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About this blog

Counting the Government as a customer is a huge win for your business, and can provide both profit and prestige. But in Government contracts, what you don’t know can hurt you. Patterns of Procurement helps contractors and their in-house counsel maneuver the tricky terrain. In the blog, Joseph Petrillo of Washington D.C.’s Petrillo &Powell, P.L.L.C, shares the latest and most significant industry cases, augmented by his unique perspective gleaned over 40+ years practicing Government Contract Law.

Entries in this blog

 

Why Timing is Everything in Small Business Recertification

Congratulations: you’ve certified as small business for federal contracting purposes. In a typical contract setting, you keep your size status for the life of the contract. But in the instance of a merger or acquisition or if a contract lasts longer than 5 years, you must recertify to maintain your size status. For multiple-award contracts, the Contracting Officer is also given a good deal of latitude in terms of whether a small business must recertify for an individual order. In a recent case, Unissant, Inc. protested the size status of a competitor who’d recently earned a task order award. Read on to learn what small businesses contractors need to know about small business status in light of this case.   Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement.

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

When Poor Performance Reviews Become a Matter of Public Record: What Contractors Need to Know

Statute and regulation prevent public access to contractor past performance information. That said, contractors who contest poor performance reviews in Court or at a board may unintentionally put themselves at risk to have the details of the matter released in a public decision. Such was the case for Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, whose recent protest at the COFC inadvertently lead to their performance issues becoming a matter of public record. The case serves as a cautionary tale for other contractors considering whether to contest a poor performance review. Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

When Offering a Low Cost Is Detrimental, and a Different Way to Show Technical Acceptability

It sounds simple. In Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) procurements, the agency determines the best value proposal by identifying those that are technically acceptable and then selecting the one with the lowest price. But there’s a wrinkle when this technique is used for a cost-reimbursement contract. Smartronix’s recent protest at GAO illustrates that proposing the lowest cost doesn’t always win you the contract, even when you’re technically acceptable. Specifically, contractors if the proposed cost is too low, the Government can adjust it upwards. Read on to learn more about this problem and how to avoid it. To read the full article, visit Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

When An Agency’s Solicitation Excludes You From Competing: How One Company’s Protest Fared at GAO

A pair of large contracts for administrative services with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are great but two pairs are better.  In a recent case, National Government Services, a company holding multiple contracts with CMS, protested when agency rules prevented them from competing for several more. Ultimately, the agency was able to successfully defend the limitations written into their solicitation, and the case provides a template for other agencies that may find themselves in similar circumstances. Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement.
 

What To Do When You Lose A Contract Despite Offering The Better Price

Sometimes the Government seeks the best overall value, and at times simply lowest cost. But even when low price is determinative, the bidder must still meet minimum technical qualifications. In a recent case, Level 3 Communications lost a major contract with the Dept. of Defense to Verizon, whose bid exceeded theirs by nearly $40 million. Level 3 was disqualified for what it thought were trivial reasons. When Level 3 protested, it got no relief from GAO, but the Court of Federal Claims came to their rescue. More at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement.

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

What Offerors Should Know About VATEP Procurements

VATEP is a new method of acquisition that the DoD announced in April 2016. VATEP, which stands for Value Adjusted Total Evaluated Price, is a variant on best value procurements, and seeks to quantify technical superiority in dollar terms when there is a cost/technical tradeoff. It should, in theory, make it easier for the contractor to understand how much it will be rewarded for offering a technically superior proposal. It should also make it easier for the Government to evaluate such proposals. Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of competing for VATEP procurements.  

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THERE ARE CHANGES TO AN OFFER AFTER THE SUBMISSION DEADLINE?

After the proposal due date, the rule is that late changes or revisions are not accepted, with certain narrow exceptions spelled out in regulation. However, GAO has carved out its own exception when key personnel become unavailable. Such was the case when the YWCA protested a recent Labor Department award. GAO held that after proposal submission, an agency cannot accept a replacement for a key person who becomes unavailable without opening discussions with all offerors in the competitive range. The case highlights some of issues that arise for offerors when personnel changes occur after proposals are submitted. Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement.

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

What Happens When the Government Perceives a Cybersecurity Risk in Your Supply Chain

The Federal Government is amping up its efforts to mitigate threats to cybersecurity. You might think that the Department of Homeland Security would be the agency concerned with mitigating risk stemming from cyber threats. But a recent case at the Court of Federal Claims (COFC) shows that Government’s preoccupation with cybersecurity extends to all agencies. In this case, the Social Security Administration (SSA) needed new printers, but was determined to avoid supply chain risks that they felt one bidder’s offer posed. The COFC sided with the agency in this case, which raises the question whether the Federal Government should centralize such decisions.   Read the full article here. 
 

