Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Aerospace/Defense
by
Dr. Standley was employed by the Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration. Standley contends that over several years he sought to ensure that the Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System (SABRS) for nuclear detection, was funded and supported, believing this was required under section 1065 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008. He claims his superiors attempted to block funding and his work on SABRS. In 2015, Standley sent an email entitled “Obstruction of Public law 110- 118, NDAA 2008, Maintenance of Space-based Nuclear Detonation Detection System” to the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, with copies to Department of Defense representatives, and the Office of Special Counsel. Following several additional unsuccessful attempts to change DOE's position, Standley filed an unsuccessful appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board, alleging that DOE and its employees retaliated against him for his efforts to change the DOE policy by not selecting him for any of three DOE Director positions posted in 2014-2017. Standley claimed he was engaging in protected whistleblowing when he opposed efforts to defund SABRS. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Substantial evidence supports the Board’s decision. Section 1065 does not require that the DOE provide its SABRS program to the Secretary of Defense. The court acknowledged “Standley’s well-intentioned beliefs about the mission,” and his pro se status, but found his challenges to a government policy decision with which he disagreed unavailing. View "Standley v. Department of Energy" on Justia Law

by
The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud procurement is directed to the long-term provision of enterprise-wide cloud computing services to the Defense Department. Its solicitation contemplated a 10-year indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a single provider. The JEDI solicitation included “gate” provisions that prospective bidders would be required to satisfy, including that the contractor must have at least three existing physical commercial cloud offering data centers within the U.S., separated by at least 150 miles, providing certain offerings that were “FedRAMP Moderate Authorized” at the time of proposal (a reference to a security level). Oracle did not satisfy the FedRAMP Moderate Authorized requirement and filed a pre-bid protest.The Government Accountability Office, Claims Court, and Federal Circuit rejected the protest. Even if Defense violated 10 U.S.C. 2304a by structuring the procurement on a single-award basis, the FedRAMP requirement would have been included in a multiple-award solicitation, so Oracle was not prejudiced by the single-award decision. The FedRAMP requirement “constituted a specification,” not a qualification requirement; the agency structured the procurement as a full and open competition. Satisfying the gate criteria was merely the first step in ensuring that the Department’s time was not wasted on offerors who could not meet its minimum needs. The contracting officer properly exercised her discretion in finding that the individual and organizational conflicts complained of by Oracle did not affect the integrity of the procurement. View "Oracle America Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Navy began a program to design and build littoral combat ships (LCS) and issued a request for proposals. During the initial phase of the LCS procurement, FastShip met with and discussed a potential hull design with government contractors subject to non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. FastShip was not awarded a contract. FastShip filed an unsuccessful administrative claim, alleging patent infringement. The Claims Court found that the FastShip patents were valid and directly infringed by the government. The Federal Circuit affirmed.The Claims Court awarded FastShip attorney’s fees and expenses ($6,178,288.29); 28 U.S.C. 1498(a), which provides for a fee award to smaller entities that have prevailed on infringement claims, unless the government can show that its position was “substantially justified.” The court concluded that the government’s pre-litigation conduct and litigation positions were not “as a whole” substantially justified. It unreasonable for a government contractor to gather information from FastShip but not to include it as part of the team that was awarded the contract and the Navy took an exceedingly long time to act on FastShip’s administrative claim and did not provide sufficient analysis in denying the claim. The court found the government’s litigation positions unreasonable, including its arguments with respect to one document and its reliance on the testimony of its expert to prove obviousness despite his “extraordinary skill.” The Federal Circuit vacated. Reliance on this pre-litigation conduct in the fee analysis was an error. View "FastShip, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Kaspersky, a Russian-based cybersecurity company, provides products and services to customers around the world. In 2017, based on concerns that the Russian government could exploit Kaspersky’s access to federal computers, the Secretary of Homeland Security directed federal agencies to remove the company’s products from government information systems. Congress later broadened and codified (131 Stat. 1283) that prohibition in the National Defense Authorization Act. Kaspersky sued, arguing that the prohibition constituted an impermissible legislative punishment, a bill of attainder prohibited by the Constitution, Article I, Section 9. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Kaspersky failed to adequately allege that Congress enacted a bill of attainder. The court noted the nonpunitive interest at stake: the security of the federal government’s information systems. The law is prophylactic, not punitive. While Kaspersky is not the only possible gap in the federal computer system’s defenses, Congress had ample evidence that Kaspersky posed the most urgent potential threat and Congress has “sufficient latitude to choose among competing policy alternatives.” Though costly to Kaspersky, the decision falls far short of “the historical meaning of legislative punishment.” Relying just on the legislative record, Kaspersky’s complaint fails to plausibly allege that the motivation behind the law was punitive. View "Kaspersky Lab, Inc.v. United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

