Echoing the Obama Administration’s Better Buying Initiative, the Biden Administration announced the Better Contracting Initiative (“BCI”), a four-pronged initiative designed to ensure the Federal Government gets better, and more consistent, terms and prices when purchasing commercial goods and services, while enhancing support for small and disadvantaged businesses.  The Initiative’s four prongs include:

1. Leveraging Data Across Federal Agencies to Get Lower Prices and Better Terms.

Under the BCI, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) will launch a new, centralized data management strategy and tools to allow for greater sharing of price data and information on vendors and contracts across agencies within the Federal Government.  According to the fact sheet accompanying the announcement of the BCI, this sharing of information will not only result in better value solutions, but will also advance equity by allowing Federal procurement officials to focus their searches on information that could support decisions to use a small business set-aside.  One of the assumptions underlying the need for more information is OMB’s assertion that “contractors [are] operating at historically high margins.” 

The BCI’s call for collecting and centrally managing commercial procurement data echoes the transactional data reporting (“TDR”) approach adopted under the General Services Administration (“GSA”) Multiple Award Schedules program.  The Biden Administration presumably hopes that the BCI will drive greater savings and more pricing consistency, consistent with the sort of benefits that GSA reported after implementing TDR.

2. Negotiating Common Enterprise-Wide Software Licenses.

According to the fact sheet, “prices routinely vary up to 20 percent for the same software across agencies.”  Under the BCI, GSA will negotiate Government-wide IT software license agreements with a large (but unnamed) software provider.  The fact sheet anticipates that these Government-wide IT software licenses will reduce the price variance in software procurement, secure more favorable terms and conditions, and save time across the Federal Government by obviating the need for each agency to plan, research, and procure the same software solutions.  Beyond software, Federal Agencies will retain the ability to leverage best-in-class enterprise contracts for common goods and services, consistent with efforts that grow small business participation and supply chain diversity.

3. Saving Money and Avoiding Waste by Getting Contract Requirements Right the First Time. 

OMB will issue guidance that directs Federal agencies to use a proven methodology to pinpoint requirements for high priority professional services acquisitions.  The fact sheet noted that “contracts often don’t clearly reflect the agencies’ needs, resulting in expensive modifications.”  In an attempt to mitigate those costs, GSA will sponsor a series of facilitated requirements development and acquisition planning workshops for service contracts with acquisition teams across the Federal Government.  GSA will also help train government procurement personnel to facilitate similar workshops at their own agencies.

4. Getting Better Value from Sole Source and Other High-Risk Contracts.

Select civilian agencies that have significant sole-source contracting or priority programs with underperforming contracts will engage with specialized teams of cost and engineering experts to participate in inter-agency peer reviews to bring down what OMB describes as inflated prices.  Agencies will also be able to leverage “hybrid” contracts for appropriate acquisitions.  “Hybrid” contracts allow for multiple types of payment (e.g., cost-reimbursement, labor-hour, fixed-price) to better align with levels of risk during different parts of the lifecycle of a large acquisition for development and production.  The fact sheet cites to efforts by the Department of Defense to institute “peer reviews where independent procurement teams review terms to deliver a second opinion and leveraging special teams of cost and engineering experts like the “Navy ‘Price Fighters,’ to reduce the risk of inflated prices” as examples of strategies that have reduced costs.

As a result of these efforts, the Administration estimates that the BCI will generate more $10B in annual savings and cost avoidance while improving the performance of Federal contracts.  As with many such initiatives, whether those expectations are realistic will depend upon the accuracy of the Administration’s assumptions, details of the Initiative’s implementation, and the response(s) of the marketplace.

Photo of Jennifer Plitsch Jennifer Plitsch

Jennifer Plitsch leads the firm’s Government Contracts Practice Group, where she works with clients on a broad range of issues arising from both defense and civilian contracts including contract proposal, performance, and compliance questions as well as litigation, transactional, and legislative issues.

She…

Jennifer Plitsch leads the firm’s Government Contracts Practice Group, where she works with clients on a broad range of issues arising from both defense and civilian contracts including contract proposal, performance, and compliance questions as well as litigation, transactional, and legislative issues.

She has particular expertise in advising clients on intellectual property and data rights issues under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and obligations imposed by the Bayh-Dole Act, including march-in and substantial domestic manufacturing. Jen also has significant experience in negotiation and compliance under non-traditional government agreements including Other Transaction Authority agreements (OTAs), Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs), Cooperative Agreements, Grants, and Small Business Innovation Research agreements.

For over 20 years, Jen’s practice has focused on advising clients in the pharmaceutical, biologics and medical device industry on all aspects of both commercial and non-commercial agreements with various government agencies including:

  • the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA);
  • the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC);
  • the Department of Defense (DoD), including the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical Biological Defense (JPEO-CBRN); and
    the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

She regularly advises on the development, production, and supply to the government of vaccines and other medical countermeasures addressing threats such as COVID-19, Ebola, Zika, MERS-CoV, Smallpox, seasonal and pandemic influenza, tropical diseases, botulinum toxin, nerve agents, and radiation events. In addition, for commercial drugs, biologics, and medical devices, Jen advises on Federal Supply Schedule contracts, including the complex pricing requirements imposed on products under the Veterans Health Care Act, as well as on the obligations imposed by participation in the 340B Drug Pricing program.

