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The Contract Disputes Act provides a path to resolving your conflict with the government contracting officials

Unpacking the  Disputes Act in Government Contracts

The Contract Disputes Act (CDA) is a crucial federal law that governs contracts, both express and implied, executed by an executive agency of the U.S. government for various purposes such as procurement of property, services, construction, real estate activities, or disposal of personal property. Under the CDA, contractors initiating a claim against the government under a contract must first submit a written claim to the contracting officer. If the claim is dismissed by the contracting officer, the contractor has the option to seek review by either filing a lawsuit in the United States Court of Federal Claims or requesting a review by an agency board of contract appeals.

The CDA outlines specific procedures for resolving contract disputes. For instance, any funds, including interest, obtained from a contractor due to a claim made by a military department or Defense Agency must be retained to settle the claim, any favorable judgments on appeal to the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, or any favorable court judgments in the contractor's favor.


Your Contract Dispute and Alternative Dispute Resolution

Furthermore, the CDA allows contractors and contracting officers to utilize alternative dispute resolution methods or other agreed-upon procedures to settle claims. Contractors are required to certify claims when necessary by law or subsection requirements.

The CDA also safeguards contractors' rights by enabling them to appeal a contracting officer's decision to an agency board within 90 days of receiving the decision. Alternatively, contractors can opt to directly challenge the decision in the United States Court of Federal Claims within the specified time frame.

In subcontractor cases where the prime contractor acts as an agent of the government, the Contract Disputes Act grants jurisdiction to the Board over appeals, as illustrated in the A & B FOUNDRY, INC. case. In the realm of cybersecurity, the Department of Defense has advised procurement officials that non-compliance with cybersecurity standards could result in breach-of-contract claims or grounds for termination for cause under the CDA.



What can a lawyer do to help my CDA claim?

A lawyer well-versed in the Contract Disputes Act (CDA) plays a crucial role in assisting government contractors navigate the intricate process of resolving contractual conflicts with the federal government. The CDA, as established in United States v. J & E Salvage Co., 55 F.3d 985, provides a comprehensive framework for addressing such disputes.

One key aspect where a lawyer's expertise shines is in aiding contractors in the proper submission of claims related to government contracts, as illustrated in United Aeronautical Corp. v. United States A.F., 80 F.4th 1017. In cases where a contractor faces an unfavorable ruling by a contracting officer, the lawyer can provide valuable support in lodging an appeal either with an agency board of contract appeals or the United States Court of Federal Claims, following precedents like Winter v. Floorpro, Inc., 570 F.3d 1367.

Moreover, the lawyer ensures that all contractor claims against the government adhere to the CDA's requirement of a written submission to the contracting officer for a decision, as emphasized in BLR Group of Am., Inc. v. United States, 96 Fed. Cl. 9. It is also the lawyer's responsibility to clarify the distinct types of claims under the CDA, encompassing those initiated by the government against a contractor and vice versa, as evidenced in Lockheed Martin Aero. Co. v. Sec'y of the A.F., 66 F.4th 1329.

Additionally, the lawyer guarantees that the contractor fulfills specific administrative prerequisites essential for pursuing legal action under the CDA, in alignment with cases like Sys. Application & Techs., Inc. v. United States, 491 F. Supp. 3d 73. Lastly, the lawyer educates the contractor on the critical time constraints for submitting claims under the CDA, a fundamental aspect highlighted in Menominee Indian Tribe of Wis. v. United States, 614 F.3d 519.


Where can a CDA claim be filed and what are the deadlines?

A Contract Disputes Act (CDA) claim can be filed either with the contracting officer or with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims or an agency board. It is crucial for a contractor to submit their claim to the contracting officer within six years after it accrues, as mandated by the CDA. This initial submission to the contracting officer is a necessary step for pursuing a CDA action in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims or for seeking an appeal to a board of contract appeals.

