If you have questions concerning the content below, please visit this link.
Upcoming Events: Register to attend PilieroMazza’s upcoming events here.
Recent Thought Leadership: Check out PilieroMazza’s recent client alerts and blogs here.
GovCon Live! Podcast: Listen to PilieroMazza’s latest episodes and follow us to hear more here.
GSA Releases Polaris Q&A Signaling Key Changes in Upcoming RFPs, March 25, 2022, Isaias “Cy” Alba, IV
GSA recently released a Q&A in anticipation of the first two Polaris Requests for Proposals (RFPs). GSA anticipates the RFPs for Small Businesses and Women-Owned Small Businesses will be released soon, while those for the Historically Underutilized Business Zones Small Business (HUBZone) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) pools will be released between July 1, 2022, and September 30, 2022. Some of the answers in the Q&A clarify what offerors should expect, while others continue to create ambiguity. In this client alert, we review the major changes presented in the Q&A and offer our insight into their impact on small businesses seeking work on Polaris. Read more here.
HUBZone Principal Office Flexibility Ends April 1, March 25, 2022, Jon Williams
The Small Business Administration’s HUBZone office will soon end the principal office flexibility it introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting April 1, 2022, firms will no longer be able to count employees who spend most of their time working at home as a principal office employee. HUBZone firms need to be mindful of this as they prepare for their 2022 recertification and manage their HUBZone eligibility going forward. Below, we review the changes announced by SBA and offer our recommendations for dealing with them. Read more here.
GSA Launches Modernized Federal IT Dashboard
GSA’s Office of Government-wide Policy (OGP) announced on March 21, 2022 the release of the modernized federal IT dashboard, which provides public visibility into how the government spends IT dollars. The modernized system collects and displays agencies’ IT cost and management data, including IT costs, schedules, and contracts. Read more here.
DOD Issues Class Deviation Restricting Acquisition of Personal Protective Equipment from Non-Allied Foreign Nations
The Defense Department (DOD) has issued Class Deviation 2022-O0008, which requires contracting officers to include contract clause 252.225-7968, Restriction on Acquisition of Personal Protective Equipment and Certain Other Items from Non-Allied Foreign Nations, in solicitations and contracts for covered items with an estimated value above $150,000, unless an exception applies. Covered items include personal protective equipment materials and components or sanitizing and disinfecting wipes, testing swabs, gauze, or bandages. This class deviation implements section 802 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022. Read more here.
DOD Nominee LaPlante Testifies Before Senate Committee
William A. LaPlante, Jr., nominee for Under Secretary of Defense, Acquisition and Sustainment, testified before the Senate Committee on Armed Services on March 22, 2022. LaPlante said the Department of Defense (DOD) must field emerging technologies—such as hypersonics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, and directed energy—for operational use and improve its ability to acquire software and software-intensive systems. He also said DOD must tap the innovation of the private sector by lowering the barriers to doing business with DOD for small businesses, non-traditional commercial firms, and startups. Read LaPlante’s opening statement here.
GAO Denies American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group’s Bid Protest
American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group (ARC), of Parsippany, N.J., protested the award of a contract to HomeSafe Alliance of Houston, Texas, under RFP No. HTC711-19-R-R004, issued by the Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Transportation Command, for relocation services for DOD service members and civilians and Coast Guard members. ARC challenged the adequacy of the agency’s responsibility determination, asserting that its evaluation of technical and price proposals was unreasonable and that the best-value tradeoff analysis was flawed. GAO denied the protest, finding that the agency’s evaluation was reasonable and in accordance with the solicitation, that the price reasonableness evaluation was consistent with the solicitation and the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and that the agency’s source selection rationale was documented and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria. Read the decision here.
GAO Sustains Starlight Corporation’s Bid Protest
Starlight Corporation (Starlight), a small business in Carlsbad, Calif., protested the award of a contract by the Department of the Air Force to Empire Aircraft Services, Inc., a small business in Summerville, S.C., under request for proposals No. FA449721R0014, for aircraft wash and corrosion control services at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Starlight challenged the agency’s past performance evaluation. GAO sustained the protest, finding that the agency failed to adequately document its relevancy evaluation of the offerors’ past performance information and improperly reduced one of Starlight’s ratings on a past performance questionnaire. Read the decision here.
Zoom’s New Security Authorization Likely Signals Wider Use in Defense Sector
NextGov is reporting that Zoom for Government, a videoconferencing and software platform, recently earned a provisional Defense Department Impact Level 4, or IL4, authorization from the Defense Information Systems Agency. This new approval will likely enable wider use of Zoom across and beyond Pentagon components. Read more here.
GSA Announces Ambitious Goal to Support Small Disadvantaged Businesses in Federal Contracting
General Services Administration (GSA) has set its agency-wide prime contracting small disadvantaged business (SDB) goal for FY22 at 21 percent, up from the government-wide statutory goal of 5 percent in FY21. The new fiscal year 2022 goal for SDB contracting announced by the GSA represents a more than four-fold increase from the previous year. The goal advances the Biden administration’s whole-of-government approach to expanding contracting opportunities for SDBs across the country. Read more here. See a related article by Government Executive here.
