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6 min read

CDA: Exploring the Core Elements of Government Contract Disputes


The Core Elements of the CDA

1. Jurisdiction: The Contract Disputes Act establishes the jurisdiction or court that has the authority to hear and decide contract disputes. This could be a federal court or a specific administrative tribunal.

2. Applicability: The act specifies the types of contracts or parties that are covered under its provisions. It may apply to government contracts, private contracts, or both.

3. Contractual Disputes: The act outlines the procedures and guidelines for dealing with contract disputes. This may include requirements for notice, mediation or negotiation, and formal legal proceedings.

4. Claims and Remedies: The act defines the rights and remedies available to the parties involved in a contract dispute. This may include monetary damages, specific performance, termination of the contract, or other appropriate remedies.

5. Contracting Officer: The act may establish the role of a contracting officer who is responsible for administering, interpreting, and resolving disputes related to government contracts.

6. Appeals: The act may provide a mechanism for appealing the decision of the contracting officer or the initial outcome of a contract dispute. This could involve filing an appeal with a higher administrative body or a court.

7. Timeframes: The act may specify timeframes within which the parties must take certain actions, such as filing a claim or responding to a dispute. This helps ensure that contract disputes are handled in a timely manner.

8. Documentation and Evidence: The act may require parties to maintain proper documentation and provide evidence to support their claims or defenses in a contract dispute.

The Crucial Clauses: Examining the Foundational Pillars of the Contract Dispute

FDS, a highly regarded contractor, finds itself embroiled in a complex and consequential contract dispute with the U.S. government. FDS is steadfast in their pursuit of an equitable adjustment to their contract in light of a substantial delay caused by a bid protest. In this challenging situation, both FDS and the government are firmly invested in protecting their interests and seeking a fair resolution under the guiding principles of the Contract Disputes Act (CDA).

At the heart of this dispute lies Contract No. W91238-17-C-0025, which comprises the Isabella Lake Dam Safety Modification Project (DSMP), Phase II, Dams and Spillway. This contract holds significant weight as it sets the stage for the negotiations to unfold. With careful attention paid to the intricate details of the contract, the parties seek to interpret and apply the clauses that are most pertinent to the ongoing dispute.

Of notable importance are two vital clauses within the contract: clause 52.233-3, PROTEST AFTER AWARD (AUG 1996), and clause 52.242-14, SUSPENSION OF WORK (APR 1984). These clauses serve as the pillars upon which the entire conflict rests, providing the necessary frameworks and guidelines to ensure fairness and accountability throughout the contractual relationship.

The Ramifications of the Initial Suspension

The PROTEST AFTER AWARD clause assumes great significance in this case, as it confers authority and responsibility upon the contracting officer to direct the contractor to halt work should a protest arise after the contract has been awarded. Furthermore, this clause addresses the need for an equitable adjustment when a stop-work order leads to increased time or costs for the contractor. It is under the umbrella of this clause that FDS seeks redress for the substantial delays they have encountered due to the bid protest.

Unfolding the narrative, we find that the course of events began on October 4, 2017, when the U.S. government issued a directive to FDS, instructing them to suspend their work in response to a bid protest. Unfortunately, in this particular instance, the government failed to specify under which clause the suspension fell, leading to potential ambiguity and room for dispute. This lack of clarity became a pivotal factor in the subsequent discussions and proceedings.

After a protracted period of uncertainty, the bid protest lodged against FDS was ultimately denied on January 4, 2018, allowing the contractor to heave a sigh of relief. With this hurdle cleared, FDS received the green light to proceed with their work, receiving a Notice to Proceed on January 18, 2018. However, the ramifications of the initial suspension were not to be overlooked, as FDS was keenly aware of the increased time and costs incurred as a result.

Seeking a Comprehensive Resolution: FDS's Conversion of REA into CDA Claims

Mindful of their rights as a contractor operating within the framework of the CDA, FDS adopted a proactive approach. On February 2, 2018, they promptly notified the contracting officer of their intention to pursue an equitable adjustment, signaling their firm belief that compensation is warranted for the additional burdens placed upon them. With a deliberate and diligent approach, FDS submitted their request for an equitable adjustment (REA) on April 16, 2018, solidifying their position and seeking fair resolution.

Acknowledging the gravity of the situation at hand, the government did extend the contract performance period by 83 days. However, to FDS's dismay, the REA was only partially granted, leaving them dissatisfied with the outcome and motivated to seek a comprehensive resolution that adequately addresses their grievances.

To formalize and assert their rights, FDS converted the REA into two distinct Contract Disputes Act claims, hoping to present a strong case that garners deserved attention and consideration. However, despite their well-constructed claims, the contracting officer denied both, albeit granting minimal amounts that hardly sufficed.

ASBCA Denies Government's Motion, Empowering FDS's Appeal

Undeterred by the setbacks faced at the lower level, FDS tenaciously pursued justice by taking their appeal to the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA). Armed with compelling arguments and backed by a fervent belief in their entitlement to relief, FDS prepared to face the tribulations of the appeals process, tantalizingly close to a resolution that aligns with their vision of justice.

