For years bid protest filings at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have been done by e-mail (or even fax, mail or hand delivery).  In January 2014, Congress directed GAO to establish a electronic filing and document dissemination system (not unlike the PACER system used by federal courts), and authorized GAO to charge a filing fee to those filing bid protests.  Since that time, GAO has been working on developing an electronic filing system, which GAO calls “EPDS.”  The process has taken longer than most expected, but in February 2018 GAO announced EPDS was almost ready and started handling some protests on EPDS as part of a pilot program.  Today, GAO issued the final rule for EPDS, and announced that rule would take effect on May 1, 2018.  This means that starting in May all bid protest at GAO must be filed through EPDS (protesters will no longer be able to file protests by email) and GAO will charge a $350 fee for filing a protest.

Given the short and strictly enforced time limits for filing protests at GAO, those who file bid protests should consider signing up for an account immediately at https://epds.gao.gov/, and familiarize themselves with the new rules well before they take effect May 1st.  GAO has provided handy instruction manuals and videos for EPDS at https://www.gao.gov/legal/bid-protests/file-a-bid-protest.

As we previously discussed, when Congress passed the FY 2018 NDAA it required the Department of Defense (“DoD”) to issue regulations providing for enhanced post-award debriefing rights on certain DoD procurements.  Specifically, Congress mandated enhanced content requirements, a follow-up question process, and corresponding changes to the time to file a bid protest at GAO with a suspension of performance of the protested contract (a “CICA stay“):

  • Enhanced Content Requirements:  While protecting the confidential and proprietary information of other offerors, the debriefing shall include, at a minimum, the agency’s written source selection award determination, redacted to protect the confidential and proprietary information of other offerors.  These enhanced content requirements apply to “required” debriefings if (1) the contract award exceeds $100M, or (2) the contract award exceeds $10M and the contractor requesting the debriefing is a small business or nontraditional contractor who request such disclosure.
  • Follow-up Question Process:  Disappointed offeror would be allowed the opportunity for follow-up questions within two business days of receiving a post-award debriefing to be answered in writing by the agency within five business days.
  • Time to file protest at GAO and obtain a CICA stay:  The debriefing would not be considered concluded, and the five day post-debriefing period pertaining to when a protest needs to be filed to invoke a CICA stay would not commence, until the day the agency delivers its written responses to the disappointed offeror’s follow-up questions.

The enhanced content requirements were to be implemented through DFARS regulatory changes, which DoD has until June 2018 to issue.  On the other hand, the follow-up question process, and corresponding changes to the time to file a bid protest at GAO with a CICA stay, are already reflected in statutory changes (10 U.S.C. 2305(a)(5) and 31 U.S.C. 3553(d)(4)).  Still, changes to the DFARS were expected to implement the follow-up question process.  But this week, in advance of changes to the DFARS, DoD issued Class Deviation 2018-O0011 – Enhanced Postaward Debriefing Rights, which provides for the immediate implementation of the follow-up question process (and corresponding changes to the time to file a protest at GAO and obtain a CICA stay): Continue Reading DoD Begins Implementation of Enhanced Post-Award Debriefing Rights

At times, a prime contractor can effectively be the middle man between the government and a subcontractor. The FAR directs that the prime contractor should always provide value to the overall procurement; however, many prime contractors require the assistance of subcontractors to fulfill this contract requirement. The recent CBCA case VSE Corporation v. Department of Justice spotlights that, even in fixed-price contracting, the prime contractor may or may not have bid with locked in subcontract rates.  If the government accepts the prime contractor’s offer and the subcontractor raises their rates, the prime contractor is liable for the additional costs, not the government.  In VSE, this led to fireworks for the prime contractor, literally.

VSE provided storage services to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to store seized property. The initial contract was a cost-reimbursement contract for which VSE was paid on a per pound basis.  ATF stored seized fireworks with VSE at a facility owned by VSE’s subcontractor Heritage Disposal & Storage and Heritage charged VSE $0.10 per pound to store the fireworks. Subsequently, the government asked VSE to reconfigure the fireworks for safety reasons. Despite VSE’s contract with Heritage, Heritage increased its storage billing rate from $0.10 per pound to $0.195 per pound based on the reconfiguration.

