Contract Support Costs Under the Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act
Whether the government is required to pay all of the contract support costs incurred by a tribal contractor under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, 25 U.S.C. 450 et seq., where Congress has imposed an express statutory cap on the appropriations available to pay such costs and the Secretary cannot pay all such costs for all tribal contractors without exceeding the statutory cap.
NCLC urged the U.S. Supreme Court to re-affirm more than a century of government contracts law holding that the government is not excused from payment of contract obligations simply because it has chosen to spend the appropriated funds on other projects. In this case, the federal government seized upon ubiquitous contractual language – that payment is “subject to the availability of funds” – to claim that the phrase has the extraordinary effect of excusing the government from fulfilling its contractual promises after the contractor has already provided the agreed upon services. According to NCLC’s amicus brief, were this Court to accept the government’s position, it would upend decades of settled expectations of the government contracting industry, and ultimately frustrate the government’s ability to contract with private companies.
Held: The Government must pay each Tribe’s contract support costs in full.