April 07, 2021 News from the Chair

News from the Chair

Susan Warshaw Ebner

It was February, and there was snow in Dallas, ice in the D.C. area, and sub-zero temperatures in the Midwest. I was writing for the Spring issue of The Procurement Lawyer and thinking of our upcoming Federal Procurement Institute (FPI), to be held on March 10–12, 2021, which has always been a harbinger of Spring for our Section (even when it snows while we are in Annapolis!).

Scott Flesch, FPI Conference Director, and Kelli Hooke, Marian Horn, Noree Lee, and Harry Parent, FPI Conference Co-chairs, worked very hard to make this a great event. While staying true to our long-standing focus on federal procurement in the Spring, we changed the panels up a bit to keep you engaged and learning about new and different things while we remain virtual. We optimistically look forward to next year, when more folks will be vaccinated and we can move back to in-person events. However, our virtual events are still exciting and offer much food for thought for those involved in public contracting.

We kicked things off on Wednesday with a panel on “Statutory and Regulatory Changes Impacting the Government Contracting Community.” It was a new year, after all, with a new President and administration, and record numbers of executive orders had already been issued in the first month. Congress also changed over and was busy working on pandemic relief to address continuing impacts of COVID-19. Both the President and Congress were considering how best to address challenges in infrastructure, supply chain, and cybersecurity, as well as how to best position us to meet new and emerging needs. The day continued with a look at “Government Contracts Claims in the Age of COVID-19.”

Thursday’s panels included a retrospective of “How COVID-19 Relief Funding Impacted Government Contracting Compliance and Enforcement,” leading up to our fireside chat with keynote speaker, Brian Miller, Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery. Brian has been a member of the Section for a long time, and we enjoyed hearing about what his newly created office is doing. We also addressed supply chain, security, and domestic preference regulations in a panel on Thursday afternoon. Gearing up to fight COVID-19 has raised many questions about the nature and extent of our supply chain, and the panels explored initiatives to address emerging supply chain threats.

Friday’s panels covered our yearly update on “Bid Protests at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.” The panel answered questions on what has been happening in these protest forums and what it means to seek a stay at the Court. Our yearly judicial panel took on an additional role this year. It addressed “Ethics from the Judicial Perspective.” Not only did participants hear from the judges at the Boards of Contract Appeals and U.S. Court of Federal Claims, but they also earned some ethics credit, too. The pandemic has spurred many forums to conduct work remotely and engage litigators online to a greater extent than before. Our new online work life has posed ethical questions and challenges, and this panel examined them in our first-ever judicial ethics panel. The afternoon keynote, given by Benjamin McMartin, managing partner of the Public Spend Forum, addressed acquisition strategy, policy, and practice in the current shifting political environment. Participants definitely learned something new on this day of the conference, too.

Those wanting a bit of fun connected on Thursday after the programming for our “PCL Procurement Trivia” and networking event. You probably learned some fun facts you didn’t already know about public contracting and made new connections as well! It was definitely fun creating our PCL Jeopardy game—many thanks to Scott, Harry, Kelly, and Marion for all their work putting this first-time event together.

The fun didn’t end with the conclusion of FPI. Our Council Meeting, normally on the day after FPI, will be held instead on April 1st—no fooling. We polled our members in the Fall and learned that about one-third wanted us to try a during-the-week Council Meeting. So April 1st, be ready to set aside the time to participate in our Council meeting. In addition to addressing the business of the Section, we will continue the tack we took in the Fall Council Meeting and host a couple of Thought Leaders discussions on important topics.

We look forward to seeing you soon. In the meantime, please stay safe and be well.

Entity:

Susan Warshaw Ebner

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Susan Warshaw Ebner is a partner at Stinson LLP, co-chair of the firm’s Government Contracts & Investigation Practice Group, and chair of the Section of Public Contract Law.