As the 2020–2021 Chair of the Section, I am looking forward to the year ahead. I believe that we will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than ever before. Until we are able to meet together in person, our “virtual” meetings and get-togethers will connect us in new and different ways.
We wrapped up the 2019–2020 bar year with our virtual Annual Meeting. Through our CLE webinars, we debated the merits of bid protests and forums, examined the new world of commercial item contracting, checked out the impact of new technology on construction projects, considered the impact of the global trade environment on government contractors, examined audits and debarments arising from violations of federal labor laws, and even learned more about the role of consortia in Other Transaction contracting.
We concluded our Annual Meeting programming with two very special events. The Annual Ruth C. Burg Luncheon is held each year in honor of Judge Ruth Burg, now retired from the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA), who is our first female Section Chair and mentor to many in our field. The Luncheon became a “Table Talk” honoring Women in Public Contract Law and celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment. I had the privilege of moderating a discussion with Judge Burg and other female past-Section Chairs who succeeded her, including Judge Mary Ellen Coster Williams (U.S. Court of Federal Claims), Judge Carol Park-Conroy (ASBCA, retired, now JAMS), and outgoing Section Chair Linda Maramba.
Our final event featured Dr. Michael Wooten, the 15th Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, who spoke at our Annual Alan E. Peterson Lecture/Keynote Address. The lecture is held each year to honor Alan Peterson’s more-than three decades of exceptional service to the legal profession, accounting community, ABA, and, in particular, our Section. Alan passed away this Spring, but his generosity and service will endure in many ways. Dr. Wooten’s remarks addressed his interest in, and efforts at, tackling significant areas of federal procurement law, including the handling and use of transactional data and consolidation of the GSA Federal Supply Schedules. His talk was followed by a lively discussion on a variety of procurement matters. It was a privilege and a pleasure having him engage with our Section members at this event. Many thanks to Conference Director Eric Whytsell, Stinson LLP, and Program Co-Chairs Noah Bleicher, Jenner & Block; Jason “Jay” Carey, Covington & Burling; and Erin O’Shea, the Litcon Group, for putting on such a wonderful Annual Meeting in our first fully virtual setting.
As we go to press with this first issue of the new bar year, we will have submitted our first comment letter. It was on a topic that impacts every government contractor—the Federal Acquisition Regulation final interim rule implementing Section 889(a)(1)(B) of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2019, “Prohibition on Contracting With Entities Using Certain Telecommunications and Video Surveillance Services or Equipment.” In commenting on this “final” interim rule, the Section raises a number of questions and concerns and proposes some solutions. Our efforts in analyzing, discussing, and reaching consensus on comments for these types of acquisition rules are a critical part of who we are and what we do as a Section. Our community is in it for the long haul. Our efforts are not to help one industry, company, or individual. Rather, our goal is to operate as an honest broker and provide comments that will improve the procurement processes for our entire acquisition community.
Last, during our Annual Meeting, we passed our revised mission statement, fine-tuning the description of our Section purposes:
The mission of the Section of Public Contract Law is to improve public procurement and grant law at the federal, state and local levels and to promote the professional development of attorney and associate members in public procurement law. The Section improves the functioning of public procurement by contributing to developments in procurement legislation and regulations; by objectively and fairly evaluating such developments; by communicating the Section’s evaluations, critiques and concerns to policy makers and government officials; and by sharing these communications with Section members and the public. The Section promotes professional development of its members through a structured committee system and educational and training programs for lawyers and procurement professionals that welcome and encourage involvement by representatives from all areas of the procurement arena, foster opportunities for all members of the Section, and recognize and respond flexibly to the diverse needs, talents, and interests of Section members.
It is a true honor to lead our Section. I look forward to our year together and to working with each of you to carry out these purposes. I hope you will make an extra effort this year as well. Please reach out to one another and make that effort to connect and to continue the good works that we do at the Section. We may be remote, but we need to remain steadfast in our purposes together. Thank you for all that you do.