Jen also has significant experience in domestic sourcing compliance under the Buy American Act (BAA) and the Trade Agreements Act (TAA), including regulatory analysis and comments, certifications, investigations, and disclosures (including under the Acetris decision and Biden Administration Executive Orders). She also advises on prevailing wage requirements, including those imposed through the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Labor Standards.

Photo of Susan B. Cassidy Susan B. Cassidy

Ms. Cassidy represents clients in the defense, intelligence, and information technologies sectors.  She works with clients to navigate the complex rules and regulations that govern federal procurement and her practice includes both counseling and litigation components.  Ms. Cassidy conducts internal investigations for government…

Ms. Cassidy represents clients in the defense, intelligence, and information technologies sectors.  She works with clients to navigate the complex rules and regulations that govern federal procurement and her practice includes both counseling and litigation components.  Ms. Cassidy conducts internal investigations for government contractors and represents her clients before the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), Inspectors General (IG), and the Department of Justice with regard to those investigations.  From 2008 to 2012, Ms. Cassidy served as in-house counsel at Northrop Grumman Corporation, one of the world’s largest defense contractors, supporting both defense and intelligence programs. Previously, Ms. Cassidy held an in-house position with Motorola Inc., leading a team of lawyers supporting sales of commercial communications products and services to US government defense and civilian agencies. Prior to going in-house, Ms. Cassidy was a litigation and government contracts partner in an international law firm headquartered in Washington, DC.

Photo of Michael Wagner Michael Wagner

Mike Wagner helps government contractors navigate high-stakes enforcement matters and complex regulatory regimes.

Combining deep regulatory knowledge with extensive investigations experience, Mr. Wagner works closely with contractors across a range of industries to achieve the efficient resolution of regulatory enforcement actions and government…

Mike Wagner helps government contractors navigate high-stakes enforcement matters and complex regulatory regimes.

Combining deep regulatory knowledge with extensive investigations experience, Mr. Wagner works closely with contractors across a range of industries to achieve the efficient resolution of regulatory enforcement actions and government investigations, including False Claims Act cases. He has particular expertise representing individuals and companies in suspension and debarment proceedings, and he has successfully resolved numerous such matters at both the agency and district court level. He also routinely conducts internal investigations of potential compliance issues and advises clients on voluntary and mandatory disclosures to federal agencies.

In his contract disputes and advisory work, Mr. Wagner helps government contractors resolve complex issues arising at all stages of the public procurement process. As lead counsel, he has successfully litigated disputes at the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, and he regularly assists contractors in preparing and pursuing contract claims. In his counseling practice, Mr. Wagner advises clients on best practices for managing a host of compliance obligations, including domestic sourcing requirements under the Buy American Act and Trade Agreements Act, safeguarding and reporting requirements under cybersecurity regulations, and pricing obligations under the GSA Schedules program. And he routinely assists contractors in navigating issues and disputes that arise during negotiations over teaming agreements and subcontracts.

Photo of Robert Huffman Robert Huffman

Bob Huffman represents defense, health care, and other companies in contract matters and in disputes with the federal government and other contractors. He focuses his practice on False Claims Act qui tam investigations and litigation, cybersecurity and supply chain security counseling and compliance…

Bob Huffman represents defense, health care, and other companies in contract matters and in disputes with the federal government and other contractors. He focuses his practice on False Claims Act qui tam investigations and litigation, cybersecurity and supply chain security counseling and compliance, contract claims and disputes, and intellectual property (IP) matters related to U.S. government contracts.

Bob has leading expertise advising companies that are defending against investigations, prosecutions, and civil suits alleging procurement fraud and false claims. He has represented clients in more than a dozen False Claims Act qui tam suits. He also represents clients in connection with parallel criminal proceedings and suspension and debarment.

Bob also regularly counsels clients on government contracting supply chain compliance issues, including cybersecurity, the Buy American Act/Trade Agreements Act (BAA/TAA), and counterfeit parts requirements. He also has extensive experience litigating contract and related issues before the Court of Federal Claims, the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, federal district courts, the Federal Circuit, and other federal appellate courts.

In addition, Bob advises government contractors on rules relating to IP, including government patent rights, technical data rights, rights in computer software, and the rules applicable to IP in the acquisition of commercial items and services. He handles IP matters involving government contracts, grants, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs), and Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs).

Photo of Chanda Brown Chanda Brown

Chanda Brown advises clients on complex national security, defense, regulatory compliance and government contract matters, including bid-protests, size protests, internal investigations and the allocation of government rights in patents. For exporters, she provides guidance to clients regarding the export and import of dual…

Chanda Brown advises clients on complex national security, defense, regulatory compliance and government contract matters, including bid-protests, size protests, internal investigations and the allocation of government rights in patents. For exporters, she provides guidance to clients regarding the export and import of dual use and military products under the Export Administration Regulations and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Her work has involved responding to federal agency enforcement actions, assisting with export licensing and registrations, drafting export control plans, conducting product self-classifications and voluntary self-disclosures.

In corporate transactions and public company representations, she performs due diligence in connection with large and small government contractors. In transactions involving acquisitions by non-U.S. companies, she has helped clients navigate complex transactions before the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).