With regard to the 6 month option extension, FAR 52.217-8 says that the option period may be exercised more than once, but not in excess of 6 months. However, it does not stipulate how long an "option provision" is. Therefore, I ask if a length of an option provision needs to be established ahead of time or can the CO decide to exercise only 1 or two months, or perhaps 4 days at their discretion?
Also, what is the purpose of the 6 month extension? Can an agency say that they did not have enough time to put together a new award, and therefore need more time?
Does the length of an option provision need to be established ahead of time or can the CO decide to exercise only 1 or two months, or perhaps 4 days at their discretion? --- The interpretation of the clause at FAR 52-217-8 is to be understood as, "The Government may require continued performance of any services within the limits and at the rates specified in the contract. These rates may be adjusted only as a result of revisions to prevailing labor rates provided by the Secretary of Labor." This is determined by the Contracting Officer and as long as the clause is incorperated within the contract it requires the unilateral decision of the Contracting Officer to exercise. The FAR is explicit about the time frame being "the total extension of performance hereunder shall not exceed 6 months." However it also reads, "The option ... may be exercised more than once."
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Unless the contract has something more specific written about this clause and within that text there is a specific period for this extension of the performance of the services, then this wording lends directly to the interpretation of giving authority for the Contracting Officer to exercise this option multiple times as long as the period does not exceed a accumulated aggregate period of 6 months. No more performance of services is authorized under this clause past the 6 month period. If you only exercise a portion of the 6 months allowed under the clause make sure in writing that you express to the contractor that you may still exercise the remaining balance with appropriate notification(s).
What is the purpose of the 6 month extension? Can an agency say that they did not have enough time to put together a new award, and therefore need more time? --- It may be worth your time to read the full GAO decision in Akal Security, Inc., B-244386, 91-2 CPD ¶ 336, here is a small protion of the decision: "FAR 52.217-8 merely provides the agency with a right to seek up to an additional 6 months of contract performance beyond the 36-month period where exigent circumstances (such as delay in award of a follow-on contract) create the need for continued performance. See FAR 37.111."
Whatever the rationale or "justification" for this extension it must be honest, fully developed and filed in the contract file to mitigate potential future issues that may arise (i.e. - protests or claims).