Four cases being argued next week at the Federal Circuit attracted amicus briefs. One is Veterans4You LLC v. United States. In this case, Veterans4You asserts that the VA wrongly invoked the “printing mandate” in 44 U.S.C. § 501 to route a Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) procurement through the Government Publishing Office (“GPO”). Veterans4You contends this approach resulted in a violated of the “Rule of Two,” a statutory preference for veteran-owned small businesses or service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. Veterans4You argues that the decision by the Court of Federal Claims upholding the VA’s action should be reversed. This is our argument preview.
Veterans4You argues in its opening brief that the CFC erroneously held that the VA was required to procure non-printing components of a solicitation through the GPO based on the so-called “printing mandate.” This mandate requires all printing for executive agencies be acquired through the GPO. In particular, the VA sought to procure imprinted suicide-prevention cable (gun) locks, which included two keys and printed wallet cards. According to Veterans4You, “t]he VA sent this requisition through the GPO without either agency analyzing whether the printing mandate was in fact triggered or providing adequate documentation for this decision.” Further, Veterans4You asserts that the incorrect application of the “printing mandate” resulted in non-adherence to the “Rule of Two,” which creates a statutory preference for veteran-owned small businesses in VA acquisitions.
In its response, the government argues that the CFC properly determined that the VA was not required to do a “Rule of Two” analysis. Further, it argues that not conducting this analysis still complies with the Veterans Benefits Act because “Section 8127(i) . . . does not require the VA to conduct a Rule of Two analysis when the VA has entered into an agreement with another Government entity to acquire goods or services.” It maintains that, because the court properly held that the printing services required in the solicitation fell under the “printing mandate,” the VA was not required to conduct a “Rule of Two” analysis and further was not required to procure the printing and non-printing components from different entities when it would be unreasonable and difficult to do so.
In its reply, Veterans4You reasserts that the solicitation at issue did not trigger the “printing mandate.” It argues that a holding that the “printing mandate” was triggered “will allow the VBA’s provisions to be circumvented any time a procurement involves a supply with a minor element of printing.” Thus, it argues, the application of the printing mandate as applied by the CFC creates a conflict with the VA’s “Rule of Two” requirements under the VBA.
Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. filed an amicus brief in this case in support of Veterans4You. In it, Kingdomware emphasizes the importance of Congress’s intent for the VA to award contracts to small veteran-owned businesses. It argues that the VA should not be allowed to get away with such an “expansive new loophole” that allows it to avoid Congress’s mandate to award contracts to small businesses.
Oral arguments will be heard on Monday, November 2. We will keep track of this case and report on any developments.