The government then issued a new solicitation for nationwide seized property to include fireworks. Rather than a cost-reimbursement contract, this contract was fixed-price. VSE submitted a bid where it identified the fireworks and proposed a base year price of $1.95 per square foot. However, this price would not be sufficient to cover the expenses for the fireworks storage as Heritage had been charging VSE approximately $170,000 per month to store the fireworks while the government had only been paying VSE approximately $77,000 per month for storage.   Continue Reading Boom: Fireworks between Subcontractor, Prime Contractor, and Government (Literally)

Despite the fact that the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (COFC) has concurrent jurisdiction with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) over the vast majority of federal bid protests, GAO is the primary forum utilized by protesters—and by a wide margin. GAO handles approximately twenty-five times as many protests per year as the COFC. While GAO does have certain advantages that attract protesters to that forum, this wide margin is likely less a result of the actual advantages provided to protesters in that forum and more a result of the misconceptions and lack of familiarity with the COFC protest process and the advantages of that forum. This article sheds light on the bid protest process at the COFC, providing a guide on protest practice and procedure at that forum.

Continue Reading Roadmap to Bid Protests at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims

The Randolph-Sheppard Act (“RSA”) grants blind persons, operating through State Licensing Agencies, mandatory priority in the award of contracts for the operation of vending facilities on federal property so long as the SLA contractor satisfies criteria established by the RSA’s implementing regulations prescribed by the U.S. Secretary of Education.  In its recent decision in State of Texas v. United Statesthe Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) made two key rulings in relation to the RSA:

  1. Prior Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) decisions related to the RSA are not persuasive on the COFC, as GAO lacked jurisdiction to hear these protests, and
  2. The RSA creates a two pronged test before granting a State Licensing Agency (“SLA”) priority in a solicitation for vending services — (i) the SLA must be within the procurement’s competitive range, and (ii) the the contracting agency must perform cost and food quality evaluations pursuant to the solicitation, which may be in addition to a determination of whether the proposal falls within the competitive range.

In State of Texas v. United States, the Air Force issued a solicitation for vending services at Joint Base San Antonio.  The State of Texas, acting by and through one its state agencies that qualified as a SLA under the RSA for the purposes of the procurement, submitted a proposal.  The Air Force originally found that the State of Texas’ proposal did not fall within the competitive range.  In response to being excluded from the competitive range, the State of Texas filed for arbitration with the U.S. Department of Education, as is required by the RSA.

Continue Reading Texas Gets Burned: Court of Federal Claims Finds State’s Randolph-Sheppard Act Protest Premature

Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed different versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (“FY 2018 NDAA”).  The Senate version contained dramatic bid protest reforms that, with the exception of the reforms to debriefing, were largely unpopular in the government contracting community.  The House version did not contain these reforms.  After meeting in conference over the past month to iron out the differences between the two bills, on Nov. 8, 2017, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees announced an agreement had been reached.  Contractors can breathe a sigh of relief, as most (if not all) of the protest reforms that the contracting community viewed negatively were left out of the bill agreed to in conference. Continue Reading House and Senate Strike Deal on Bid Protest Reforms in FY 2018 NDAA

Last week, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (COFC) published an opinion in Sonoran Tech. and Professional Services, LLC, v. United States, dismissing all of Sonoran’s bid protest claims as untimely.  There are a number of timeliness issues discussed in the Sonoran opinion.  One of the holdings from Sonoran that contractors (especially awardees with contracts under protest) need to be particularly aware of is that, according to the COFC, a protester is charged with knowledge it would have gained if it had intervened in an earlier bid protest concerning the same procurement.  Awardees (and any other interested parties) need to take this holding into consideration when deciding whether to intervene.  While before there may have been reasons why an awardee (or other interested party) might not intervene in a bid protest, the Sonoran opinion makes the decision on whether to intervene an obvious one. Continue Reading The U.S. Court of Federal Claims Just Changed the Calculus for Deciding Whether to Intervene in a Bid Protest

