Justia Aerospace/Defense Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Aerospace/Defense
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The Federal Communications Commission approved a request by Space Exploration Holdings, LLC to fly its satellites at a lower altitude.The D.C. Circuit rejected the merits of a competitor's claim that the FCC did not adequately consider the risk of signal interference. The D.C. Circuit also declined to review a claim brought by another competitor and an environmental group because the competitor's asserted injury did not fall within the zone of interests protected by the NEPA and the environmental group lacked standing. View "Viasat, Inc. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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Dr. Standley was employed by the Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration. Standley contends that over several years he sought to ensure that the Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System (SABRS) for nuclear detection, was funded and supported, believing this was required under section 1065 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008. He claims his superiors attempted to block funding and his work on SABRS. In 2015, Standley sent an email entitled “Obstruction of Public law 110- 118, NDAA 2008, Maintenance of Space-based Nuclear Detonation Detection System” to the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, with copies to Department of Defense representatives, and the Office of Special Counsel. Following several additional unsuccessful attempts to change DOE's position, Standley filed an unsuccessful appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board, alleging that DOE and its employees retaliated against him for his efforts to change the DOE policy by not selecting him for any of three DOE Director positions posted in 2014-2017. Standley claimed he was engaging in protected whistleblowing when he opposed efforts to defund SABRS. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Substantial evidence supports the Board’s decision. Section 1065 does not require that the DOE provide its SABRS program to the Secretary of Defense. The court acknowledged “Standley’s well-intentioned beliefs about the mission,” and his pro se status, but found his challenges to a government policy decision with which he disagreed unavailing. View "Standley v. Department of Energy" on Justia Law

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Under a 2014 policy, United pilots only accrued sick time during the first 90 days of military leave. Moss, a pilot and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves, sued, alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301, which requires employers to provide employees on military leave any seniority-based benefit the employee would have accrued but for the military leave. He claimed that sick time is a seniority-based benefit that should have continuously accrued or sick-time accrual was available to pilots on comparable periods of leave.The district court granted United summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. For a benefit to be seniority-based, the benefit must be a reward for length of service. Sick leave is not such a reward but is "a future-oriented longevity incentive." United’s sick-time accrual policy contains a work requirement and is in the nature of compensation, not a reward for long service. . View "Moss v. United Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hale-Cusanelli, then enlisted in the Army Reserves and working as a Navy contractor, was arrested following the January 6, 2021 incident at the U.S. Capitol. Hale-Cusanelli did not have a weapon and entered the Capitol through doors that had already been kicked open. He admitted to using signals to urge others forward and to picking up a flagpole that someone else had thrown at a police officer, referring to it as a “murder weapon.” He used his military training and a face covering to protect himself from pepper spray and later stated that he “really wishes” there would be a civil war. Coworkers described him as having "radical views pertaining to the Jewish people, minorities, and women” and reported that Hale-Cusanelli had made abhorrent statements, including that babies born with disabilities should be shot, that “Hitler should have finished the job.” He was detained pending trial, based on the court’s conclusion under 18 U.S.C. 3142(g) that no combination of conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of any other person and the community.The D.C. Circuit affirmed. Although the indictment did not allege that Hale-Cusanelli assaulted anyone, damaged property, or organized the events on January 6, the district court made a forward-looking determination about the serious risk of obstruction of justice and threats to witnesses as the basis for detention and reasonably considered a previous incident in which Hale-Cusanelli participated in violence as an act of retaliation. View "United States v. Hale-Cusanelli" on Justia Law

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Boeing entered into contracts with the Air Force that require Boeing to deliver technical data with “unlimited rights,” meaning that the government has the right to “use, modify, reproduce, perform, display, release, or disclose [the] technical data in whole or in part, in any manner, and for any purpose whatsoever, and to have or authorize others to do so.” Notwithstanding the government’s unlimited rights, Boeing retains ownership of any technical data it delivers under the contracts.Boeing marked each submission to the Air Force with a legend that purports to describe Boeing’s rights in the data with respect to third parties. The government rejected Boeing’s technical data, finding that Boeing’s legend is a nonconforming marking because it is not in the format authorized by the contracts under the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, Subsection 7013(f). Boeing argued that Subsection 7013(f) is inapplicable to legends that only restrict the rights of third parties. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals agreed with the government.The Federal Circuit vacated. Subsection 7013(f) applies only in situations when a contractor seeks to assert restrictions on the government’s rights. The court remanded for resolution of an unresolved factual dispute remains between the parties regarding whether Boeing’s proprietary legend, in fact, restricts the government’s rights. View "Boeing Co. v. Secretary of the Air Force" on Justia Law

