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SITUATION: I work for the Department of Defense (DOD), and my office executes a healthy number of time-and-materials/labor-hour (T&M/LH) determination and findings (D&Fs). My leadership has decided, at legal counsel's suggestion, that the requirements of DFARS 212.207(b)(iii) can apply to all commercial T&M/LH D&Fs, including those done under the authority of FAR 8.404(h)(3). The upshot is that nearly all such D&Fs require Head of Agency (HOA) signature, since nearly all are defined under paragraph (6) of the "commercial item" definition. As you can imagine, this has created an administrative inconvenience. (The idea of delegating this approval authority to the Head of Contracting Activity (HCA) has been raised and rejected.) QUESTION: My question can be phrased specifically or broadly: Specifically, should HOA signature on commercial T&M/LH D&Fs, in accordance with DFARS 212.207(b)(iii), be required when using FAR 8.4 procedures? Broadly, where FAR 12 specifically instructs the reader to defer to FAR 8.4 on a topic, can DFARS 212 "override" FAR 12? DISCUSSION: I suspect that the answer is "no" (acknowledging that my response is at least partially biased). Part of the challenge here is that for DOD employees, there are no less than 5 different regulatory parts that provide T&M/LH guidance. I will attempt to address each in a logical order in walking through my thinking on this: FAR 16.601(d) provides general guidance for a D&F, and directs the reader to FAR 12.207(b) for "further limitations" when purchasing commercial services. Diverting for a moment to FAR 12.102(c), this assigns precedence to FAR 12 over conflicting FAR parts when purchasing commercial items. FAR 12.207(b)(1) and (2) provide commercial item D&F guidance; however, 12.207(b)(4) states: "See 8.404(h) for the requirement for determination and findings when using Federal Supply Schedules." In my opinion, this language unambiguously intends for the reader to exclusively defer to 8.4 for T&M/LH D&F guidance when using 8.4 procedures. (Compare the language in (b)(4) to the "additional approval" language in (b)(3).) Based on #3, there is no conflict as described under #2. FAR 12 defers to FAR 8 on this specific topic. As promised, 8.404(h) creates its own set of D&F requirements. Significantly, the highest stated approval authority here is HCA. Strangely, DFARS 208 is silent on the topic of T&M/LH contracts. DFARS 212.207(b), however, creates additional limitations when using T&M/LH contract types for commercial items. Specifically, (b)(iii) requires HOA approval when paragraph (6) of the "commercial item" definition applies. DFARS 216.201(d) provides additional limitations and guidance for T&M/LH D&Fs. My opinion is that if DFARS intended to impact the FAR guidance to defer to FAR 8 in these situations, it should have unambiguously done so by addressing it under DFARS 208 (as it did under DFARS 212 and 216). The most compelling counter-argument I've heard is that this reading would nullify the intent of NDAA for FY 2008 (on which DFARS 212.207(b) is based), which views T&M/LH contracts with skepticism and attempts to limit their usage. I agree that it would have been odd for DOD to intend to allow for a FAR 8.4 T&M/LH loophole, but in effect I believe this is what it did by neglecting to address the topic under DFARS 208. What say you, Wifcon community?
My company has a time and materials contract for which we are a first tier subcontractor. The prime contract is not a FAR 12 procurement. The prime contractor wanted to include a requirement in the contract that travel would be subject to the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR). My company pushed back. We are a subcontractor supplying commercial products and services under the T & M contract. The prime tells us that their contract requires that their travel doesn't exceed the JTR. However, it's my understanding that the JTR is only for military personnel. I suggested to my team that we agree to a clause that commits us to compliance with 31.205-46 which I interpret as requiring that we will use the govt regulations as guidelines but ultimately adhere to our company's internal travel policy which follows the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) guidelines and requires a Travel Exception Approval be submitted for any thing in excess of those per diem rates. My co-worker doesn't interpret 31.205-46 in the same manner and in fact insists that we should have requested 52.212-4 alt 1. I don't believe 52.212-4 to be appropriate as the prime contract is a FAR 15 procurement. I'm now doubting if we should even mention 31.205-46 since we offer commercial supplies and services, saying only that we would adhere to our company's travel guidelines.
Scenario: Lower-tier subcontractor performing on a DO issued under the restricted suite of an IDIQ MATOC for maintenance and services. The DO contained 2 types of CLINS: 1. FFP (for preventative maintenance) and 2. T&M (for corrective maintenance). Prime contractor (Company A) submitted hourly labor rates to Govt.; the resulting award contained the hourly rates but no details are given regarding whether the rates for each labor category are for the prime or its subs. NOTE: lower-tier sub was not involved with prime contract in any capacity until well after the award. As such, it was unable to participate in the hourly rate discussions/negotiations between the prime and first-tier sub. In addition, the lower-tier sub was not given any information about said discussions/negotiations. First-tier sub to Company A issued subcontract to lower-tier sub for both CLINs. Beforehand, lower-tier sub quoted its GSA FSS contract hourly rates to first-tier sub; the first-tier sub accepted said rates. Lower-tier sub hourly rates accepted by first-tier sub were was much as $14.00/hr higher than those in listed Company A's prime contract. To the best of this writer's knowledge, the rates in Company A's prime contract had not been disclosed to the lower-tier sub prior to it submitting its proposal to, or receiving its subcontract from, the first-tier sub. CAVEAT: the lower-tier sub is also a contract holder under the same MATOC (lower-tier sub's award was in the unrestricted suite) and most likely has the same KO administering its contract as Company A. The lower-tier sub's hourly rates negotiated with (and accepted by) the Govt. on its award are the same as above - its GSA FSS contract hourly rates. The Govt. is definitely aware the lower-tier sub is also performing under Company A's award as a lower-tier sub. Issue: Lower-tier sub performed multiple CLIN 2 corrective maintenance services over several months, during which time it invoiced its labor at the $14.00/hour higher rate. Govt. accepted all invoices and lower-tier sub was paid at the higher rate. During this time, the lower-tier sub is still unaware of Company A's negotiated rates. Out of the blue, the Govt. decides it no longer wants to pay the lower-tier sub's higher rates and directs Company A to pay the lower-tier subs at Company A's lower negotiated rate. Argument: Lower-tier sub is well aware of the regulations governing T&M work and concurs it must abide by the rates in Company A's contract. The lower-tier sub does, however, take issue with the Govt. changing its position "midstream" on the hourly rates. Does the lower-tier sub have any valid arguments to make? If so, what are they?