United States: What's New Out There? A Regulatory Update

Proposed DoD Rule: Detection and Avoidance of Counterfeit Electronic Parts (DFARS Case 2012-D-005)

On May 16, 2013, the Department of Defense (“DoD”) issued a proposed rule that would amend the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”) relating to the detection and avoidance of counterfeit parts, in partial implementation of the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) for Fiscal Year (“FY”) 2012 (Pub. L. 112-81) and the NDAA for FY 2013 (Pub. L. 112-239). 78 Fed. Reg. 28780 (May 16, 2013). The proposed rule would impose new obligations for detecting and protecting against the inclusion of counterfeit parts in their products. Public comments in response to the proposed amendment are due by July 15, 2013.

The proposed rule, titled Detection and Avoidance of Counterfeit Electronic Parts (DFARS Case 2012-D-005), partially implements Section 818 of the NDAA for FY 2012 requiring the issuance of regulations addressing the responsibility of contractors (a) to detect and avoid the use or inclusion of counterfeit – or suspect counterfeit – electronic parts, (b) to use trusted suppliers, and (c) to report counterfeit and suspect counterfeit electronic parts. Pub. L. 112-81,§ 818(c). Section 818(c) also requires DoD to revise the DFARS to make unallowable the costs of re-work or other actions necessary to deal with the use or suspected use of counterfeit electronic parts. Id. The new rule also proposes the following in order to implement the requirements defined in Section 818.

  • Definitions: Adds definitions to DFARS 202.101 for the terms “counterfeit part,” “electronic part,” “legally authorized source,” and “suspect counterfeit part.”
  • Cost Principles and Procedures: Adds DFARS section 231.205-71, which would apply to contractors covered by the Cost Accounting Standards (“CAS”) who supply electronic parts, and would make unallowable the costs of counterfeit or suspect counterfeit electronic parts and the costs of rework or corrective action that may be required to remedy the use or inclusion of such parts. This section provides a narrow exception where (1) the contractor has an operational system to detect and avoid counterfeit parts that has been reviewed and approved by DoD pursuant to DFARS 244.303; (2) the counterfeit or suspect counterfeit electronic parts are government furnished property defined in FAR 45.101; and (3) the covered contractor provides timely notice to the Government.
  • Avoidance and Detection System: Requires contractors to establish and maintain an acceptable counterfeit avoidance detection system that addresses, at a minimum, the following areas: training personnel; inspection and testing; processes to abolish counterfeit parts proliferation; traceability of parts to suppliers; use and qualification of trusted suppliers; reporting and quarantining counterfeit and suspect counterfeit parts; systems to detect and avoid counterfeit electronic parts; and the flow down of avoidance and detection requirements to subcontractors.

Potential Impacts on Contractors and Subcontractors

Although the rule is designed constructively to combat the problem of counterfeit parts in the military supply chain, it imposes additional obligations and related liabilities on contractors and subcontractors alike.

  • The proposed rule shifts the burden of protecting against counterfeit electronic parts to contractors, thus increasing contractor costs and potential contractor liability in this area.
  • Under the proposed rule, contractors would need to take steps to establish avoidance and detection systems in order to monitor for and protect against potential counterfeit electronic parts, also increasing the financial and temporal impact on contractors.
  • Avoidance and detection system requirements will need to be flowed down to subcontractors, increasing subcontractors’ responsibility – and thus liability – for counterfeit parts.
  • The proposed rule would also make unallowable the costs incurred to remove and replace counterfeit parts, which could have a significant financial impact on contractors – even under cost type contracts.
  • As it currently stands, the narrow exception regarding the allowability of such costs applies only where the contractor meets all three requirements of the exception, which likely would be a rare occurrence.

Interim SBA Rule: Expansion of WOSB Program, RIN 3245-AG55

On May 7, 2013, the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) issued an interim final rule implementing Section 1697 of the NDAA for FY 2013, removing the statutory dollar amount for contracts set aside for Women-Owned Small Business (“WOSB”) under the Women-Owned Small Business Program. 78 Fed. Reg. 26504 (May 7, 2013). Comments are due by June 6, 2013.

The new rule would amend SBA 127.503 to permit Contracting Officers (“COs”) to set aside contracts for WOSBs and Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs (“EDWOSBs”) at any dollar amount if there is a reasonable expectation of competition among WOSBs as follows: (1) in industries where WOSBs are underrepresented, the CO may set aside the procurement where two or more EDWOSBs will submit offers for the contract and the CO finds that the contract will be awarded at a fair and reasonable price; or (2) in industries where WOSBs are substantially underrepresented, the CO may set aside the procurement if two or more WOSBs will submit offers for the contract, and the CO finds that the contract will be awarded at a fair and reasonable price.

The new rule would amend SBA 127.503 to permit Contracting Officers (“COs”) to set aside contracts for WOSBs and Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs (“EDWOSBs”) at any dollar amount if there is a reasonable expectation of competition among WOSBs as follows: (1) in industries where WOSBs are underrepresented, the CO may set aside the procurement where two or more EDWOSBs will submit offers for the contract and the CO finds that the contract will be awarded at a fair and reasonable price; or (2) in industries where WOSBs are substantially underrepresented, the CO may set aside the procurement if two or more WOSBs will submit offers for the contract, and the CO finds that the contract will be awarded at a fair and reasonable price.

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