Small business contracting opportunities continue to expand

New and exciting small business contracting opportunities are out there – if you know where to look.

Under Federal Acquisition Subpart 19.5 (Set-Asides for Small Businesses), government purchases with an anticipated dollar value exceeding $3,000 (but not over $150,000) are automatically reserved for performance by qualifying small businesses.  For procurements over $150,000, the contract must be set-aside for exclusive small business performance when there is a reasonable expectation that offers will be received from at least two reasonable small business concerns at a fair market price.

Among these regulations is a little known stipulation that the set-aside requirements apply “only in the United States or its outlying areas.”  The extent of this limitation was recently put to the test in connection with a procurement involving both foreign and domestic chartering services that was set-aside for small business performance by the Department of the Navy, Military Sealift Command (MSC).

Keep reading this article at: http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=365930

Vet admits fraud ‘in spades’ prompted $1.5M TX hospital contract

A Navy veteran has pleaded guilty to charges that he lied about his company’s qualifications to the Veterans Affairs Department to get $1.5 million in contracts for work at one of its hospitals.

Colorado resident Jonathan Patrick Saunders is president and co-owner of Saunders MEP Inc., which has been awarded government contracts around the country — including one for building construction projects at the VA Hospital in Kerrville, TX, which is at the center of his criminal case.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2013 on six counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. To avoid trial, he pleaded guilty Jan. 6th to one count of wire fraud.

The indictment said that when Saunders applied in March 2008 for the Kerrville contract, he claimed that his company qualified as a “service disabled veteran-owned small business,” that certain people with engineering or architectural qualifications worked for the company and that the company had done work on a previous project. In reality, his plea deal said, none of that was true, and Saunders now acknowledges pumping up the credentials of his company.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/crime/article/Vet-admits-fraud-in-spades-prompted-1-5M-6000085.php

Another day, another rule for federal contractors

As we previously noted, federal contractors have been besieged in recent months with regulatory changes and enforcement initiatives advanced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) and various divisions within the Department of Labor (“DOL”). The holiday season has not offered any relief, as the DOL recently announced its final rule implementing Executive Order (“EO”) 13672 on December 3, 2014.

EO 13672, signed by President Obama on July 21, 2014, required the DOL to update the rules that implemented EO 11246, which previously prohibited discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. EO 13672 called for the DOL to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the classes that EO 11246 protects. President Obama’s directive is the first federal action aimed at ensuring LGBT workplace equality in the private sector. The final rule will take effect 120 days from the date of its publication in the Federal Register, which is on or about the first week of March 2015.

The final rule applies to federal contractors holding contracts entered into or modified on or after the date the rule takes effect. In addition to updating the existing rules to include gender identity and sexual orientation, the final rule also updates the Equal Opportunity Clause included in federal contracts. That clause now states that the contractor considers all applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or age. Federal contractors and subcontractors must also include similar statements in their job solicitations and required notices posted conspicuously at work sites.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=361034

Defense agency faulted for wrongful challenge to contractor

The Defense Contract Audit Agency’s decision to reject $6.6 million in a contractor’s claimed costs in fiscal 2008 did not comply with generally accepted government auditing standards, the Defense Department’s watchdog found.

The probe of a complaint received over the inspector general’s hotline substantiated a challenge to methods used by auditors in DCAA’s Central Region.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/12/defense-agency-faulted-wrongful-challenge-contractor/102063/

What you need to know about changes to the National Defense Authorization Act

President Obama recently signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2015, which provides new provisions that impact women-owned businesses. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) also proposed to amend regulations implementing provisions of the NDAA Act that will impact small business contractors.

Bottom line: If you’re a women-owned small business or a small business doing business with the government, the NDAA includes a number of provisions that impact you.

Highlights of the proposed revisions to the NDAA include:

  1. Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Program:  Section 825 of the NDAA authorizes federal agencies to award sole-source contracts to women-owned small businesses eligible for SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Program, providing parity in the federal contracting marketplace to other small business categories.  For more on the proposed rules, see SBA’s recent press release.
  2. Subcontracting:  Section 1651 changes the way that performance is calculated on small and socioeconomic set-aside contracts, and authorizes similarly situated subcontractors to count towards the performance requirements. 
  3. Joint Ventures:  Section 1651 makes the performance requirements consistent, regardless of whether or not a small business chooses to joint venture or perform in a prime or subcontractor relationship.
  4. Non-Manufacturer Rule:  Section 1651 changes SBA’s non-manufacturer rule and affiliation rules, including the elimination of waiver requests for procurements below the Simplified Acquisition Threshold (SAT) of $150,000.  The non-manufacturer rule allows a small business to offer a product, that it did not manufacture, under a small business set-aside if SBA has offered a waiver.  SBA defines affiliation as the ability to control. When the ability to control exists, even if it is not exercised, affiliation exists.

