Amazon Web Services last week formally opened its Herndon office last week, in a move that Teresa Carlson, who heads the company’s worldwide public sector, said “demonstrate[s] commitment to the community.”

Local officials lined up to herald the company’s arrival. Gerald L. Gordon, who heads the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, said the arrival of Amazon helps diversify the county beyond government contracting (although Amazon Web Services does a bit of that, too).

He cited the recent wins of Intelsat and Bechtel. “That gives us footholds in different industries,” Gordon said.

Jim Cheng, Virginia’s secretary of commerce and trade, piled on, hailing the company’s choice as a boon for the area. “AWS is such a world-class company, and they could have gone anywhere,” he said.

But the work isn’t all done. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly(D-Va.) joked that local officials are still seeking to lure Carlson herself. “We’re trying to get Teresa to move from Maryland,” he said.

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is in the process of buying The Washington Post and Capital Business.)

Government issues controversial rule

The Obama administration last week issued a new rule that requires contractors to step up their efforts to hire people with disabilities, despite push back from companies.

Under the rule, federal contractors must set a hiring goal that 7 percent of their employees be workers with disabilities.

The Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has said the rule is necessary because the unemployment rate for workers with disabilities remains much higher than for those without. However, contractors have argued that complying with the rule will drive up their costs and that they will face challenges in asking employees to voluntarily identify whether they have disabilities.

Alissa A. Horvitz, co-chairwoman of Littler Mendelson’s office of federal contract compliance programs practice group, noted that the new rule does not take effect for 180 days.

“They’re giving companies six months to come into compliance, and I think that sends a message to the government contractor community that they did hear our concerns,” she said.

GAO rejects SAIC protest

The Government Accountability Office has denied a protest filed by McLean-based Science Applications International Corp. against a Navy contract awarded to Fairfax-based SRA International for IT services for the Military Sealift Command.

SAIC had proposed a cost of $65.1 million to SRA’s proposed $56.5 million, but the Navy conducted what it called “cost realism analyses” and found that SAIC’s proposal would likely cost $76.7 million and SRA’s $74.4 million. Both received the same ratings in the technical, past performance and socioeconomic considerations categories.

SAIC refuted the evaluation, arguing that the Navy improperly adjusted the labor rates of its subcontractors and didn’t hold discussions with the company. The GAO backed the Navy.

GAO denies Beretta protest

The GAO has also rejected a protest filed by Accokeek, Md.-based Beretta USA over the exclusion of its proposal in a Special Operations Command competition to provide precision sniper rifles, ammunition, accessories and replacement parts.

The contracting officer has concluded that “Beretta’s offer was among those that had not demonstrated an adequate approach and understanding of the requirements, and that posed a high risk of unsuccessful performance.”

The GAO said it had no basis to question the decision.