Defense Issues Interim Rule on Award Fee Reduction or Denial for Health or Safety Issues

September 16, 2011

DoD is issuing an interim rule amending the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) to implement those sections of the National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) for Fiscal Years (FY) 2011 and 2010 providing increased statutory authorities to reduce or deny award fees to companies found to jeopardize the health or safety of Government personnel and adding a mechanism to decrease or eliminate a contractor's award fee for a specific performance period. In addition, this rule modifies the section of the NDAA for FY 2009 that requires that information on the final determination of award fee be entered into the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS). Effective Date: September 16, 2011. Reference Federal Register Volume 76, Number 180 (Friday, September 16, 2011).

This interim rule is applicable to any contract entered into on or after the effective date. This interim rule is applicable to any task order or delivery order issued on or after the
effective date of this interim rule, under a contract entered into before, on, or after the effective date.

An interim rule was published in the Federal Register under DFARS Case 2009-D039, Award-Fee Reductions for Health and Safety Issues, on November 12, 2010, at 75 FR 69360 to implement section 823 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (Pub. L. 111-84). This interim rule includes the review of public comments received in response to the Federal Register notice for DFARS Case 2009-D039. DFARS Case 2009-D039 was merged into this case, DFARS Case 2011-D033, after the NDAA for FY 2011 (Pub. L. 111-383) was enacted on January 7, 2011, in order to combine related sections of the NDAAs for FY 2010 and FY 2011 affecting identical sections of the DFARS.

Section 834 Interim Rule
The NDAA for FY 2011 was enacted on January 7, 2011. Section 834 of the statute added to existing statutory authorities to decrease or eliminate a contractor's award fee for a performance period based on a final determination resulting from a DoD investigation of a serious bodily injury or death of any civilian or military personnel alleged to have been caused by a contractor or subcontractor. Section 834 applies only to contractors and subcontractors at any tier that are not subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.  A contractor's award fee is affected if, after the investigation, a determination is made that the serious bodily injury or death was caused by the contractor's or subcontractor's gross negligence or with reckless disregard for the safety of civilian or military personnel of the Government.

Senate Report 111-201, ''to accompany S. 3454, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011,'' associated with section 834, stated that investigations under the provision would be conducted pursuant to existing DoD procedures for administrative fact-finding investigations, such as those provided by Army Regulation 15-6 and the Manual of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. Defense Criminal Investigative Organizations (DCIOs) have procedures in place currently for conducting criminal investigations of contractor misconduct. In addition, the Military Services have procedures for conducting administrative investigations involving actions related to civilian and military personnel. Findings of criminal misconduct are made at the conclusion of the DCIO investigations.

The statute also modifies section 872 of the NDAA for FY 2009 (Pub. L. 110-417), and requires that information on the final determination be entered into the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS) (see DFARS 209.105-2-70) and will be available to the public.   DoD has added a provision at DFARS 209.105-2-70 to provide for the inclusion of a final determination of contractor fault in the FAPIIS (see FAR 9.104-6 and http://www.ppirs.gov). In addition, the requirements of section 834 have been included at DFARS 216.405-2-70, Award fee reduction or denial for jeopardizing the health or safety of Government personnel, and added as a fifth cause for reducing or denying a contractor's award fee in the clause at DFARS 252.216-7004.

Section 823 Interim Rule
The related statutory provision, section 823 of the NDAA for FY 2010, currently is addressed at DFARS 216.405-2-70, Award fee reduction for jeopardizing the health or safety of Government personnel, and the clause at DFARS 252.216-7004 (similarly titled), which require the contracting officer to include in the evaluation criteria of any award-fee plan a review of contractor actions that jeopardized the health and safety of Government personnel. As previously discussed, the section 823 requirement was implemented in the DFARS by DFARS Case 2009-D039, published in the Federal Register as an interim rule on November 12, 2010, at 75 FR 69360, prior to its being merged into this case, 2011-D033, Award Fee Reduction or Denial for Health or Safety Issues.

Discussion and Analysis
The public comment period for the interim rule issued under DFARS Case 2009-D039 closed January 24, 2011. Two respondents submitted comments on the interim rule. The individual comments are discussed below.