What a New Study on DoD Protests Reveals, and Implications for Contractors

When the Department of Defense (DoD) sought restrictions on bid protests, Congress made them commission a study to validate their case. That study, authored by the RAND Corporation, looks at bid protests during the 9-year period from 2008-2016. The study indicates a significant increase in the number of bid protests over that time period. That trend alone bolsters the DoD’s case. But a further look at the extensive data from RAND’s study suggests otherwise, and provides critical insights for Defense contractors. Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

Think You're A Small Business? Maybe Not. Watch Out for Hidden SBA Rules.

In the case of Veterans Technology, LLC and MDW Associates, LLC (MDW), small business size status was endangered by a high level of subcontracting with a small business. The SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals (“OHA”) applied a rule of thumb to disqualify an awardee as a small business. The Court of Federal Claims (COFC) intervened and reversed the determination. This case illustrates two important issues: (1) Size determinations are subject to SBA rules, and sometimes principles not in those rules that are adopted by SBA’s OHA. (2) If an adverse size determination leads to loss of a contract award, the COFC can review the decision, and if warranted, overturn it. Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

Skeptical of a Competitor’s Technical Evaluation? How One Company Succeeded at GAO

A competitor protested when an Energy Department (DoE) contract awardee proposed an unusual plan for processing radioactive liquid waste. Given the apparent riskiness of the winner’s proposition, it’s not surprising that GAO sustained the protest. What is surprising (and remains a mystery) is how the agency assessed the winning proposal’s technical approach as sound. Read on to learn how one protestor succeeded because of an agency’s murky evaluation. Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 
 

Section 809 Panel Urges DoD and Congress to East Compliance Burden on Commercial Item Contractors

The Section 809 Panel, created in section 809 of the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is charged with recommending improvements to the defense acquisition process. In January 2018 the panel released their first volume of three, which provides guidance for simplifying the DoD procurement process in ways that could benefit contractors. Their insights shed light on the obstacles contractors face, and pave the road for changes in law to help overcome them.   Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 
 

Is Your Contract Vulnerable to Termination for Convenience?

As 2018 gets underway, contractors may find that the current administration’s priorities spell out changes to existing contracts. If the program under which you hold a contract doesn’t fit in with new management, your contract may be at risk for termination for convenience. Read on to find out when a contract you hold may be in danger, and what you can do to mitigate costs relating to a contract the Government terminated for convenience. Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

How to Respond to a Negative CPARS Evaluation

The Contractor Performance Assessment Reports System (CPARS) is a tool used by federal agencies to record their evaluations of contractors’ performance. A poor evaluation will jeopardize a contractor’s chance of winning new contract awards. Contractors can respond to poor evaluations by providing input when they feel they’ve been unfairly assessed. Yet in the recent case of CompuCraft, a successful appeal to the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals found that there were limits to how completely they could correct their poor evaluation. Nonetheless, their efforts at redressing their improper negative rating provide an important template for other contractors who find themselves in similar circumstances. CompuCraft, Inc., CBCA No., 2017., Mar. 1, 2017 View the full article here.   

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

How NDAA’s New Rules on Enhanced Debriefings May Bolster Defense Contractors

Companies who’ve lost out on a contract award can seek more information by requesting a debriefing, a post-award explanation of why they failed to secure a contract, with an opportunity to pose questions. But debriefings don’t always reveal enough information. Now, thanks to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), DoD agencies must provide enhanced debriefings with the goal of helping bidders get more information sooner after learning they’ve lost a contract. How will enhanced debriefings affect the landscape of Defense acquisition, and does the new requirement pave the way for more meaningful debriefings for all FAR procurements?   Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 
 

How GAO Responds When it Perceives a Threat to Procurement Integrity

When the Department of Homeland Security tried to migrate its IT support from a single contract to a series of task orders, they created quite the quagmire. From go, DHS' process for evaluating offerors' technical capabilities was unusual, and when contracts were awarded, disappointed contractors moved to protest. Yet when it came to light that the agency had altered evaluation documents once protests were underway, GAO swiftly intervened.  View the full article here. 

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

How Commercial Technologies Can Have An Advantage When Competing for Government Contracts

Contracts with the Federal Government represent big bucks for technology companies. According to ITDashboard.gov, government agencies spent a whopping $82.8 billion on information technology investments in FY2016, a number that’s poised to grow in the next two years. It’s no wonder, then, that technology companies take government contracts seriously. So when tech giant Palantir Technologies could not get the Army to consider its commercial IT system, they protested. And ultimately, the Court of Federal Claims decided in their favor.  View the full article here.   

