Shuttering of the government (or parts of the government) following appropriations lapses has become an increasingly common phenomenon in recent years. Funding lapses interrupt the usual predictability of government operations, which is often to the detriment of both agencies and federal contractors that are left in proverbial limbo with stop work orders.
Unfortunately, unlike many other topics, the FAR does not substantively address procedures for contractors during or following a government shutdown. As such, recovering expenses incurred as a consequence of government shutdowns can be challenging.
Here are some pointers.
The Government improperly threatened to terminate a contractor for default, because there was no good reason to believe the contractor had actually defaulted.
In a fascinating new decision by the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, the Government’s threat–made to a contractor with cash-flow issues–amounted to coercion, and invalidated a settlement agreement that awarded the contractor much less than it probably should have received.
Here’s a situation my colleagues and I see with some frequency: a contractor, in the course of working on a government contract, submits a request of some sort to the agency. Then waits for a response. And waits some more. Meanwhile, the government’s delay in responding prevents the contractor from moving forward with some aspect of the project, causing the contractor to incur costs.
For contractors faced with this type of government inaction, a recent decision by the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals is welcome news. In that case, the ASBCA held that the government breached its implied duty of good faith and fair dealing by waiting more than three months to respond to the contractor’s request to amend the Statement of Work–allowing the contractor to “twist in the wind” during that period.
Here at SmallGovCon, we often write about nuanced, complex government contracting legal issues. This isn’t one of them.
The moral of today’s story comes straight from the personal superhero files of Captain Obvious: not reading the performance work statement in your own contract is a pretty bad idea.
The period of performance under a government contract, measured in “days,” meant calendar days–not business days, as the contractor contended.
In a recent decision, the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals applied the FAR’s general definition of “days” in holding that a contractor had not met the contract’s performance schedule.
I recall sitting in a mediation one day when the mediator, a judge, told me and my client that we all have lightning in our fingers. He went on to explain that this means, once you sign a contract, it’s like magic in the sense that you can’t get out of the contract and are bound by it, absent certain exceptional circumstances.
I was reminded of this concept while reading a recent opinion from the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals that dealt with the effect of a contractor signing a release with the government and then trying to back out of that release by refusing payment from the government.
The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals recently dismissed a government claim that Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems, Inc. (LMIS), failed to comply with its prime contract terms by not adequately managing its subcontractors and therefore all subcontract costs (more than $100MM) were unallowable.
Although the government claim was directed at a large contractor, some of the amount in question, presumably, included invoiced amounts by small business subcontractors. At least by implication, had the government prevailed, it could have resulted in requirements for prime contractors to become far more demanding and intrusive in terms of subcontractor documentation and/or access to subcontractor records.