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Sovereign Acts Doctrine Precluded Change Claim

The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals denied a deductive change claim because recovery for decreased work arising from a deployment of troops was precluded by the sovereign acts doctrine. The dispute involved a requirements contract for all phases of laundry services at an Army fort and airfield. After the government deployed an infantry division from the fort to Iraq, the contractor experienced a workload reduction in excess of eight percent. The contractor sought an adjustment under the Changes clause, arguing the deliberate government act of troop deployment unilaterally altered the contract by reducing actual workloads.
Changes Clause Inapplicable

However, under the sovereign acts doctrine, the government cannot be held contractually liable for public acts undertaken in its capacity as a sovereign, and it is well established the Changes clause does not cover sovereign acts. It was undisputed the troop deployment was a sovereign government act, so the contractor was entitled to a remedy only if the contract provided one. The solicitation's performance work statement advised bidders of the possibility of "drastic variation in quantity" due to circumstances such as mobilization, deployment, or national emergency, and no contract provision referenced a right to compensation or other remedy for this type of occurrence.
No Implied Right

Further, a promise to compensate for sovereign acts could not be implied from other contract terms. The contract's workload estimates were historically based on and applied to periods of non-deployment, and applying them here would be inconsistent with the "drastic variation" language of the PWS. The PWS did not expressly or impliedly promise compensation for damages incurred as a result of mobilization, deployment, or national emergency, and no other provision covered the sovereign act of deployment. The reduction in laundry requirements was the result of sovereign acts, not contracting actions, and the government took no action in its capacity as a contracting party. The board granted summary judgment in favor of the government and against the contractor. (Robertson & Penn, Inc. d/b/a Cusseta Laundry, Inc., ASBCA, 92,385)


(The news featured above is a selection from the news covered in the Government Contracts Report Letter, which is published weekly and distributed to subscribers of the Government Contracts Reporter. )


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