May 15, 2020 Procurement Lawyer

News from the Chair

by Linda Maramba

Linda Maramba is Division Counsel, Cyber and Intelligence Mission Solutions, at Northrop Grumman Corporation and chair of the ABA Section of Public Contract Law.

A Call to Action

We have a call to action.

With the global pandemic, the government asked us to respond to stay-at-home, social distancing, and other guidance or requirements issued to mitigate the impacts of the novel coronavirus. These challenging times have starkly highlighted just how interdependent we as global citizens truly are. From the various charts and graphs of COVID-19 trajectories and, most vividly, from scenes of stricken individuals viewed in media reports or directly, we have seen how individual actions can have immense, far-reaching consequences. And we have altered our daily lives in response.

Yet there is more to do. Actions undertaken by local, state, and federal governments in response to COVID-19 developments have involved important public procurement law matters and will continue to do so. As Public Contract Law Section members, we are well-familiar with this public procurement territory and, accordingly, we are uniquely well-positioned to navigate it successfully, and with the speed and agility demanded by the circumstances.

For example, our Public Contract Law Section members have the experience and expertise to understand and support our local, state, and federal government as it issues, amends, and enforces guidance and requirements that balance health- and safety-focused limitations and the need for certain essential business activities to continue operations. Our members have the deep knowledge of acquisition principles and processes needed to facilitate our government’s efforts to procure desperately needed products and services on an expedited basis. Our members have the professional relationships that foster open, clear communications, which can avert or readily resolve contract disputes that may arise in connection with cost or schedule impacts from COVID-19 developments.

So now — and perhaps more than ever — this is a time for our Section to step forward. Many of our Committees have adapted their meetings and panel presentations to public procurement matters related to COVID-19 developments and propose new initiatives.

I welcome hearing from you. Whether the Section responds to government requests for public input, prepares white papers or articles on topics of particular interest, assembles panels of experts for informative exchanges, presents procurement law boot camps, or promotes sound public procurement by other means, we can make a meaningful contribution when doing so is most needed.

Also, as we move forward, there are many resources available from the ABA to support our members own needs. For example, the ABA has pandemic-related content webinars as well as “how to” webinars on remote-work tools available online. In addition, the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs has stress- and wellness-related content available online. When I announced the cancellation of the Federal Procurement Institute back in March, I said that the health, safety, and wellbeing of our colleagues is the Section’s primary concern. It remains so.

Although we have faced unprecedented circumstances this year requiring significant adjustments to plans and operations, our Section remains strong due to its solid foundation fortified through the years by the contributions of its members. I have previously noted in this column the long history of our Section as a leader in public procurement. This is our time. As we move through the challenges ahead, public procurement experience and expertise will be much needed. Let us together answer this call.