by
The Army took photographs of detainees at military detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq after September 11, 2001. The ACLU sought records related to the treatment of detainees with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted to the Department of Defense (DoD) and filed suit in 2004, after receiving no response. The district court ordered the government to produce or identify all responsive documents and ordered the release of the photographs with redactions, rejecting arguments that the photographs could be withheld under three FOIA exemptions. A third party released the photographs without authorization. During the pendency of an appeal, the government identified additional photographs potentially responsive to the FOIA request and attempted to withhold them under the same three exemptions. The district court again rejected these arguments. The Second Circuit reversed, in favor of DoD. The Protected National Security Documents Act of 2009 (PNSDA), 123 Stat. 2142, permits the government to withhold disclosure of any photograph “taken during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, through January 22, 2009.” Regardless of whether PNSDA is an exemption under FOIA, the Secretary of Defense’s certification, following an extensive, multi-step review process including recommendations of several senior U.S. military commanders, and the information provided by the DoD, satisfied PNSDA. View "American Civil Liberties Union v. United States Department of Defense" on Justia Law

by
On September 11, 2012, President Obama published notice “continuing for [one] year the national emergency . . . with respect to the terrorist attacks.” In April 2013, O’Farrell, an Army Reservist, received an order directing him to replace another Reservist, an attorney, who had been deployed. After reaching his maximum total years of active commissioned service (28 years), O’Farrell was transferred to the Army Reserve Retired List in October 2013. O’Farrell served his active duty as legal counsel until September 30, 2013. By August 26, 2013, O’Farrell had used his 15 days of military leave, most of his accrued annual leave, and advance annual leave. To avoid being placed on Military Leave Without Pay for the remainder of his active duty service, O’Farrell (unsuccessfully) requested an additional 22 days leave under 5 U.S.C. 6323(a)(1). O’Farrell did not cite any statutory provision that would qualify him as "called to full-time military service as a result of a call or order to active duty in support of a contingency operation." He argued that he was “serving . . . during a national emergency." O’Farrell sued under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. 4301– 4333. The Federal Circuit reversed. Section 6323(b) does not require that “a specific contingency operation" be identified in military orders when an employee is activated; “in support of” includes indirect assistance to a contingency operation, 5 U.S.C. 6323(b)(2)(B), which includes a military operation that results in service members being called to active duty under any law during a national emergency, 10 U.S.C. 101(a)(13). A service member’s leave request need not use particular language. View "O'Farrell v. Department of Defense" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Federal Claims enjoined the U.S. Army from proceeding with, or awarding, a contract to Airbus Helicopter, finding that Army Execution Order 109-14, which implemented the Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative designating the UH-72A Lakota helicopter as the Army’s “Institutional Training Helicopter,” was a procurement decision in violation of the Competition in Contracting Act and the Federal Acquisition Regulation. The court also found the Sole Source Justification and Approval (J&A) was arbitrary and capricious. The Federal Circuit reversed and vacated the injunction, holding that Execution Order 109-14 was not a procurement decision subject to Tucker Act review because it did not begin “the process for determining a need for property or services.” The Order simply formalized the Army’s decision designating the UH-72A Lakota as the Army’s training helicopter. The Sole Source J&A was not arbitrary and capricious, and it was an abuse of discretion to supplement the administrative record. The J&A sufficiently supports the Army’s decision to award a sole-source follow-on contract because it is likely that award to any other source would result in substantial duplication of cost to the government that is not expected to be recovered through competition, or unacceptable delays in fulfilling the agency’s requirements.” View "AgustaWestland North America v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Vanderklok wanted to fly from Philadelphia to Miami, to run a half-marathon. In his carry-on luggage, he had a heart monitor and watch stored inside a piece of PVC pipe, capped on both ends. During screening at the airport security checkpoint, the pipe and electronics prompted secondary screening, supervised by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee Kieser. According to Vanderklok, Kieser was disrespectful, so Vanderklok stated an intent to file a complaint against him. Vanderklok claims that Kieser, in retaliation, called the Philadelphia police and falsely reported that Vanderklok had threatened to bring a bomb to the airport. Vanderklok was arrested. He was acquitted because Kieser’s testimony about Vanderklok’s behavior did not match airport surveillance footage. Vanderklok sued. The district court concluded that Kieser lacked qualified immunity as to Vanderklok’s First Amendment claim and that a reasonable jury could find in Vanderklok’s favor as to his Fourth Amendment claim. The Third Circuit vacated. Because Kieser sought and was denied summary judgment on the merits of Vanderklok’s Fourth Amendment claim, rather than on the basis of qualified immunity, that claim cannot be reviewed on interlocutory appeal. The court concluded that no First Amendment claim against a TSA employee for retaliatory prosecution even exists in the context of airport security screenings. View "Vanderklok v. United States" on Justia Law

