New defense rules might cost contractors money

New acquisition regulations are the most comprehensive change in federal contracting in several years. Are you ready to comply?

“We would like this to be a collaborative operation,’ Callahan said, “where we’re communicating as we go along.”

The final Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), released in February, is an improvement over its predecessor, but its withholding clause could cause problems and payment delays for many Defense Department contractors, experts say.

An April 25 cross-industry panel of contracting experts agreed that the new DFARS is the most comprehensive change in federal contracting in several years.

But they centered their attention on assessing the new withholding clause, which calls for withholding a percentage of the contract payment if the Defense Contracting Management Agency finds “significant deficiencies” in any of six business systems cited in the new rule.

Timothy Callahan, executive director for contracts at DCMA, said the old rule had a variety of regulations, no consistent language in determining whether a contractor’s work was adequate or inadequate, and what and how corrective actions were to be taken.

“Under the way we were operating if a contractor had a deficiency with a business system, they put forward an adequate corrective action plan; that submittal of an adequate action plan oftentimes was sufficient to change the status from a disapproved system to an approved system,” Callahan said.

“And there really wasn’t the follow-through on either the contractor’s part or our oversight to ensure that that corrective action plan was put into place,” he added.

The new DFARS business system clause normally does not apply to small businesses, competitive fixed price contracts or contracts less than $7.5 million, he said, adding that the agency will issue a withhold assessment on contracts valued at more than $50 million.

Callahan said DCMA now will use a four-phase program to determine if any of six contract business systems are judged to contain “significant deficiencies.”

“If it’s one business system, the withhold [amount] is 5 percent. If it’s two or more business systems that are being disapproved, the maximum is 10 percent,” he said.

“The withholds are against the financing arrangements of the contract,” Callahan explained, including progress payments, performance-based payments and interim cost vouchers.

The contractor then has 45 days to turn in its corrective action plan.

“If it’s an adequate corrective action plan the withhold will be reduced by 2 percent,” Callahan said. “We’re trying to minimize the hurt but still keep the pressure on to get this corrective action implemented.”

When the contractor notifies the government of the implementation, the government has 90 days to validate that corrective action has indeed occurred and that the deficiencies have been corrected.

“If we don’t get out there within 90 days, it’s another automatic reduction in the withhold [penalty] of 50 percent,” he said.

Participants at the Compusearch-sponsored panel “Contracting in a Time of Change” agreed there was a definite need for a new DFARs rule.

But Robert Burton, partner at Venable law firm and former deputy administrator in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, called the business system clause draconian and hard to implement.

Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council, said there is a lot of mythology surrounding the rule.

However, he praised DFARS for providing “contractor engagement and response at every opportunity. So it’s really moved to a compliance rule rather than a withholding rule.”

Chvotkin said the attributes in each of the six business systems are more clearly defined now than they were early on in the drafting process “But there’s still a lot of ambiguity and a lot of room for interpretation,” he said.

Addressing the ambiguity and need for interpretation, Chvotkin offered several steps contractors need to take even before winning a contract affected by the rule.

He said contractors should always document their own business systems, be aware proactively of the contract clauses and the risks inherent in DFARS.

Robin Schulze, director of the Government Contractor Advisory Services at accountants Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, said she believed the strength of the new DFARS was its peer review requirement.

But she said, “I believe that when you get the initial determination [of a deficiency] if you were able, in your response to that, provide an action plan you could start at 2 percent [withhold] instead of the 5 percent. And the same thing should be true if you voluntarily disclose a deficiency that you’ve identified and have already started working of it.”

Defending the clause and the remediation process, Callahan suggested that if a contractor knows there is a problem and takes corrective action right away, “we can start out with a withhold of 2 percent, it doesn’t have to be 5 percent,” he added.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.