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

GAO OR THE COURT: DOES WHERE YOU FILE YOUR PROTEST MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE? PART II

In two recent cases, disappointed contractors protested when agencies failed to request clarifications or open discussions. Both Defense Base Services and Level 3 argued that the issues with their proposals could have been remedied if given the chance. GAO denied both offerors’ protests. Yet when Level 3 persisted at the COFC, the judge concluded that an agency’s failure to request clarifications constituted an abuse of discretion. The cases illustrate the difference in the way GAO and the COFC view clarifications and discussions, and shed insight for offerors under similar circumstances.  Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

GAO or The Court: Does Where You File Your Protest Make A Big Difference?

An offeror protested an award by the U.S. Forest Service when the agency’s solicitation appeared to favor a competitor, but the protest was denied at GAO. The Simplex Aerospace decision, in comparison to the recent case of PSI, raises the question of whether disappointed contractors are better served by filing protests with GAO or the Court of Federal Claims. Does the decision of where to file really mean the difference between a win and a loss in the world of Government contracts?  Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement.

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

Fair Treatment in the Bidding Process? Knowing What's Fair Isn't Always Easy

For losing contractors, the question of whether to protest is a tricky one. Contractors often move to protest when the requirements seem to favor one competitor over another, or when the rules of the procurement are unclear. But there’s an important difference between an agency displaying an abuse of discretion and simply utilizing the flexibility written into the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Two recent cases shed light on where that distinction may lie. Professional Service Industries,Inc. v. United States, et al., 129 Fed. Cl. 190 (2016) SSI, B-413486, et al., Nov. 3, 2016. View the full article here.  

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

Don’t Approve of Your Competitors in a Multiple Award IDIQ Contract? Know This Before You Protest.

Sometimes multiple contractors earn spots on Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts, which allow for an undetermined quantity of supplies or services during a fixed period of time, as outlined in FAR. But what happens when winning contractors have reservations about the competitors who earn contracts alongside them? DaeKee Global Co. found itself in such a situation, and reacted by protesting the terms of the solicitation. Read on to learn how GAO and the COFC responded to such protests, and what this means for contractors concerned about their bedfellows in IDIQ contracts. To read the full article, visit Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

Does An Agency's "Corrective Action" Have Any Limits?

In a recent case, the Army got dinged in the Court of Federal Claims (COFC) despite – indeed, because of – the agency’s efforts to correct a problematic procurement. 58 offerors bid for the Army’s recompete of its Army Desktop Mobile and Computing contract vehicle, but only 9 proposals were deemed technically acceptable. When 21 of the disqualified bidders protested, the Army took “corrective action.” It reopened the competition, allowing all offerors to submit revised proposals and new prices. But the COFC found that the proposed corrective measure was overbroad. The court’s ruling demonstrates that agencies need to tailor corrective action to procurement’s unique problems.   To read the full article, visit Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

Contractors Beware: New GSA Contracting Clause Overwrites Standard License Terms

In February the General Service Administration (GSA) rolled out a new contracting clause addressing Commercial Supplier Agreements (CSA). It expands a 2013 clause that made some common commercial license terms unenforceable. Now, many other terms found in commercial licenses (especially for IT) no longer apply to GSA contracts. The clause invalidates these terms – even if they make it into the contract. Read on to learn about which parts of such agreements are targeted, at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement.  
 

CONTRACTING OFFICERS: HERE’S HOW TO EVALUATE PAST PERFORMANCE WHEN IT’S THE CRITICAL FACTOR

In a best value procurement, being roughly as good as the competition and offering a slightly lower price doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win the contract. Such was the case for DynCorp, which offered a lower price and a comparable CPARS score to the incumbent, L-3 Communications. When DynCorp lost the re-competition for Air Force logistics support, they protested at GAO. But savviness on the part of the agency saved the award.    To read the full article, visit Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement. 

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

 

Conflicts of Interest & Breaches of Confidentiality as Threats to the Integrity of Procurement

As a recent big acquisition by the Department of Education (ED) for IT services shows, GAO takes the integrity of the procurement system very seriously. The case sheds light on how agencies and contractors should respond when they believe the integrity of the procurement process may be threatened. Specifically, contractors may need to self-report breaches of the integrity rules, affected competitors need to act promptly to preserve their rights, and agencies must investigate problems and take appropriate action to ensure a fair procurement. View the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement.

Joseph Petrillo

Joseph Petrillo

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