by
All Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plant officers are required to maintain medical clearance as a condition of employment. Since his employment began in 2009, Hale maintained the clearance necessary for his position. In 2013, the TVA began requiring a pulmonary function test for that clearance; Hale failed the testing and was terminated because of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Hale sued, alleging disability discrimination and failure to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. In an unsuccessful motion to dismiss, the TVA argued that Title VII’s national-security exemption applies to the Rehabilitation Act and precludes the court from reviewing the physical-fitness requirements imposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the interests of national security and that the Egan doctrine precludes the judiciary from reviewing the TVA’s determination that Hale lacked the physical capacity to fulfill his job duties because this decision was one of national security. The Sixth Circuit denied an interlocutory appeal; the national security exemption does not apply to Hale’s Rehabilitation Act claim. The court declined to extend Egan to preclude judicial review of an agency’s determination regarding an employee’s physical capability to perform the duties of his position. View "Hale v. Johnson" on Justia Law

by
Wilson was a civilian Resource Analyst at the Nuclear Propulsion Directorate at the Naval Sea Systems Command, which required a Department of Energy security clearance. The DOE revoked Wilson’s security clearance, stating that Wilson: knowingly brought a personal firearm onto a Navy facility in violation of regulations; armed himself with a personal weapon while acting as a Metropolitan Police Department reserve officer, contrary to regulations; and made false statements and false time and attendance entries to his civilian employer, the Naval Reserve Unit and the MPD. Wilson maintains that he brought his firearm to the facility in response to the 2013 Washington Navy Yard shooting, in perceived compliance with his duty as a Navy Reservist, and requested reinstatement under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. 4301. The Navy removed Wilson from federal service. A Merit Systems Protection Board administrative judge determined that the Board lacked authority to consider claims of discrimination or reprisal in the context of a removal based on security clearance revocation; that the Navy provided him the procedural protections of 5 U.S.C. 7513(b); and that the Navy did not have a policy to reassign employees to alternate positions that do not require a security clearance. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s finding that it lacked the authority to consider Wilson’s USERRA claim. View "Wilson v. Department of the Navy" on Justia Law