Photo of Cherie Owen

Cherie Owen is a senior counsel in the Government Contracts group. Cherie counsels and represents clients in a wide array of government contracts issues, with a focus on bid protests at the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the United States Court of Federal Claims. As a former GAO bid protest hearing officer, she resolved some of the most challenging bid protests on procurements ranging from thousands to billions of dollars involving solicitation challenges, proposal evaluation challenges, organizational conflicts of interest, Procurement Integrity Act violations, affirmative responsibility determinations, the conduct of discussions, and competitive range determinations. In this role, Cherie held numerous bid protest hearings. At GAO she handled more than 600 protests and issued more than 500 decisions.

Protesters looking to challenge U.S. Government awards of “Other Transaction Agreements” (“OTAs”) face forum challenges—the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”), Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”), and federal district courts have all dismissed OTA protests for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, with GAO and the COFC concluding that OTAs are not procurement contracts.  But last week, in Hydraulics International, Inc. v. United States, the COFC held it could exercise jurisdiction over a challenge to an OTA award made in connection with a potential future procurement.

In Hydraulics, the Court considered a challenge to the Army’s award of an OTA for Aviation Ground Power Unit (“AGPU”) protypes used to service military helicopters.  The Army invited offerors to respond to a Request for Enhanced Whitepapers (“RWP”), which contemplated awards to two companies for the “base effort” of one prototype AGPU.  The RWP instructed that the base-effort award “may result in the award of a follow-on production contract for over 150 AGPUs without the use of competitive procedures.”

Continue Reading Sometimes, the Court of Federal Claims Does Consider OTA Protests

Last week, the Court of Federal Claims issued a decision highlighting – and further widening – the gap between the limited agency record typically available to protesters at the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) and the much more fulsome record available at the Court.  In Trace Systems Inc. v. U.S., the Court signaled its increasing willingness to scrutinize the adequacy of the record produced, rather than simply accept Government representations of completeness.

Trace Systems considered a challenge to the cancellation of a competitive procurement in favor of a sole-source award by the Defense Information Systems Agency (“DISA”).  After the Government filed an administrative record containing nearly 23,000 pages of documents purportedly detailing the cancellation decision, the protester objected and sought the production of additional documents, claiming only six of the originally produced documents were relevant.  The Court ordered DISA to complete the record, and the Government produced additional documents.  DISA explained, however, that it was withholding other records that were “internal, predecisional, and deliberative agency documents.”  The protester again objected and asked the Court to compel the Government to file all relevant documents.  In response, the Government represented that, beyond the pre-decisional documents it had withheld, the record was now complete.

Continue Reading COFC: Strictly Scrutinizing the Completeness of the Government’s Administrative Record

On June 23, 2022, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Army contractor Envistacom LLC and two of its executives alleging participation in a fraudulent scheme that deprived the federal government of competition and making false representations to the government in furtherance of the conspiracy. The indictment also charged the executive as a co-conspirator, and asserts the conspirators coordinated in the preparation of so-called “competitive quotes” submitted in connection with 8(a) set aside contracts. The quotes were allegedly fraudulently inflated in order to all but guarantee the government customer would sole source the award to the conspirators’ pre-determined bidder. This indictment represents the fruits of yet another investigation by the Department of Justice’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force (“PCSF”).

According to the indictment, the defendants conspired to prepare and secure “sham” pricing quotes from third-party companies that were intentionally higher than Envistacom’s proposals to ensure that the government issued sole source awards to Envistacom. Further, the defendants allegedly coordinated with an unnamed government employee who acted as a co-conspirator and assisted in preparing and submitting Independent Government Cost Estimates (“IGCE”) for certain set aside contracts to ensure that the pre-determined bidder’s proposal would be lower than the IGCEs. Finally, the indictment alleges that the defendants made “false statements, representations, and material omissions to federal government contracting officials” about the IGCEs being “legitimate” and the sham quotes being “competitive.”

Continue Reading Procurement Collusion Strike Force Nabs Another Military Contractor in Bid Rigging Scheme

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

As Russia’s assault on Ukraine continues, countries around the world are taking action.  Relevant to U.S. Government contractors, on April 22, the Defense Logistics Agency (“DLA”) issued a Request for Information (“RFI”) seeking information on companies’ abilities to deliver military and commercial assistance to Ukraine.  The RFI states that “the Biden Administration is working around

Crowell & Moring’s “All Things Protest” podcast keeps you up to date on major trends in bid protest litigation, key developments in high-profile cases, and best practices in state and federal procurement. In this episode, Crowell attorneys discuss their recent “Feature Comment,” published in The Government Contractor, discussing the recent Court of Federal

Contractors that encounter problematic solicitation provisions have many avenues to address them, such as industry days, questions and answers, and even communications directly with an agency.  However, the recent Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) decision in Science and Technology Corporation serves as an important reminder that contractors must be thoughtful about when and how they communicate directly with an agency.  Depending on the specific content of their communications, contractors can unwittingly create a timeliness trap that will shorten their deadline to file a GAO protest.

On September 13, Science and Technology Corporation (“STC”) sent a “letter of concern” to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) expressing dissatisfaction with a key personnel requirement in a particular solicitation, and requesting that the requirement be amended.  NOAA responded the next day, denying the request and noting that the requirement was “an important aspect” of the solicitation.

On October 1—which was 17 days after NOAA’s rejection, but still prior to the due date for receipt of proposals—STC filed a pre-award protest at GAO challenging the solicitation requirement.  Ordinarily, a pre-award protest challenging solicitation requirements is timely so long as it is filed before the deadline for receipt of proposals.  See 4 C.F.R. § 21.2(a)(1) (“Protests based upon alleged improprieties in a solicitation which are apparent prior to bid opening or the time set for receipt of initial proposals shall be filed prior to bid opening or the time set for receipt of initial proposals. . . .”).  However, GAO dismissed STC’s protest as untimely, concluding that STC’s September 13 letter constituted an agency-level protest, and holding that STC was required to protest at GAO no later than 10 days after NOAA’s September 14 rejection.  See 4 C.F.R. § 21.2(a)(3) (“If a timely agency-level protest was previously filed, any subsequent protest to GAO must be filed within 10 days of actual or constructive knowledge of initial adverse agency action. . . .”).

Continue Reading Letter to Agency About Solicitation Requirement Creates Pre-Award Timeliness Trap

Arguably the hottest bid protest topic of the past several years just reached its boiling point. On Friday, the Court of Federal Claims (COFC), in Golden IT, LLC v. United States, rejected the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) rule that an offeror must notify an agency if its proposed key personnel become unavailable after proposal

The acquisition and consolidation of government contractors has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. GAO’s recently released decision in Vertex Aerospace, LLC, B‑420073, B-420073.2, Nov. 23, 2021, serves as an important reminder to contractors that failure to properly update a procuring agency about such transactional activity can have adverse impacts on a pending

In American Mine Services, LLC, B-420138 (Dec. 3, 2021), the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) denied a protest by American Mine Services (“AMS”), finding that the Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) reasonably rejected AMS’ bid because it included a provision stating that COVID-19, as well as other similar pandemics or endemics, would be considered “force