Photo of Amy Laderberg O'Sullivan

Amy Laderberg O'Sullivan is a partner in the firm's Washington, D.C. office, a member of the Steering Committee for the firm's Government Contracts Group, and former chair of the firm’s Diversity Council. Her practice involves a mix of litigation, transactional work, investigations, and counseling for corporate clients of all sizes and levels of experience as government contractors. On the litigation side, she has represented corporate clients in bid protests (agency level, GAO, ODRA, Court of Federal Claims, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, as well as state and local bid protests in numerous jurisdictions), size and status protests before the U.S. Small Business Administration, claims litigation before the various Boards of Contract Appeals, Defense Base Act claims litigation at the Administrative Law Judge and Benefits Review Board levels, civil and criminal investigations, and she has been involved in complex commercial litigation.

On September 23, 2022, the FAR Council issued a number of final rules amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to reflect changes previously implemented by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to its regulations on women-owned small businesses and HUBZones, as well as to clarify policy on joint ventures in small business contracting. 

The final rule on HUBZones (87 FR 58232) aligns the FAR’s definition of a HUBZone in provisions and clauses such as FAR 2.101, 52.212-3, 52.219-1, 52.219-8 and 52.219-9 to refer to the requirements described in 13 C.F.R. § 126.200 and SBA’s designation of a HUBZone small business concern in the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS). This is in line with the SBA’s recent revisions to the HUBZone regulations via which SBA annually certifies HUBZone entities in order to allow such entities to remain eligible for HUBZone contracts for the entire year rather than such entities being required to represent their status for each offer. Higher-tier contractors are required to confirm that a subcontractor representing itself as a HUBZone small business concern is certified by SBA as a HUBZone small business concern by accessing SAM or by accessing DSBS. The rule also allows contracting officers to award HUBZone set-aside and sole-source contracts at or below the simplified acquisition threshold. 

Continue Reading FAR Updated to Reflect Revised SBA Regulations

On September 12, 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the first-ever settlement with a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lender.  The lender, Prosperity Bank, agreed to pay $18,673.50 to resolve allegations it improperly processed a PPP loan on behalf of an ineligible applicant.  The announcement coincides with DOJ’s creation of three COVID-19 fraud “Strike Force” teams designed to enhanced DOJ’s efforts to combat and prevent COVID-19 related fraud.

Pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, lenders who originated PPP loans were entitled to receive a fixed fee from the Small Business Administration (SBA) ranging from 1% to 5% of the loan amount.  Prosperity Bank, a regional bank with branches throughout Texas and Oklahoma, was one of those lenders.

Continue Reading DOJ Announces First-Ever False Claims Act Settlement with PPP Lender and Creation of COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force Teams

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently announced in a July 29, 2022 Change Order notice that the Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) had revised the Field Operations Handbook (“FOH”) by deleting the exemption under the Service Contract Act (“SCA”) for federal contracts to operate Job Corps Centers.  Prime contractors and subcontractors operating these centers will now be subject to the SCA and FAR 52.222-41, Service Contract Labor Standards, according to DOL. 

The practical effect of this change is that covered contractors must pay the minimum wages and “bona fide” fringe benefits mandated by the SCA to all covered workers, which includes workers who are “non-exempt” under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The required wages and fringe benefits for these workers are set forth in wage determinations that are incorporated into the applicable contract by the contracting agency.  Higher tier contractors must also flow down the SCA Clause (FAR 52.222-41) and all applicable wage determinations to lower tier contractors.  All covered contractors must meet the SCA’s posting and recordkeeping requirements.  See 29 CFR 4.183, Employees must be notified of compensation required; 29 CFR 4.184, Posting of notice; 29 CFR 4.185, Recordkeeping requirements.    

Continue Reading Job Corps Center Prime Contractors Will Now be Subject to the Service Contract Act Requirements

Major changes to the way small business contractors obtain, and agencies evaluate, past performance references are set to arrive on August 22, 2022. On July 22, 2022, the Small Business Administration (SBA) published a final rule implementing provisions of Section 868 of National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. The rule provides two new methods for small business contractors to obtain past performance ratings upon which they may then rely when submitting offers on prime contracts with the Federal Government.

First, a small business offeror may rely on the past performance of a joint venture of which it is a member, as long as the small business was involved in performance of the joint venture’s contract(s).  To that end, when submitting a proposal, the small business must: (1) identify the joint venture; (2) specify the joint venture’s contract(s) the small business elects to rely upon; and (3) detail the duties and responsibilities the small business carried out as part of the joint venture. Provided these requirements are met, the procuring agency shall (per 13 C.F.R. § 125.11) consider the past performance of the joint venture when evaluating the past performance of the small business concern.

Continue Reading SBA to Implement New Methods for Evaluating Expanded Sources of Small Business Past Performance

After a recent Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) decision limited the circumstances under which a departure of key personnel may doom an offeror’s proposal, an even more recent GAO decision might have swung the pendulum right back. In Sehlke Consulting, LLC, GAO sustained a protest because the agency failed to penalize the awardee when a proposed key person employed under the incumbent contract provided notice that he planned to resign. Even though the key person was still employed on the date of award, GAO held that the agency’s failure to consider his “prospective unavailability” for the follow-on contract undermined the contract award.

The following dates were relevant:

  • Performance of the follow-on contract was scheduled to begin February 1, 2022.
  • On January 11, 2022, one of the awardee’s proposed key personnel (who was then an employee of a subcontractor on the incumbent contract) announced that he planned to resign effective January 28, 2022. The awardee timely notified the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (“COTR”) for the incumbent contract.
  • On January 25, 2022, the agency completed its evaluations and awarded the contract.
  • On January 28, 2022—after award but before performance was to begin—the key person’s resignation became effective.


