There is a possibility the six month bridge contract which closes at the end of this month (2/28/11) will need to be extended one month, until the end of March 2011. There is an important project due in early March and may need continued support by the prime's sub. The new prime contractor is still undergoing connectivity and testing.
Can th prime/sub deny the extension request?
If a Mod is added for the one month extension, can we descope and have it only applicable to one part of the contract? The prime will invoice separately to their new contract.
Can the COTR discuss/mention the possibility of a one month extension to the contractor now or is there protocol that the Contracting Office must first make contact with the vendor?
While there are a lot of factors to consider, in general, yes, a contractor can refuse an extension provided it is something other than an option. The situation you describe would likely result in a bilateral modification which the contractor could refuse to sign. Can you extend just part of the contract, yes, again provided it is agreed to by both parties, and you have the authority to extend (i.e. a signed Justification and Approval or are operating within a FAR & DFARS clause in the contract).
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Another factor that need to be taken into consideration is contract type - is it FFP or cost and will there funding associated with the extension? If the contract is FFP and the deliverable is clearly defined and the contractor is going to be late, an extension modification should be accompanied by the negotiation of consideration for the lateness. If they refuse to sign the mod, they are still late and in breach of the contract. If it is a cost contract, there should be funds tied to the modification so they can complete the project. The inclusion of additional fee is negotiable. If the contractor appears to hesitate in finishing the project, a meeting with the contractor should be scheduled to discuss the impediments to completion, which follows the question about whether the COR can/should discuss the extension.
It would be appropriate for the COTR AND Contracting Officer to discuss the extension jointly with the contractor so all parties understand the limitations and expectations.