For updates on these proposed changes, visit the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov.

SBA proposed rule would let small businesses join together for single contract

The Small Business Administration issued a proposed rule that would let two or more small businesses join together to bid on single small business contracts, a Dec. 29, 2014 Federal Register notice says.

The proposed rule comes as part of an update in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that changed some provisions in the Small Business Act.

“SBA proposes to remove the restriction on the type of contract for which small businesses may joint venture without being affiliated for size determination purposes,” the proposed rule says.

SBA says it’s proposing the change because it would encourage more small business joint venturing and would help agencies meet goals for small business participation in federal contracting.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/sba-proposed-rule-would-let-small-businesses-join-together-single-contract/2015-01-08

Businesses, Pentagon agree this program doesn’t work — Congress saved it anyway

Over the past quarter century, the Defense Department has been testing a contracting program that was intended to help small businesses obtain a larger share of federal work. However, Pentagon officials and small business leaders say the initiative has not only failed to help small contractors, it’s actually hurt them.

In other words, neither those running the program nor those it was supposedly intended to help believe the program works. Thus, many expected the experiment to come to an end when its most recent congressional approval expires on Wednesday.

But that’s not happening.

In what critics are calling another victory for Washington’s massive contracting darlings at the expense of small businesses, Congress has approved legislation extending the contracting initiative, called the Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program (CSPTP), for another three years. It’s the eighth time the program has been revived.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/businesses-pentagon-agree-this-program-doesnt-work-congress-saved-it-anyway/2014/12/30/80d72aa0-9066-11e4-ba53-a477d66580ed_story.html

For government contractors, 2015 is in full swing

Contractors with their eyes on hot-button issues such as cybersecurity legislation, information technology (IT) acquisition reform, and strategic sourcing policy have plenty to consider in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and a recent policy memorandum issued by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Administrator Anne Rung. Some key items to consider:

  • Cybersecurity: In 2015, the Department of Defense must issue rules requiring “operationally critical contractors” to report cyber incidents in their network and information systems.
  • IT Acquisition Reform: Under the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), Chief Information Officers in Federal agencies will take key roles in the acquisition process, which could affect the nature of IT-related acquisitions for years to come.  FITARA also sharpens the Government’s FOCUS on strategic sourcing.
  • Strategic Sourcing and Category Management: In an initiative that complements strategic sourcing, OMB has established “category management” as a key Federal acquisition strategy, which will foster Government-wide purchasing of items, such as IT hardware and software, by one source instead of through multiple agencies.

For a broad array of contractors, those “operationally critical contractors” working with the DoD, providers of IT-related supplies and services, and those supplying “categories” of supplies throughout the Federal government, these changes will affect their daily operations and how they market and sell to their Federal customers in 2015 and beyond.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=362362

SBA announces new HUBZone designations effective Jan. 1, 2015

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced changes to the geographic HUBZone designations, effective January 1, 2015.

The SBA says the changes reflect several new data sources. These data sources include:

  • American Community Survey 2009-2013 five year estimates,
  • 2013 OMB metropolitan area delineations, and
  • 2015 lists of Difficult Development Areas and Qualified Census Tracts, released by HUD in October 2014.

The changes reflect:

  • eight newly qualified counties,
  • 47 counties that have been re-designated until January 2018,
  • 1,479 newly qualified census tracts, and
  • 1,319 census tracts that have been re-designated until January 2018.

All current HUBZone designated areas can be found by downloading this document: HUBZone Designations – effective 01.01.2015

Please note that these new changes have not been incorporated into SBA’s interactive HUBZone map yet.  SBA says it will make another announcement about revisions to the map when it is updated.

For more information about the HUBZone program, please see: https://www.sba.gov/content/understanding-hubzone-program

Lax oversight allows women-only contracts to go to men

Jennifer Dickerson spent more than 40 hours of work over three months to get her Orlando environmental consulting company certified as a women-owned business, a designation that would help her win federal contracts intended to go to disadvantaged businesses. She and her assistant assembled legal documents and tax records, responded to multiple questions, and paid a $275 processing fee to a third-party agency to prove that her small company is majority woman-owned and operated.

“It was important to me to make sure I adhered to all the requirements” of the federal program established in 2000 to set aside a percentage of government contracts for women-owned small businesses, Dickerson says.

Not every business owner shares Dickerson’s sense of responsibility. A recent report critical of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s program revealed that more than 40 percent of companies that got government contracts as women-owned businesses in the last two years were not actually eligible.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-11-20/lax-oversight-lets-men-pose-as-women-to-win-government-contracts