On June 27, 2018, in Appeal of CiyaSoft Corporation, the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals held that the Government can be bound by terms of a commercial software license agreement that the contracting officer (CO) has neither negotiated nor seen. CiyaSoft Corporation (CiyaSoft) submitted a claim asserting that the Army had breached its contract to purchase computer software by using more copies of the software than were permitted by the contract. The Army denied the claim, in part, because the contract contained no terms specifying how the government would secure and protect the software. Instead, CiyaSoft had included license terms limiting the software’s use (i) inside the box containing the CDs with the software, (ii) on a piece of paper inside the software’s shrinkwrap, and (iii) in clickwrap that was displayed during the software’s installation process. On appeal, the Board found that although the contract included no license terms and the CO never saw or discussed with CiyaSoft the license terms that accompanied the software delivery, the CO had a duty to inquire about what use rights applied to the software and the failure to do so imputed knowledge of the licensing terms on the Army. Pointing to the longstanding policy embodied in the FAR that that the government should accept commercial computer license terms that are customarily provided to other purchasers, the Board held that “the government can be bound by the terms of a commercial software license it has neither negotiated nor seen prior to the receipt of the software, so long as the terms are consistent with those customarily provided by the vendor to other purchasers and do not otherwise violate federal law.”
The Defense Contract Audit Agency (“DCAA”) recently made public its Fiscal Year 2017 Report to Congress, which, among other things, provides an update on incurred cost audits. Specifically, the report explains that DCAA:
- Closed “6,786 incurred cost years” using a variety of methods, namely reports and memos, but also for other reasons (e.g., per the FY 2016 NDAA, DCAA was prohibited “from providing audit support to non-DoD agencies”);
- Sustained audit exceptions for incurred costs audits 28.6% of the time;
- Reduced the backlog related to incurred cost audits “to an average age of 14.3 months;” and
- Is “on track to eliminate the backlog by the close of FY 2018” as it now has “under 3,000 incurred cost years in [such] backlog….”
- “[W]ill be current on incurred cost based on a two-year inventory of audits” by FY 2018 and “will move to one year of inventory as required” in the FY 2018 NDAA.
Contractors looking for updates to the statutory allowable cost limits on employee compensation may be looking in the wrong place. But what was once lost can easily be found, at least for the moment, by simply navigating to a different website.
The Cost Principles and the Compensation Cap
FAR 31.205-6(p)(4) governs the allowable compensation of contractor and subcontractor employees. It promulgates section 702 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (“BBA”), which set an initial limit on allowable contractor and subcontractor employee compensation costs at $487,000 per year. “Compensation” is defined broadly to include the total amount of wages, salary, bonuses, deferred compensation, and employer contributions to defined contribution pension plans. According to the BBA, the cap is to be adjusted annually based on the Employment Cost Index calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BBA repealed the prior existing formula for determining the relevant compensation cap under 41 U.S.C. § 1127 and applies to contracts awarded on or after June 24, 2014. It also provided agencies with the authority to establish “one or more narrowly targeted exceptions” for certain specialists.