Procurment Lawyer

News from the Chair

by Kara Sacilotto

Kara Sacilotto is a partner in Wiley Rein’s Government Contracts Practice and chair of the Section of Public Contract Law for 2018 – 19.


Dear Friends and Colleagues:

For those of you who may have missed our Annual Meeting in Chicago, it was really an exceptional program. For that, I’d like to thank the Annual Meeting Program Chairs, David Black, Mark Colley, Stacy Hadeka, and Frank Windham. I’d also like to thank last year’s Annual and Quarterly Program Chairs, Amy Conant Hoang, Dan Chudd, Gerard Wimberly, and Robert Wu, for their service in making all of our programs special.

At the Annual Meeting, we had a fascinating program with fresh insights and unique panelist perspectives on the use of Other Transactions Agreements and their growing popularity among acquisition professionals. We heard from regulators on how the “sausage is made” into the FAR and DFARS, received a primer on appropriations, and got on-the-ground perspectives on procurement fraud issues and suspension and debarment. All of the programs were terrific, and all of the panelists and moderators also are to be commended.

Two other highlights from the Annual Meeting stand out to me, both of which occurred at the Alan Peterson Luncheon on Friday, August 3. First, although Alan was unable to join his beloved Section for the program, Stu Nibley and Patty Brennan telephoned Alan at the start of luncheon so that Alan could share the experience with us and impart his insights into the development of what we now call procurement law to the luncheon attendees. The call also allowed us to thank Alan for his generous support of the Section over the course of his distinguished career. It was a special moment, and I thank Stu and Patty for making it possible for all of us to share in it.

Second, we had the pleasure of welcoming Sharon Woods, General Counsel of the Defense Digital Services (DDS), as our luncheon speaker. I don’t know about you, but prior to this lunch, I was not as familiar with the DDS and its mission, as I now know I should be. Sharon shared with us the frankly harrowing state of information technology within the Department of Defense, the difficulties our warfighters and those who support them face using it, and the challenges to upgrading technology to standards that even now would be considered “outdated” in the commercial world. It was a wake-up call — more on that later.

At the Council and Business Meeting that followed the CLE programs, we discussed many aspects of Section business, including most prominently the impact to the Section business, including most prominently the impact to the Section of the ABA’s adoption of a new membership model — more on that later, too. We also transitioned the Section leadership by thanking Council Members whose terms had ended, welcoming new Council Members, thanking Aaron Silberman for his thoughtful leadership of the Section as its chair, and the passing of the gavel to me. Yikes!

More seriously, I’m very excited to serve as the Section’s chair for 2018 – 2019. I’m hoping my goals are achievable. As my email to you all mentioned, I’d like to improve membership engagement — not necessarily doing more; rather, doing things that make the most of being a Section member. This includes a redoubling of our efforts at promoting diversity and inclusion, increasing our outreach through social media, making changes to how things have been done in the past where changes make sense, having more fun (example: I’d very much like to move towards Business Casual attire for our programs and Please-Don’t-Embarrass-Your-Mom casual attire for our Council Meetings). I’ve met with some of you to discuss ways to enhance the Section experience, and I look forward to attending as many committee meetings as possible to meet all of you and hear your ideas.

Now circling back, we discussed at our Council and Business Meeting establishing three task forces to focus on exciting member-driven initiatives. One task force, led by former chair Mark Colley, is being assembled to brainstorm how the Section might be able to help DDS with its complex and daunting mission. This is an opportunity for the Section to serve as an ally to help address issues of national importance. Another task force, led by outgoing chair Aaron Silberman, is being assembled to explore whether and, if so, how the Section might be able to provide pro bono legal representation to members of the community who need legal advice that the procurement community might be able to provide but cannot afford it. This task force will be gathering ideas, including best practices from industry, law firms, academia, and our government partners, on how we may find ways to give back to the community. Our third task force is being assembled to determine an approach to providing “e-content” that would be provided to all members who join the ABA for free. This is a new program the ABA is launching as part of its revised membership model and provides the Section an exciting opportunity to reach new practitioners and tell others what we do as procurement lawyers.

Last but not least, I hope you are making plans for our Fall Educational Program in Music City (Nashville, TN) on November 1 – 3, the last day being the Section’s Council Meeting. We have a great program lined up, kicking off with a session on cybersecurity (knowing the enemy and responding to an attack) to be followed by speakers on the politics and policies of responding to a procurement crisis, a thoughtful approach to subcontract terms and conditions, experiences from the small business mentor-protégé program, the “nuts and bolts” of litigating a False Claims Act case, and, to welcome our newly established Grant Committee, a panel on subawards under federal financial assistance awards. Our luncheon speaker will discuss artificial intelligence, and our reception will feature a singer/songwriter. The hotel where the programs will be held is within walking distance of the honky tonks, so bring your boots and get ready for some good music and good fun.

In closing, I’m looking forward to my year as chair. My door, email, and phone line are always open for your suggestions for enhancing the Section member experience and any other feedback you wish to provide. See you all in Nashville!