Research Reports

Congressionally Mandated Study on Contractor Debarments for Violations of U.S. Labor Laws

July 2023

September 2022

AUTHORS: Mr. David Drabkin, Esq.1 , Mr. Christopher Yukins, Esq.2

This report discusses debarment as a tool to address contractor violations of U.S. labor laws. The conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2021 raised concerns regarding contractor violations of U.S. labor laws and whether statutory debarments should be introduced. The Defense Pricing and Contracting (DPC) directorate of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (OUSD(A&S)) asked AIRC to study the issue of labor law compliance among federal contractors and the use of statutory and discretionary debarment as tools to protect the government’s interests. 

Based upon reviews of relevant labor law, suspension and debarment requirements, contracting officer (CO) responsibility determinations, interviews with senior government personnel, and analysis of relevant data, this report addresses the following four issues put forward by Congress:

• Discretionary debarment allows the Department of Defense (DoD) to address business integrity risk more effectively than statutory debarments. The main challenge is providing the resources, information, and training necessary to empower DoD COs to take the appropriate actions.

• Resources focused on capacity, training, and efficient information transfer regarding violations and enforcement of relevant labor laws would be needed to expand the ability of COs and suspension and debarment officials (SDOs) to make debarment decisions for Service Contract Act violations. Also, debarments (which may cripple contracting firms) are not consistent with restitution-based objectives.

• The Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee could play an important role in opening communication among relevant agencies on discretionary debarments through training and education, if adequately resourced.

• Increased access to violation and debarment information would align with the government’s statutorily required shift to “open data.” This report highlighted options for achieving enhanced transparency, including providing more detailed information about debarments and training contracting officers and debarring officials in finding or assessing labor violations data.