Let’s say you’re a subcontractor to a prime contractor, which holds a construction contract with the Government. And you run into problems which need to be solved by submitting a claim to the contracting officer.
But, as the subcontractor, you don’t have a contractual relationship (privity of contract, in legal speak) with the Government. Can you still submit the claim?
Despite technological advance, some (perhaps even you) still cling to the notion that a signature, written by a human hand, is the only official kind. In other words, if a person doesn’t personally affix his “John Hancock” in cursive script or some other creative form, then the document really isn’t signed.
If this thought sounds familiar, we’re here to liberate you. You are no longer bound like a medieval prisoner to your tube filled with ink. You can use an electronic signature in your contract work with the U.S. Government, including certifications connected to claims submitted under the Contract Disputes Act.
Contract changes, particularly in the construction context, can be flash points for the Government and a contractor. In some cases, the Government will assert that the contract requires the contractor to perform certain work; the contractor, pointing to the same (or another) contractual provision, will argue that the contract does not require it.
These diverging positions can sometimes lead to contentious litigation.
The draft 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, if enacted, will revoke the government’s ability to exercise rights in technical data during a supplier’s challenge to the contracting officer’s decision as to the validity of the asserted “use or release restrictions” on that data. It would reinstate the previous safeguard afforded to data suppliers, allowing them to protect their valuable–and often irreplaceable–intellectual property rights unless and until the contracting officer’s decision to remove the restrictions is sustained.
Keep in mind, this is just a draft provision, as the Senate version of the 2020 NDAA doesn’t contain the provision discussed in this blog.
In the classic 1993 movie Gettysburg, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, a great American hero (played by Jeff Daniels), commented on the power wielded by military commanders, particularly generals: “Generals can do anything. Nothing quite so much like God on Earth as a general on a battlefield.”
It turns out that this power extends to actions that might affect your Government contract. For instance, a base commander can revoke a contractor’s access to the base; if that happens, and the contract required the contractor to maintain base access eligibility, the Government can rightly terminate the contract for default.
As readers of this blog might know, the government contracts claims process is set by statute and includes a number of requirements, such as being certified if the dollar amount is over $100,000.
But a possibly lesser-known requirement is that, in order to be valid, a claim must request that the contracting officer issue a “final decision” on the claim. In a recent decision, the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals opined on this requirement.