Continue Reading GAO Finds Key Person “Unavailable” Despite Still Being Employed on Date of Award

On December 2, 2021, the White House released a Fact Sheet, announcing a number of significant reforms intended to increase federal procurement opportunities for small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs), including but not limited to:

  • directing agencies to more than double their annual SDB contracting goals for FY2022 to result in 11% of contracting dollars being

On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a six-pronged plan to combat COVID-19, which Crowell previously discussed here.  One prong of the plan is to protect the economy, an aspect of which is the streamlining of the existing Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan forgiveness process.

Under the PPP, loans to small businesses can be

The Department of Defense (DoD), General Services Administration (GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) published a final rule, effective September 10, 2021, that updates the Federal Acquisition Regulation to conform to two changes regarding small business subcontracting, namely by providing examples of what does—and what does not—constitute good faith efforts to comply with a small business subcontracting plan, as well as when indirect costs must be used in commercial subcontracting plans.

The NDAA at issue:  Section 1821 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 (section 1821(c) of Pub. L. 114–328; 15 U.S.C. 637) requires the Small Business Administration (SBA) to amend its regulations to provide examples of activities that would be considered a failure to make a good faith effort to comply with a small business subcontracting plan.

SBA Implementation:  SBA issued a final rule at 84 FR 65647, dated November 29, 2019, to implement section 1821 of the NDAA for FY 2017.  SBA added a non-exclusive list of examples of what could and could not be considered good faith efforts to comply with a small business subcontracting plan at 13 C.F.R. § 125.3(d)(3).

Proposed Rulemaking:  DoD, GSA, and NASA published a proposed rule on June 3, 2020, at 85 FR 34155, to implement section 1821 of the FY 2017 NDAA.

Key Change of the Rule:

As noted above, SBA updated 13 C.F.R. § 125.3(d)(3) in 2019 to provide contracting officers guidance on evaluating whether a prime contractor made a good faith effort to comply with its small business subcontracting plan.  The final rule updates FAR 19.705-7, Compliance with the subcontracting plan, to provide similar examples of activities that contracting officers may consider when evaluating whether the prime contractor made a good faith effort to comply with its small business subcontracting plan.  Per commentary in the rule, this change provides contracting officers with consistent and uniform examples to identify and hold large prime contractors accountable for failing to make a good faith effort to comply with their subcontracting plans.

Similar to the SBA final rule, FAR 19.705-7(d) now discusses the corrective actions available to contracting officers when a contractor fails to make a good faith effort to comply with the subcontracting plan and that, in this context, “a failure to make a good faith effort to comply with a subcontracting plan is a material breach, sufficient for the assessment of liquidated damages, and also for other remedies the Government may have.”  The final rule also updates FAR 19.705-6 to address the contracting officer’s responsibilities vis-à-vis a small business subcontracting plan, including initiating action to assess liquidated damages in accordance with FAR 19.705-7.

Commentary in the final rule makes clear that it does not implicate when a small business subcontracting plan is required—merely what activities would be considered a failure to make a good faith effort to comply with such a plan. That means that the rule does not change (1) whether a small business subcontracting plan is required in the acquisition of commercial items, including commercially available off-the-shelf items, nor (2) does it expand the applicability of the small business subcontracting plan requirement to contracts at or below the simplified acquisition threshold.
Continue Reading Assessing Good Faith Efforts to Comply with a Small Business Subcontracting Plan

The Department of Defense (DoD), General Services Administration (GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) published a final rule, effective September 10, 2021, that finally updates the methodology to calculate compliance with the limitations on subcontracting.

The NDAA:  Section 1651 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 (15 U.S.C. 657s) revised and standardized the limitations on subcontracting, including the nonmanufacturer rule, that apply to small business concerns.

Implementation in SBA’s Regulations:  The Small Business Administration (SBA) implemented section 1651 of the FY 2013 NDAA in a final rule published at 81 FR 34243 on May 31, 2016, which became effective on June 30, 2016.

Proposed Rulemaking to Update the FAR:  DoD, GSA, and NASA published a proposed rule at 83 FR 62540 on December 4, 2018, to implement regulatory changes made by the SBA.

Key Set of Changes Made to the FAR:

The final rule updates the methodology for complying with the limitations on subcontracting.  FAR 19.505 and FAR clause 52.219-14 provide that a small business concern subject to the limitations on subcontracting will pay no more than a certain percentage of the amount paid by the Government for contract performance to subcontractors that are not similarly situated entities.  As with 13 C.F.R. § 125.6, the relevant thresholds are set as follows:

  • For a contract assigned a services NAICS code, the small business concern must not pay more than 50% of the amount paid by the Government for contract performance to non-similarly situated subcontractors;
  • For a contract assigned a NAICS code for supplies or products (other than a procurement from a nonmanufacturer), the small business concern must not pay more than 50% of the amount paid by the Government for contract performance, excluding the cost of materials, to non-similarly situated subcontractors;
  • For a contract assigned a general construction NAICS code, the small business concern must not pay more than 85% of the of the amount paid by the Government for contract performance, excluding the cost of materials, to non-similarly situated subcontractors; and
  • For a contract assigned a special trade contracting NAICS code, the small business concern must not pay more than 75% of the amount paid by the Government for contract performance, excluding the cost of materials, to non-similarly situated subcontractors.


Continue Reading FAR Conformed to the “New” Limitations on Subcontracting Methodology at 13 C.F.R. § 125.6

On July 29, 2021, the Small Business Administration announced in an FAQ that it is discontinuing any reliance on the Loan Necessity Questionnaires, which the SBA had required of each borrower, that together with its affiliates, received Paycheck Protection Program loans with a principal amount of $2 million or greater. As we’ve previously discussed,