Federal agencies spent $388 billion of discretionary funding in fiscal year (FY) 2005, up more than 18 percent from FY 2004. Defense contractors received $278 billion — more than a 21 percent increase in just one year. Both FY 2006 and 2007 spending levels continue this trend with significant Hurricane Katrina relief and the nation’s continuing efforts in the war on terrorism.
The federal government purchases virtually every type of goods and services — often in large quantities. In addition, the government encourages the development of innovative technologies that allow the nation to leverage its creative energies to provide better solutions to a wide range of challenges.
While becoming a government contractor can improve your bottom line and provide a vehicle to fund your research and development, it is not an area for the unwary. Contract requirements can be onerous, complicated, and at times counter-intuitive. Further, if your intellectual property (IP) is important to you, it takes advanced, thoughtful planning to avoid relinquishing valuable IP rights to the government. Finally, the government’s commitment to providing a fair opportunity to compete requires that contractors understand potential organizational conflicts of interest (OCI).
This program focused on three distinct and important aspects of government contracting. First, we provided an overview of the U.S. government’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, and the opportunities they provide small businesses to receive government funding to develop commercial products. We then identified the agencies that participate in the programs, the application process, and contrast the SBIR with the STTR program. Second, we provided an overview of the federal government’s treatment of IP, specifically patents, software, and technical data, and discuss strategies to protect the IP that is most important to you. Finally, we outlined the government’s approach in addressing different aspects of OCI such as determining when an OCI exists, contracting officer methods to mitigate OCIs, OCI implications of defense industry consolidation, and compliance recommendations.
These issues were addressed in an informal, interactive panel session led by George W. Ash of Foley & Lardner’s Government & Public Affairs Department, Ivonne Mena King of Foley & Lardner’s White Collar Defense & Corporate Compliance Practice, and David T. Ralston, Jr. of Foley & Lardner’s General Commercial Litigation Practice.
“Key Issues in Federal Government Contracting” is part of Foley’s 2007 Boston Executive Briefings Series.