In a case of first impression, the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA”) ruled that a contractor performing task orders issued against a government-wide acquisition contract (“GWAC”) properly submitted its claims to the Agency Ordering Contracting Officer (“OCO”) instead of the Procuring Contracting Officer (“PCO”).
The case – Sotera Defense Solutions, Inc. v. Department of Agriculture, CBCA 6029, 6030, 2019 WL 1977388 (Apr. 25, 2019) – involved two task orders issued by the Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) to Sotera Defense Solutions, Inc. (“Sotera”) for the provision of information technology (“IT”) support services at agency locations throughout the country. The USDA issued the task orders against a GWAC awarded by the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”). A GWAC, as explained by the CBCA in its decision, is defined by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) as a “task-order or delivery order contract for [IT] established by one agency for Governmentwide use.”
The GWAC awarded by the NIH delineated roles for both the PCO and the OCO, stating they were the exclusive government officials with authority to take actions that may bind the Government under the contract and task orders, respectively. In awarding the GWAC, the PCO made a determination that the positions under the contract were exempt from the Service Contract Act (“SCA”). However, the GWAC also advised that an OCO would have to determine whether the SCA applied to any positions requested under a task order. Accordingly, when the USDA OCO subsequently amended the two task orders issued to Sotera to add SCA coverage, Sotera submitted claims to the OCO requesting equitable adjustments for the added costs of complying with the SCA. After deemed denials of its claims, Sotera appealed to the CBCA.
On appeal, the CBCA requested the parties brief the issue of the Board’s jurisdiction, prompting the USDA to file a motion to dismiss on the ground that Sotera submitted its claims to the wrong Contracting Officer. In deciding whether Sotera should have submitted its claims to the PCO instead of the OCO, the CBCA noted that under FAR Part 8, disputes pertaining to the terms and conditions of an underlying schedule contract administered by the General Services Administration (“GSA”) must be brought to the GSA Contracting Officer rather than the OCO. The CBCA recognized, however, that “[a] GWAC is different from a schedule contract administered by the GSA,” and that under FAR Subpart 16.5’s ordering requirements for GWACs, there were “no similar provisions bifurcating responsibility for the resolution of disputes.” Thus, considering there were no cases in which this issue had been resolved, the CBCA was “left to decide this issue as one of first impression.”
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