Nevertheless, the road to resolution is no easy endeavor. The government, as a staunch opponent, raises a formidable challenge. Their primary argument centers around the assertion that the suspension of work pertains to the Suspension of Work clause rather than the Protest After Award clause, ushering in a wave of contention. In addition, they contend that FDS has failed to adequately present a valid claim, further adding fuel to the fire.

In response to the government's claims, the ASBCA diligently reviewed the case and arrived at a decision that would significantly impact the trajectory of the appeal. Confronting the government's plea for dismissal, the ASBCA resolutely denied their motion, recognizing that FDS's complaint extensively and persuasively alleges facts that plausibly suggest entitlement to relief. This ruling signifies a crucial turning point in the dispute, as it emboldens both FDS and their legal representatives, bolstering their confidence in the strength of their position and the validity of their claim.

A Battle of Perspectives: The Protest After Award Clause Takes Center Stage

With the stage set for a critical showdown, FDS asserts that the Protest After Award clause is the guiding authority that provides them with the grounds to seek the adjustment they pursue. Their legal team skillfully builds their case, artfully presenting a well-woven narrative supported by plausible and compelling facts. By doing so, they sow the seeds of doubt in the government's counterarguments and strive to illuminate the path toward a just outcome.

In their spirited defense, the government emphasizes that the suspension of work should be attributed to the Suspension of Work clause, adamantly asserting that FDS has failed to articulate a valid claim. Engaged in a battle of words, both parties marshal their armies of legal experts, exchanging ideas, precedents, and interpretations with the ultimate goal of convincing the ASBCA to support their perspective.

In support of their stance, the ASBCA cites an important reference—FAR 33.106(b). This regulation unambiguously mandates the inclusion of the Protest After Award clause in all solicitations and contracts. In doing so, the ASBCA fortifies the foundation of FDS's position, validating the pertinence and applicability of the Protest After Award clause to their situation.

The ASBCA's Substantiated Support and Meticulous Examination

Not content with mere regulatory affirmation, the ASBCA further reinforces FDS's claim by highlighting two modifications issued by the contracting officer. Deliberately and explicitly, these modifications state that the Protest After Award clause provides the requisite authority for the adjustment FDS seeks. Armed with this substantiated support, FDS embarks confidently on the path to victory, bolstered by the ASBCA's recognition of the critical role these aforementioned factors play in their pursuit of justice.

To counter the government's references to previous cases, such as CDM Constructors, Inc. and Beneco Enterprises, Inc., the ASBCA undertakes a meticulous examination. By observing and scrutinizing these cases, the ASBCA uncovers the shortcomings of the government's argument, revealing that neither cited case supports their position. This shrewd assessment helps dispel the fog of uncertainty surrounding the dispute, chipping away at the foundation of the government's defensive strategy.

Drawing upon informed analysis, the ASBCA determines that the circumstances presiding over this case most closely resemble the precedent set by Hill Brothers Constr. Co. In this highly relevant case, the Board ruled decisively in favor of the contractor, underscoring the validity and strength of FDS's position. The ASBCA expertly leverages this pivotal ruling, further strengthening FDS's claim while simultaneously contesting the government's assertions.

ASBCA Denies Government's Motion to Dismiss

Moreover, to address the government's contention that the suspension must be explicitly identified as a stop-work order, the ASBCA firmly dismisses this argument. They carefully point out that both the contracting officer and FDS treated the suspension, without reservation, as resting firmly under the authority of the Protest After Award clause. This discrepancy in interpretation dismantles the government's position, leaving them vulnerable to the ASBCA's unwavering scrutiny.

In a significant victory for FDS, the ASBCA resolutely denies the government's motion to dismiss the appeal. This pivotal verdict provides a beacon of hope and injects renewed momentum into FDS as they advance towards a fair resolution. The ruling amplifies FDS's conviction, solidifying their belief that they have a genuine claim and that justice will be served.

The journey towards resolving this contract dispute serves as a testament to the effectiveness of the Contract Disputes Act. By providing a systematic and impartial approach to resolving conflicts between contractors and the U.S. government, it instills a sense of trust, stability, and reliability in government contracting relationships. Through this legal battle, FDS stands as an example of companies willing to rigorously exercise their rights and navigate the intricate processes set forth by the CDA.

As the appeal continues, both FDS and the government remain steadfast in their respective positions, eagerly awaiting the final resolution. The outcome of this case will reverberate through the halls of contracting offices, setting a precedent for future disputes. For now, the ASBCA's denial of the dismissal motion signals a significant milestone for FDS, advancing them one step closer to the vindication they seek.


The Contract Disputes Act (CDA) plays a crucial role in resolving contract disputes between the federal government and government contractors. It provides a framework for contractors to seek redress for claims arising from government contracts, ensuring fairness and accountability in the contracting process. By establishing procedures for presenting and processing claims, the CDA promotes efficiency and consistency in resolving disputes, ultimately contributing to the stability and effectiveness of government contracting. It is essential for both contractors and the federal government to understand and adhere to the provisions of the CDA to effectively navigate contract disputes and maintain a productive relationship.