Senate Bill Would Push Replacement of Legacy IT Systems at Federal Agencies
A new Senate bill, The Legacy IT Reduction Act of 2022, would effectively force federal agencies to replace their outdated legacy information technology (IT) systems. Introduced by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), the bill would require agencies to identify and create an inventory of all legacy IT systems. The Office of Management and Budget would create guidance to instruct agencies on the best methods for identifying and replacing their legacy IT systems. Read more here.
Upcoming Government Contracts Presentations
OFCCP Proposes to Modify Procedures and Standards for Pre-enforcement Notices and Conciliation
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is issuing a proposed rule to modify its procedures and standards for issuing pre-enforcement notices and securing compliance through conciliation. Read more here. The Department of Labor (DOL) explained that the proposed rule seeks to revise the final rule, “Nondiscrimination Obligations of Federal Contractors and Subcontractors: Procedures to Resolve Potential Employment Discrimination,” that has been in effect since 2020. DOL says that the final rule imposed rigid evidentiary standards and definitions, which impede OFCCP’s ability to provide contractors with early notice of indicators of discrimination. Read DOL’s press release here.
OSHA Partially Reopens Comment Period for Interim Final Rule on COVID-19 in Healthcare Settings
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is partially reopening the comment period and holding an informal public hearing in its rulemaking on occupational exposure to COVID-19 in healthcare settings. Read more here.
Three Restaurants and Their Owners Must Pay $1.45 Million in Back Pay and Damages to 116 Workers
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania entered a consent judgment against three restaurants and the restaurants’ owners after investigators found they paid back-of-the-house employees off-the-books salaries and failed to pay overtime to the employees for work hours beyond 40 in a workweek. The judgment requires the defendants to pay $1.45 million in back wages and liquidated damages to 116 current and former workers. The Labor Department (DOL) also assessed the restaurants and their owners $76,724 in civil money penalties for the willful nature of their violations. Read the DOL news release here.
Contracting Community Is Wary of OFCCP’s Proposed Rule
Government Executive reports that a rule proposed by the OFCCP, ostensibly to streamline the procedures and standards it uses to resolve claims of discrimination by federal contractors, is seen by some in the contracting community as a sign that the agency will be far more aggressive in compliance evaluations. The proposed rule would eliminate the requirements that OFCCP issue pre-determination notices and notices of violation to contractors; eliminate the mandate that pre-determination notices must be approved by the compliance office director before issuance; allow the office to issue notices of violation for violations not included in pre-determination notices; and decrease by half the amount of time for contractors to respond to pre-determination notices. Read more here.
Upcoming Labor & Employment Presentations
UPS Will Pay $5.3 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations for Falsely Reporting on Overseas Mail Deliveries
The Justice Department announced that United Parcel Service Inc. agreed to pay approximately $5.3 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that it falsely reported the time and destination at which it delivered U.S. mail delivered to foreign posts of the State Department and Defense Department under contracts with the U.S. Postal Service. There has been no determination of liability. Read more here.
DIA Contractor Agrees to Pay $820,000 for Improper Billing
Reveal Global Consulting, LLC (Reveal) agreed to pay $820,000 to the federal government to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by improperly billing time and expenses in its performance of a contract with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Reveal entered into a time-and-materials contract with DIA under which Reveal could bill the United States only for time it actually expended and materials it required to fulfill its contractual obligations. Instead, Reveal allegedly billed the DIA for one-twelfth of the total contract, even for months in which less than one-twelfth of the total required effort was devoted to the contract; devoted fewer than the promised employees for multiple months; submitted inflated and misstated bills for work by subcontractors; and invoiced the DIA for work supposedly performed by Reveal employees who had already left the company. The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability. Read more here.
Woman Sentenced to Nine Years in Prison for Multi-Million Dollar DOD Contract Fraud Schemes
Stephanie Dianna Elliott of Fayetteville, N.C., has been sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of wire fraud and money laundering. Court documents stated that from 2011 to 2020, she defrauded the Department of Defense (DOD) by obtaining contract payments after falsely certifying that she had shipped supplies to the U.S. military. Elliott and/or businesses under her control were debarred from federal contracting on four occasions, but Elliott allegedly circumvented the debarments by using aliases and various business names to continue bidding on federal contracts, racking up more than 1,000 federal defense contracts valued at more than $2.2 million. Read more here.
Texas Man Sentenced for Selling Chinese-Made Military Helmets and Body Armor to Federal Agencies
Tanner Jackson of Celeste, Texas, has been sentenced to 33 months in prison for a wire fraud scheme involving the selling of Chinese-made military helmets, body armor, and other products to the Department of State and other federal agencies while falsely claiming that his company manufactured the goods in Texas. According to court documents, Jackson operated Top Body Armor, LLC USA, and a related entity, Bullet Proof Armor LLC, from his Texas home. To conceal the Chinese origin of the products and associated shipping delays, Jackson created and controlled numerous email accounts in the names of supposed shipping company employees and wrote email exchanges between himself and the bogus employees to explain shipping delays. Jackson also won contracts with the Department of the Air Force. Furthermore, Jackson obtained HUBZone status by falsely listing his business location. Read more here.