The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has articulated limits to the government’s ability to rely on the waiver doctrine to enforce Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provisions of questionable legality.
In so doing, the court has cast doubt on the government’s “heads we win, tails you lose” approach to measuring the cost impact of simultaneous changes to a contractor’s cost accounting practices.
In The Boeing Company v. United States, 2019-2148 (Aug. 10, 2020), the Federal Circuit rejected the government’s argument that Boeing’s claim — which was based on an apparent conflict between: 1) a statutory provision limiting the costs the government may recover for cost accounting practice changes to the aggregate increased cost to the government, and 2) a FAR provision under which the government’s recovery considers only the changes that increase costs to the government, and disregards changes that decrease costs to the government — was waived because Boeing did not raise the issue prior to contract award.
Contractors covered by the Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) sometimes change their cost accounting practices. They are allowed to do this so long as they disclose the changes and cooperate with the government’s efforts to determine whether, and the extent to which, the changes increase costs to the government. If changes in cost accounting practices do increase the amount charged to the government, the government is entitled to a price adjustment to neutralize the increased costs.