A city of at least 25,000 population on the basis of the most recently available estimates from the Bureau of the Census; or
  2. A town or township in the States of Michigan, New Jersey, New York, or Pennsylvania of 25,000 or more population and which possess powers and functions similar to those of cities; or
  3. A county, except those counties which contain any type of civil jurisdictions defined in A or B above; or
  4. A “balance of county” consisting of a county less any component cities and townships identified in paragraphs A or B above; or
  5. A county equivalent which is a town in the States of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, or a municipio in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

The national unemployment rate during the past two years was 5.12 percent, so the areas included on the Department of Labor’s list have an unemployment rate of 6.1453 percent or higher. Being a LSA matters for the following reasons:

  1. The Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy uses the LSA list to identify where procurement set asides should be emphasized in order to strengthen our Nation’s economy;
  2. General Service Administration (GSA) Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA) system uses the LSA list as a tool to determine if a business qualifies as a Labor Surplus Area concern;
  3. The Small Business Administration uses the LSA list for bid selections for small business awards in Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZones);
  4. Some state and local area governments use the LSA list to allocate employment related assistance (food stamps and training); and
  5. Private industry has used the LSA list for strategic planning and potential areas of human capita

 

The list of LSA’s can be found here: https://www.doleta.gov/programs/lsa.cfm

About the Author

Colin Johnson | 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.

The post The Annual List of Labor Surplus Areas are Available appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


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