Berenzweig Leonard is beginning the New Year with a summary of four important government contract legal decisions handed down in 2013. We began by describing in two blog articles the problems a government contractor can get into as a result of “apparent authority”, a one-sided legal concept that does not apply to the government but that does apply to a  government contractor and can be costly if not closely monitored. Later, we dealt with the two most fundamental, and most-ignored, rules in government contracting: an enforceable government contract decision can only come from the contracting officer and only if that decision is in writing.

We have saved THE most important decisions for last: decisions that dealt with disputes involving purchases under the GSA Federal Supply Schedule (FSS). Because a previous blog article on October 17, 2013 discussed these decisions in detail, we will only summarize their important conclusions here.

Decision 4. Bring an FSS Dispute to the One Contracting Officer Who Can Resolve It

In the GSA FSS process, two contracting officers are involved: the GSA contracting officer and the ordering agency contracting officer. Each has a different contract vehicle to deal with: the GSA
contracting officer is responsible for the FSS contract with a vendor and the ordering agency contracting officer is responsible for the delivery or task order the agency uses to buy something off that vendor’s GSA FSS contract. When a schedule vendor has a dispute with the government over a delivery or task order, only one contracting officer is the correct one for a contractor to file
a claim under the Contract Disputes Act. Which one is it?

According to the new rules developed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) and the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA) in the decisions described
in the earlier blog:
Contract interpretation issues: the GSA contracting officer is the only contracting officer to handle a dispute involves interpretation of the terms and conditions of the FSS schedule
contract. However, when the dispute is over the terms and conditions of the FSS order, the ordering contracting officer must resolve the dispute.
Performance issues: the ordering agency contracting officer is the only contracting officer that can decide performance issues not involving interpretation of the FSS contract such as
whether the contractor’s default was excusable.
Terry O’Connor is the Director of Government Contracts with Berenzweig Leonard, LLP, a DC regional business law firm. He can be reached at [email protected].

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