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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

Joseph Petrillo

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Contractor Performance Assessment Reports System (CPARS) allows agencies to rate the contractors with which they do business. A poor CPARS rating is a fairly serious matter for contractors, and can impair them from getting future contracts. Fortunately, contractors who feel they’ve unfairly received a negative review can file a claim under the Contract Disputes Act. But the process for attempting to correct a negative rating can be arduous, and relief is limited. The case of Vanquish Worldwide, LLC v. United States of America provides a solid template of what to do – and what not to do – for contractors who find themselves in a similar situation.

Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement.

 

Joseph Petrillo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the last several years, the DoD has bulked up regulations aimed at detecting and preventing electronic counterfeit parts within Government contracts. Two major clauses apply these regulations to defense contractors: “Contractor Counterfeit Electronic Part Detection and Avoidance System,” and “Sources of Electronic Parts.” Here’s a summary of the main points of each clause.

 

Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement

Joseph Petrillo

Federal contractors often hire former agency employees. But rules exist that can place limitations on the business activities of past officials who seek to work with the agency by which they were previously employed. So what happens when a bidder thinks that a competitor has an unfair advantage because it has hired such a former official? A recent protest decision sheds some light on how agencies and GAO proceed when facing such a perceived conflict of interest. 

Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement

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