Upon the contracting officer making a decision, the contractor is presented with two courses of action. Firstly, within 90 days of receiving the contracting officer's decision, the contractor can choose to appeal to an agency board. Secondly, as an alternative, the contractor may opt to directly pursue the claim in the United States Court of Federal Claims within 12 months following the receipt of the contracting officer's decision. It is essential for contractors to be aware of these timelines and procedural requirements outlined in relevant legal cases and statutes to ensure their claims are filed and appealed appropriately.

It is worth noting that the six-year time limit imposed by the Contract Disputes Act of 1978 does not apply to contracts awarded before October 1, 1995. This exception underscores the importance of understanding the specific guidelines and limitations that govern contract disputes, especially with regard to the timeframe within which claims must be initiated.



What are the advantages of using the Contract Disputes Act for dispute resolution?

The Contract Disputes Act (CDA) provides a comprehensive statutory system for resolving government contract disputes. It offers two opportunities for review of an adverse determination by a contracting officer. A contractor may either appeal the decision to an agency board of contract appeals or may seek judicial review in the Court of Federal Claims. The CDA is designed to provide a fair, balanced, and comprehensive system of legal and administrative remedies in resolving government contract claims. It also provides a process for dispute resolution of certain contract claims against the government. The CDA encourages the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedures for pre-claim and pre-final decision matters, as well as appeals pending before the Board. The purpose of an equitable adjustment is to make the contractor whole. One of the prime purposes of the CDA is to provide a "fair" and "balanced" system to negotiate and resolve contract claims.


What are the procedural steps for appealing a decision under the Contract Disputes Act?

The Contract Disputes Act (CDA) is a critical framework for resolving disputes linked to federal procurement contracts. Contractors have the right to present written claims to agency contracting officers and obtain decisions within a set timeframe. If they disagree with a contracting officer's decision, they can appeal to an agency board within 90 days or directly to the United States Court of Federal Claims within 12 months.

The appeal to the agency board must be in writing and provided to the contracting officer. For claims under $100,000, contractors can opt for the board's small claim or accelerated procedure. In cases where the contracting officer delays issuing a decision, the contractor can appeal by citing the officer's inaction. Appeals of decisions from the agency board or the Court of Federal Claims can be made to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.



Common Government Contracting FAQs

Meet Your Government Contracting Legal Team

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Joe Whitcomb

Founder and President

As the firm’s leader, Joe manages, directs, consults, and acts as an advisor to his practice group leaders Joe’s areas of specialty include government procurement and international business transactions.

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Tim Turner

Senior Attorney

Along with leading the Government Contracting practice area, Tim manages labor and employment cases for the firm. He centers his practice in the Health and Safety sector, defending clients against MSHA and OSHA regulatory enforcement actions.

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Dilyn Loveless

Senior Attorney

Dilyn spent 14 years as a Staff Officer with the United States Department of Defense. She has extensive experience with investigations involving the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, United States Federal Bureau of Investigations, Department of Commerce, and Department of State. Dilyn brings a wealth of experience in trade law, trade compliance, and government and defense contracting.

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William Selinsky

Senior Attorney

For more than 20 years, William worked as an attorney in a private practice law firm concentrating on insurance coverage and defense, general practice, personal injury, litigation, business, zoning, and municipal law.

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Anne Lanteigne

Senior Attorney

With more than 35 years of professional legal experience, Anne brings a broad range of knowledge on intellectual property (IP), government contracts, and patent law. She knows the intricacies of federal procurement actions, from requesting proposals and evaluating offers/bids from contractors to administering contracts and negotiating dispute settlements with contractors, giving her a unique insight into the government contracts world.

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Jonathan Perrone


Jon counsels and represents government contractors in healthcare, construction, manufacturing, defense, information technology, and service industries. He specializes in representation in both pre-contract and contract-administration phases.

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Josh Sather

Associate Attorney

Josh helps clients successfully navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of government contracting. He advises clients on compliance with government regulations, helps them navigate the contracting process, and negotiates contracts. Additionally, he represents clients in disputes, such as bid protests, claims, and appeals.

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