February 1, 2017

Big changes in federal procurements, higher bar for TAA compliance, and more in this issue of Government Contracts Update

3 min

New Restrictions on LPTA Procedures at DoD

Big changes are underway for federal procurements in 2017. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), for instance, unequivocally demonstrates the intent of Congress to modify DoD's contracting programs and procedures. Specifically, Title VIII ("Acquisition Policy, Acquisition Management, and Related Matters") of the 2017 NDAA will limit the use of lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) procurements when doing so would deny the Department of Defense (DoD) with the benefits of cost and technical tradeoffs. This change will require DoD to use best value source selection procedures for a significant number of procurements.

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The Bar for TAA Compliance Has Gotten Higher

A recent Court of International Trade (CIT) decision signals changes on the horizon for suppliers of U.S. Government products when those products are principally created overseas. In Energizer Battery, Inc. v. United States, Slip Op. 16-116 (Ct. of Intl. Trade, Dec. 7, 2016), the CIT determined that military flashlights whose components were imported from China but whose assembly was carried out in Vermont were not "substantially transformed" under the Trade Agreements Act (TAA); thus, the "country of origin" was China and not the United States. This is significant because the TAA prohibits supplying products and services from countries that are not approved as TAA-eligible (e.g., China) in connection with TAA-covered procurements without a Government waiver. It seems the bar for TAA compliance, which is already problematic for Government contractors since production of many commercial item products has moved to countries that are not TAA-eligible, has just gotten higher.

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New FAR Final Rules Issued in January 2017

January has been a busy month for the publication of final rules amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). DoD, GSA, and NASA collectively issued numerous final rules to: (1) raise the simplified acquisition threshold for special emergency procurement authority, (2) implement regulatory clarifications made by the Small Business Administration (SBA) with respect to its 8(a) program, and (3) prohibit the use of funds for a contract with an entity that requires employees or subcontractors to sign an internal confidentiality agreement that restricts them from lawfully reporting waste, fraud, or abuse to a designated Government representative. In addition, the General Services Administration (GSA) issued a final rule to clarify that the ordering-agency task and delivery order Ombudsman has jurisdiction and responsibility to review and resolve fair opportunity complaints on tasks and delivery orders placed against GSA multiple-award contracts, and the Department of Transportation (DoT) extended its contracting initiative pilot program for a period of 5 years.

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Proposed Rule to Promote Acquisition of Sustainable Products, Services, and Construction Methods

More amendments to the FAR are in the works—numerous proposed rules have been issued for comments, including a rule promoting the acquisition of sustainable products, services, and construction methods in order to reduce energy and water consumption, reliance on natural resources, and enhance pollution prevention within the Government.

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