A. Applicability
Comment: A respondent recommended that the rule be applied to harm caused to any person (not just Government employees).
Response: Section 823 addresses ''serious bodily injury or death to any civilian or military personnel of the Government.'' Extension of the application of this rule to any person is outside the scope of the statute.

Comment: The respondent commented that the definition of ''covered incident'' should be broadened, such that contractors are not encouraged to settle out of court and thus deny any liability or wrong-doing and protect their award fees.
Response: The rule implements the statutory definition of a ''covered incident'' in section 823 of the NDAA for FY 2010, which provides instructions to the contracting officer to reduce the award fee if the contractor is found at fault for a covered incident. It does not instruct the Government on how to proceed with any investigation or resolve covered incidents. No changes to the statutory definition are determined necessary in response to this comment.

Comment: A respondent called for the contracting officer to be allowed to consider any incident that calls into question a contractor's integrity or responsibility when deciding whether to reduce or deny award fees.
Response: Extension of the application of this rule to any incident that calls into question a contractor's integrity or responsibility is outside the scope of the statute; however, other parts of the FAR, such as FAR parts 3, Improper Business Practices and Personal Conflicts of Interest, and 9, Contractor Qualifications, and the related DFARS parts, provide information on dealing with contractor responsibility and improper business practices.

B. Documentation
Comment: A respondent stated that contracting officers should be required to make a written determination regarding decisions to reduce or deny the award fee or decline to do so. The statements should also be made available to the public, according to this respondent.
Response: FAR 16.401(e)(2) states that ''(t)he basis for all award-fee determinations shall be documented in the contract file, to include, at a minimum, a determination that overall cost, schedule, and technical performance in the aggregate is or is not at a satisfactory level.'' The award-fee determination does not go into FAPIIS. It is the ''final determination of contractor fault by the Secretary of Defense'' (section 834(d)) that is required to be submitted into FAPIIS. While the latter determination impacts the former determination, they are not the same thing. A requirement for public posting of award-fee determinations is outside the scope of the statute.

C. Contractor Liability
Comment: The respondent noted that contractors performing on contracts within Government facilities have little control over the conditions of the facilities, the funding to provide for repairs to facilities, or the priorities of the repairs.
Response: The DFARS clause at 252.216-7004, Award Fee Reduction or Denial for Jeopardizing the Health or Safety of Government Personnel, applies only when a direct, causal connection is found between a contractor's actions and a serious bodily injury to a Government employee.

Comment: The respondent expressed concern that, if a contractor is found partially liable under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration multi-employer worksite policy for a hazardous worksite condition that caused serious injury, then the contractor's future/past award fee could be reduced or denied.
Response: The statute as implemented in DFARS clause 252.216-7004, requires that if a contractor is found liable in a covered incident for causing serious bodily injury to a Government employee, the contracting officer must consider reducing or denying the relevant award fee.

Comments on the interim rule should be submitted in writing to the address shown below on or before November 15, 2011 to be considered in the formation of the final rule. Submit comments identified by DFARS Case 2011-D033, using any of the following methods:
Regulations.gov: http://www.regulations.gov. Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking portal by entering ''DFARS Case 2011-D033'' under the heading ''Enter keyword or ID'' and selecting ''Search.'' Select the link ''Submit a Comment'' that corresponds with ''DFARS Case 2011-D033.'' Follow the instructions provided at the ''Submit a Comment'' screen. Please include your name, company name (if any), and ''DFARS Case 2011-D033'' on your attached document. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
E-mail: dfars@osd.mil. Include DFARS Case 2011-D033 in the subject line of the message.
Fax: 703-602-0350.
Mail: Defense Acquisition Regulations System, ATTN: Meredith Murphy, OUSD (AT&L) DPAP/DARS, Room 3B855, 3060 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-3060. Comments received generally will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided. To confirm receipt of your comment(s), please check http://www.regulations.gov approximately two to three days after submission to verify posting (except allow 30 days for posting of comments submitted by mail).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Meredith Murphy, telephone 703-602-1302. 






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