In federal contracting, contractors are sometimes torn about submitting a request for equitable adjustment (known as an “REA” under 48 C.F.R. 252.243-7002) or submitting a formal claim under the Contract Disputes Act (41 U.S.C. s. 7103), the latter requiring a final decision by the contracting officer and starts the clock with respect to interest and preserving rights. It is also sometimes not easy for the contracting officer receiving an REA to determine whether the REA is actually a claim under the Contract Disputes Act requiring more immediate action. This recent take by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit hits the nail on the head:
We recognize that contracting officers will sometimes face the difficult challenge of determining whether a request for equitable adjustment is also a claim. Contractors must choose between submitting a claim—which starts the interest clock but requires the contracting officer to issue a final decision within 60 days—and submitting a mere request for equitable adjustment—which does not start the interest clock but gives the contractor more time to negotiate a settlement and possibly avoid hefty legal fees. The overlap between these two types of documents might create room for gamesmanship. For example, a contractor could submit a document that is a claim—starting the interest clock—but appears to be a mere request for equitable adjustment—causing the contracting officer to not issue a final decision within the 60-day deadline and allowing interest to accrue for months or years. But the government has tools to address this challenge: The contracting officer can communicate to the contractor that she is going to treat the document as a claim and issue a final decision within 60 days. Or the government can explicitly require the contractor to propose settlement terms and attempt to settle disputes before submitting a claim to the contracting officer for a final decision.
Zafer Construction Company v. U.S., 2022 WL 2793596, *5 (Fed.Cir. 2022).