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This week’s episode covers annual reports from GAO and the ASBCA, a proposed rule regarding disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions and climate-related financial risk, and new requirement to refer any suspected instances of human trafficking to suspension and debarment officials, and is hosted by Peter Eyre and Yuan Zhou. Crowell & Moring’s “Fastest 5 Minutes”

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On November 1, 2022, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its Annual Report on Bid Protests for Fiscal Year 2022.  While the number of protests GAO received dropped by 12% for the second year in a row, the overall protest “Effectiveness Rate”—meaning the percentage of cases in which the protester received some form of relief, such as voluntary corrective action by the agency or a GAO sustain—increased to 51%, tying Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 for the highest rate in the past five years.  

GAO’s Annual Report also provides a helpful summary of the most common grounds for sustained protests in the prior year.  In FY2022, those grounds were: (1) unreasonable technical evaluation; (2) flawed selection decision; and (3) flawed solicitation.  The inclusion of “flawed solicitation” on the list is notable—it has only made the list of “most successful grounds” one other time since GAO began tracking successful protest grounds.  This serves as a reminder that contractors should consider a pre-award protest as a potentially viable method of resolving solicitation flaws and ambiguities if other routes (such as the Q&A process) are unsuccessful or unavailable.    

The chart below shows the top sustain grounds by year.  As seen below, flawed technical evaluations continue to represent one of the most consistently successful grounds for sustains, meaning would-be protesters should consider whether they have a credible basis to make such arguments when weighing an award challenge. 

Continue Reading GAO’s 2022 Bid Protest Report to Congress for FY 2021 Shows Better than 50% Chance of Obtaining Relief

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Challenging an agency’s failure to award a “strength” for a proposal feature can prove to be an exercise in futility.  GAO frequently characterizes this oft-rejected argument as mere disagreement and defers to the agency’s conclusions.  But, following GAO’s decision in Tech Marine Business, Inc., B-420872, Oct. 14, 2022, the tide may be turning.  Agencies are now required to demonstrate that their decision not to award strength credit was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria.

The protester, Tech Marine Business, Inc. (Tech Marine) alleged that the Navy failed to award Tech Marine a strength for its transition plan.  The solicitation required the awardee to “begin work immediately and assume responsibility from the incumbent Contractor, if applicable, within 60 days after Task Order award.”  Tech Marine, the incumbent contract, explained that its transition plan exceeded the Navy’s schedule for workload turnover and that transition would be completed “well in advance of the 60–day requirement.”

Continue Reading GAO Breathes New Life into the Commonly Denied “Failure to Award a Strength” Protest Ground

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On September 30, 2022, President Biden signed the SBIR and STTR Extension Act of 2022 (the Act), reauthorizing the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), and six pilot programs for three years, until September 30, 2025.  The Act includes new due diligence and reporting requirements, award restrictions, and clawback provisions related to national security risks—particularly regarding firms with ties to China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran—and increased minimum performance standards for multiple SBIR/STTR award winners.  The passage and signing of the Act averted a potential lapse of these programs, which were set to expire the day of the reauthorization.

Continue Reading Congress Passes Last Minute Three-Year SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Including New National Security-Related Restrictions and Requirements

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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

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Last week, the United States Congress passed the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 (CHIPS Act)[1] to bolster domestic semiconductor and microchip manufacturing in the United States. The bipartisan legislation will facilitate federal investments in the form of grants, loans, and loan guarantees to eligible entities and create significant business opportunities for companies in the U.S. The legislation also provides funding and new programs to boost advanced workforce training and research and development in a range of scientific and technology areas. The legislation now awaits the signature of President Biden, who hailed its passage as “exactly what we need to be doing to grow our economy right now.”

The legislation seeks to reverse the decades-long decline in U.S. microchip and semiconductor manufacturing and counter the rise of China as a source for technologically advanced manufacturing processes and products. By boosting domestic manufacturing and supply chains, the legislation also aims to relieve the global semiconductor shortage that has plagued manufacturers of a diverse set of products – everything from automobiles to children’s toys – and has contributed to the nation’s supply chain woes for more than two years.

The cornerstone of the legislation is $52 billion that will be allocated to the U.S. Department of Commerce semiconductor initiative to develop and expand domestic manufacturing capacity. Implementation of that program was already underway at the Department of Commerce[2], following Congressional authorization in the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (FY21 NDAA), and the legislation passed last week now provides the critical funding needed to commence direct federal incentives for the construction, expansion, or modernization of semiconductor manufacturing facilities.

Continue Reading The CHIPS Are Down and Incentives Flow as Congress Attempts to Vitalize the U.S. Semiconductor Industry

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This week’s episode covers a decision involving a pandemic-related claim, a GAO decision pertaining to inadvertent disclosure of information by the government, and an update to the fair opportunity threshold under ID/IQ contracts, and is hosted by Peter Eyre and Monica Sterling. Crowell & Moring’s “Fastest 5 Minutes” is a biweekly podcast that provides a

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On May 20, 2021, the FAR Council issued a proposed Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) rule on post-award debriefings that largely codifies—and in a number of ways bolsters—the existing enhanced post-award debriefing rules established by the Department of Defense’s (DoD) March 22, 2018 Class Deviation on Enhanced Postaward Debriefing Rights.  The proposed rule requires

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When is the deadline to file a bid protest, and what actions or inactions can cause potential future protest arguments to be waived?  These seemingly simple questions can have surprising answers.  In a recent bid protest decision, GAO held that a contract awardee can waive potential protest grounds by failing to raise them when intervening

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The Government Accountability Office sustained a protest (Innovate Now, LLC, B-419546, April 26, 2021) against an Air Force solicitation that required the protégé member of any mentor-protégé joint venture offeror to meet the same experience requirements as all other offerors.  Specifically, the RFP required that a joint venture offeror must provide a minimum