Because I’m at least partially a North Carolina country boy, I like to promise I’ll finish a project by a certain date “god willing and the creek don’t rise.”
I never give much thought to what I’ll do if the unexpected happens. I assume most people don’t. They expect things to go according to plan. As Meridian Engineering Company found out at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims recently, sorting it out when things don’t go to plan can be a long and arduous process.
As recently as May, the Department of Veterans Affairs told a nonprofit helping to employ blind workers that it intended to renew its contract. The organization was shocked, therefore, when on July 30, the VA issued a notice of award to a service-disabled veteran-owned small business. To make matters worse, the nonprofit’s GAO protest of the award was promptly dismissed for being untimely.
Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear a case that could have far reaching implications in agency law—including for government contractors. The Court granted certiorari to a case that could greatly diminish the amount of deference given to agencies interpreting their own regulations.
For contractors, a Supreme Court decision to curtail agency deference could lead to increased success rates in bid protests and other disputes.
Ever since the Supreme Court’s Kingdomware decision was handed down in 2016, an important question has remained: who has priority at the VA for items on the AbilityOne List?
Yesterday, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals provided the answer. The VA is required to prioritize service-disabled veteran-owned or veteran-owned small businesses when the Rule of Two is met, even when it buys items on the AbilityOne List.
Despite older case law to the contrary, the GAO ordinarily lacks jurisdiction to decide a protest challenging the award of a subcontract, even where the subcontract is alleged to have been made “for” the government, as in the case of some subcontracts awarded by DOE Management and Operation prime contractors.
In a recent decision, the GAO confirmed that, except in very narrow circumstances, it won’t decide protests challenging subcontract awards.
Not too many government contracting disputes make it to a federal court of appeals—the level just a step below the U.S. Supreme Court. The most notable recent examples would probably be the Federal Circuit’s decision in Kingdomware Technologies (which, as SmallGovCon readers know, was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court in 2016) and the D.C. Circuit’s decision Rothe Development (which the Supreme Court declined to consider).
But recently, the Federal Circuit issued a decision of note to government contractors. In AgustaWestland North America v. United States, the Court issued guidance on what constitutes a “procurement decision” and upheld the Army’s decision to buy helicopters on a sole-source basis.
Although a lease may be a “contract” in common parlance, does a lease qualify as a contract under the Contract Disputes Act?
The answer is important, because the Contract Disputes Act provides jurisdiction for the Court of Federal Claims and Board of Contract Appeals to decide challenges to contracting officers’ final decisions. If a lease isn’t a contract under the Contract Disputes Act, government lessors could be in a bind.
The United States Court of Federal Claims recently decided the issue–and came down on the side of lessors, at least under the facts at hand.