With every new administration, there is both great uncertainty and opportunity in federal government contracting. To help you navigate the rough seas of doing business with the federal government in this new administration, we have assembled nationally recognized practitioners who will cover topics relevant to government contractors large and small, novice and seasoned. Session topics include:
– Ten Things Every Contractor Needs to Know When Doing Business with the Federal Government
James F. Nagle | Oles Morrison Rinker & Baker LLP | Seattle, WA
 
– Writing a Winning Technical Proposal – From the Contracting Officer’s Perspective
Mona Carlson, Mary Jo Juarez | PTAC Kitsap Economic Dvlpmnt. Alliance – Navy Contracting Officer (retired) | Kitsap, WA
 
– Keys to Winning Bid Protests and Defending Contract Awards
Adam K. Lasky | Oles Morrison Rinker & Baker LLP | Seattle, WA
 
– Navigating the Complex Rules Governing Data Rights
Jonathan M. Baker | Crowell & Moring LLP | Washington D.C.
 
– Overlooked Risks of Being a Lower-Tier Government Contractor
Alan C. Rither | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | Richland, WA
 
– Mistakes to Avoid in the Claims and Litigation Process
Donald G. Featherstun | Seyfarth Shaw LLP | San Francisco, CA
 
– Adapting to Buy American and Domestic Preference Rules in the Trump Administration
Howard W. Roth | Oles Morrison Rinker & Baker LLP | Seattle, WA
 
– Understanding & Managing the Risk of Suspension & Debarment
Dominique L. Casimir | Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholler LLP | Washington D.C.

Thursday, November 16th 

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7890051894_a68fa1ed9a_kThis post is the second in a multi-part series discussing the fundamental steps that protesters (and their outside counsel) can take to enhance their chances of success at GAO.  Previously, in Part 1 of this series, we discussed the importance of making the most of your debriefing.  Today, in Part 2 of the series, we discuss why its important to frame initial protest arguments with the big picture (obtaining information necessary to identify winning supplemental protest arguments) in mind.

In addition to arguments raised in the initial protest filing, a protester may file supplemental protest arguments based on new information learned during the course of the protest.  A supplemental protest argument must be filed within ten days of when the protester knew, or should have known, of the basis for the supplemental protest argument.  Finding and filing viable supplemental protests is a huge driver of your chances of succeeding at GAO.  In fact, a recent study showed that the odds of a protester having its challenge sustained by GAO nearly double when a protester files supplemental protest arguments.  So, filing strong supplemental protest arguments significantly increases your chances of winning a protest.  What many protesters do not realize is that the key to finding a winning supplemental protest arguments starts with how you frame your initial protest arguments. Continue Reading Fundamentals to Winning Bid Protests at GAO — Part 2: Framing Initial Protest Arguments with the Big Picture in Mind

060110-N-3019M-001In a decision publicly released June 5, 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled in favor of Oles Morrison Rinker & Baker LLP’s (“Oles Morrison”) client, TOTE Services, Inc. (TOTE), in a bid protest challenging the U.S. Navy – Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) award of $32 million O/M contract for the Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX-1).  The SBX-1 is the floating, self-propelled, mobile radar system used by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to detect and track incoming ICBMs fired at the United States.

GAO sustained TOTE’s protest, holding that MSC had committed multiple errors in the evaluation of the awardee’s past performance.  Namely, MSC improperly credited the awardee for relevant performance without considering the quality of that performance, and credited the awardee for positive performance without considering its relevance.  GAO also held that MSC lacked a reasonable basis to conclude that the awardee’s singular past performance contract of its own was “very relevant.” Continue Reading Oles Morrison’s Government Contracts Team Wins GAO Bid Protest Challenging Award of O/M Contract for Missile Defense Radar Vessel – SBX-1