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The US Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA) released its FY 2019 Annual Report earlier this month. Despite a slight decline in cases filed and resolved in FY 2019, CBCA judges and staff remained active, highlighted by a new mission to support Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arbitrations and frequent travel to conduct Contract Dispute Act (CDA) hearings.

Judge Jeri K. Somers, chair of the CBCA, noted in an FY 2019 message that on October 5, 2018, the CBCA was designated as the legal forum to arbitrate FEMA disputes.[1] Adding FEMA disputes to the CBCA docket should noticeably increase the case load over the next several years. Judge Somers also highlighted the extensive travel of CBCA judges last year, including attending six hearings and more than twenty alternative dispute resolutions (ADR). Litigants often realize significant cost savings by having judges travel to where the parties are located, and making frequent use of telephone and video conferencing for witness testimony.

Cases by the Numbers

The CBCA docketed 418 cases in FY 2019, led by 217 case appeals of contracting officers’ final decisions (COFD). The 418 cases represent a slight increase in cases compared to 409 cases docketed in FY 2018. The number of electronic filings received by the CBCA in FY 2019 declined to 4,085 from 4,458 the previous year. In FY 2019, 96 percent of all filings received by the CBCA were filed electronically. Filings and notices pertaining to CBCA decisions appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit declined significantly from twenty-seven in FY 2018 down to nine in FY 2019.

Highlighted Cases

This year’s annual report described several cases and decisions that underscore the variety of cases and issues adjudicated by the CBCA. Examples include: Hof Construction, Inc. v. GSA[2]where the timeliness of appeal submissions was at issue; Sotera Defense Solutions v. Department of Agriculture,[3] which highlighted how task orders issued from one buying agency under a government-wide acquisition contract issued under a separate buying agency can lead to confusion and disputes; and Livingston Parish Government,[4]a FEMA case testing the CBCA’s new arbitration authority with a decision over FEMA’s withholding of disaster relief funding.

The CBCA’s growing authority and operational policy of travelling judges and virtual witness testimony kept it busy in FY 2019. We expect a similarly busy FY 2020 and will stay abreast of CBCA developments.

[1] On October 5, 2018, the Stafford Act was amended, officially designating the CBCA as the forum for FEMA disputes between grants recipients conducting FEMA-related work and FEMA.

[2] CBCA 6306, decided on December 12, 2018.

[3] CBCA 6029 et al., decided on April 25, 2019.

[4] CBCA 6513-FEMA, decided on September 23, 2019.