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The defendants immigrated to the U.S. from Somalia years ago and lived in Southern California. They were convicted of sending or conspiring to send, $10,900 to Somalia to support a foreign terrorist organization, 18 U.S.C. 2339, and money laundering.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the convictions. The government may have violated the Fourth Amendment and did violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), 50 U.S.C. 1861, when it collected the telephony metadata of millions of Americans, including at least one of the defendants, but suppression was not warranted in this case because the metadata collection did not taint the evidence introduced at trial. The court’s review of the classified record confirmed that the metadata did not and was not necessary to support the probable cause showing for the FISA warrant application. The Fourth Amendment requires notice to a criminal defendant when the prosecution intends to enter into evidence or otherwise use or disclose information obtained or derived from surveillance of that defendant conducted pursuant to the government’s foreign intelligence authorities, but in this case, any lack of notice did not prejudice the defendants. Evidentiary rulings challenged by the defendants did not, individually or cumulatively, impermissibly prejudice the defense and sufficient evidence supported the convictions. View "United States v. Moalin" on Justia Law

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The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud procurement is directed to the long-term provision of enterprise-wide cloud computing services to the Defense Department. Its solicitation contemplated a 10-year indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a single provider. The JEDI solicitation included “gate” provisions that prospective bidders would be required to satisfy, including that the contractor must have at least three existing physical commercial cloud offering data centers within the U.S., separated by at least 150 miles, providing certain offerings that were “FedRAMP Moderate Authorized” at the time of proposal (a reference to a security level). Oracle did not satisfy the FedRAMP Moderate Authorized requirement and filed a pre-bid protest.The Government Accountability Office, Claims Court, and Federal Circuit rejected the protest. Even if Defense violated 10 U.S.C. 2304a by structuring the procurement on a single-award basis, the FedRAMP requirement would have been included in a multiple-award solicitation, so Oracle was not prejudiced by the single-award decision. The FedRAMP requirement “constituted a specification,” not a qualification requirement; the agency structured the procurement as a full and open competition. Satisfying the gate criteria was merely the first step in ensuring that the Department’s time was not wasted on offerors who could not meet its minimum needs. The contracting officer properly exercised her discretion in finding that the individual and organizational conflicts complained of by Oracle did not affect the integrity of the procurement. View "Oracle America Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The district court denied a habeas petition by Al Hela, a Yemeni sheik, challenging his detention at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay. Al Hela claims that the President lacked authority to detain him under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, 115 Stat. 224, for substantially supporting Al Qaeda and its associated forces; that he is entitled to release for due process violations; and that the discovery procedures failed to provide him with a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge his detention. The District Court for the District of Columbia has a standing case management order used in many Guantanamo habeas cases to manage discovery and to protect classified information from unwarranted disclosure. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that the President has authority to detain Al Hela, who “substantially supported” enemy forces irrespective of whether he also directly supported those forces or participated in hostilities. Al Hela’s supportive conduct was not “vitiated by the passage of time.” The proceedings below complied with the requirements of the Suspension Clause, which provides that “[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Guantanamo detainees are entitled to a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge the basis for their detention, not a perfect one. The Due Process Clause may not be invoked by aliens without property or presence in the sovereign territory of the United States. View "Al-Hela v. Trump" on Justia Law

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After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Agility was awarded a contract for support of staging area operations (PCO Contract). Under the Contract, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) could issue individual task orders to Agility. Funds obligated under the contract were sourced from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI). The CPA controlled the DFI, which consisted of Iraqi money. The Contract provided that “[n]o funds, appropriated or other, of any Coalition country are or will be obligated under this contract” and recognize[d] that a transfer of authority from the CPA to the interim Iraqi Governing Council (IIG) would occur in June 2004. The contracting parties were the CPA and Agility. The Contract expressly preserved the right of the United States to assert claims against Agility. A Contract amendment provided that any claim Agility had after the transfer to IIG could not be brought before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals but could only be brought in an Iraqi court. The U.S. Army was designated as the administrator of the PCO contract.In 2010, following an audit of the PCO Contract, the Army contracting officer sent demand letters for overpayments allegedly made under 12 task orders. The Claims Court upheld the offsets, holding that the United States (rather than Iraq) was owed the alleged overpayment and the United States was authorized to offset the alleged overpayment. The Federal Circuit in part and vacated in part. The Claims Court did not evaluate the merits of the offset determination nor the procedures required by law. View "Agility Public Warehousing Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Al Bahlul, a Yemeni national, was Osama bin Laden’s head of propaganda at the time of the September 11 attacks. After he was captured in Pakistan, Al Bahlul was convicted by a military commission in Guantanamo Bay of conspiracy to commit war crimes, providing material support for terrorism, and soliciting others to commit war crimes. The D.C. Circuit vacated two of his three convictions on ex post facto grounds. On remand, the Court of Military Commission Review, without remanding to the military commission, reaffirmed Al Bahlul's life sentence for the conspiracy conviction.The D.C. Circuit reversed and remanded. The CMCR failed to apply the correct harmless error standard, In reevaluating Al Bahlul’s sentence, the CMCR should have asked whether it was beyond a reasonable doubt that the military commission would have imposed the same sentence for conspiracy alone. The court rejected Al Bahlul’s remaining arguments. The appointment of the Convening Authority was lawful; there is no reason to unsettle Al Bahlul I’s ex post facto ruling, and the court lacked jurisdiction in an appeal from the CMCR to entertain challenges to the conditions of Al Bahlul’s ongoing confinement. View "Al Bahlul v. United States" on Justia Law