Small is big in DoD business systems contracts … and that’s a good thing

Thirty-six years ago, a young computer programmer working out of his parents’ garage was looking for investments so he could create the world’s most user-friendly personal computer. “The programmer in question is the late Steve Jobs, and the fund that helped seed Apple in its infancy was part of the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program – the SBA’s investment arm,” said the December 19, 2014 SBA Blog.

Until recently, the Air Force struggled to meet SBA “negotiated” small business goals (SBA Agency Small Business Contracts Data), but there have been steady improvements due to a number of factors, such as implementation of the AF Small Business Improvement Plan. On January 20, the headquarters of the Air Force Materiel Command announced they’d met small business goals for the first time in nine years.

From my perspective as a member of the Air Force for 31 years who has been working on small business contracts for the Air Force the past two years, I have observed the following 10 factors driving the recent success of small business in the Air Force and other services/agencies:

Defense budgets are puckered up. Our Department of Defense (DoD) is painfully trying to balance the needs for research and development, modernizing major weapon systems, increasing personnel costs, heavy deployment requirements and soaring sustainment costs and risks for weapon systems and infrastructure. Amidst all the sequestration, continuing resolutions for funding, budget cuts and racking and stacking priorities, DoD still confronts greater requirement vs. resource deltas than ever before.

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Congress moves forward on measures for small business contractors

Under the direction of former Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the House Small Business Committee over the past six years made overhauling the federal contracting process one of its top priorities, spearheading a number of initiatives intended to funnel more work – and by extension, taxpayer money – to small businesses. When Graves stepped down from the panel at the end of last year, it was unclear whether that effort would continue, or at least whether it would remain near the top of the committee’s to-do list.

Instead, it’s like he never left.

Now led by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), the small business committee has picked up right where Graves left off. Chabot and crew recently held a series of hearings on a number of challenges facing small contractors, and last week, the panel marked up and approved a comprehensive package of changes stemming from those conversations.

“We know that when small businesses compete for federal work, it creates jobs, improves the quality of work, and saves taxpayers’ money,” Chabot said when rolling out the proposal, calling the proposed bill – dubbed the Small Contractors Improve Competition Act – “a commonsense approach to make sure that Washington is working with Main Street.”

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Small business federal contracting would change under House bill

The chairman of the House Small Business Committee introduced a bill that would include more categories for small businesses to get federal contracts.

The bill (H.R. 1481), introduced by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), would increase the number of industries small businesses can compete for contracts as well as identifying new ways to attract small businesses in those new industry categories.

“Small business contracting policies are intended to make sure we have a broad spectrum of small firms working with the government across industries, and when those policies are undermined, it is imperative that we find appropriate solutions,” Chabot says in a March 20 statement.

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Reverse auctions once again in lawmakers’ crosshairs

Lawmakers are marshaling arguments to restrict the contracting tool called a reverse auction, criticizing agency reliance on a practice dominated by a single private firm at a Thursday hearing of the House Small Business subcommittee.

Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., who has introduced H.R. 1444 to limit reverse auctions, said that allowing contractors to bid electronically with increasingly lower prices to provide goods and services creates “a race to the bottom” that neither assures quality nor helps channel work to small businesses. “When reverse auctions are used properly, they can save taxpayer dollars,” Hanna said. “Unfortunately, some agencies have used reverse auctions in a manner that evades vigorous competition and contractor protections.”

Use of the tool at agencies such as the Veterans Affairs Department is dominated by a single Vienna, Va.-based firm called FedBid, which has become controversial for its lobbying practices. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has been collecting data on the practice, but has yet to issue guidance, noted the panel’s ranking member, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y.

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SBA seeks comment on mentor protégé program, small business size rules, government contracting

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is proposing to amend its regulations to implement provisions of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.  Based on authorities provided in these two statutes, the proposed rule would:

  • Establish a Government-wide mentor-protégé program for all small business concerns, consistent with SBA’s mentor-protégé program for participants in SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program.
  • Make minor changes to the mentor-protégé provisions for the 8(a) program in order to make the mentor-protégé rules for each of the programs as consistent as possible.
  • Amend the current joint venture provisions to clarify the conditions for creating and operating joint venture partnerships, including the effect of such partnerships on any mentor-protégé relationships.
  • Make several additional changes to current size, 8(a) Office of Hearings and Appeals and HUBZone regulations, concerning among other things, ownership and control, changes in primary industry, standards of review and interested party status for some appeals.

SBA’s proposed rule, and a discussion of its provisions appears at:!documentDetail;D=SBA-2015-0001-0001.

SBA is seeking comments on the proposed rule, and comments must be received on or before April 6, 2015.


Approximately 600 small contractors will lose their set-aside status in 2015 — and might not know it

Nearly 600 small businesses will lose a set-aside status in 2015 — and the Small Business Administration isn’t so sure they even realize it yet.

That was among the findings from a report released by the Government Accountability Office Feb. 13 assessing the SBA’s contracting program for small businesses located in designated, highly underutilized business zones, or HUBZones.

Areas are designated as HUBZones based on demographic data including unemployment and poverty rates. The problem, according to the GAO, is the SBA lacks an effective way to communicate program changes to small businesses that participate in the program, which allows them to bid on contracts set aside for small businesses located in HUBZones. And because areas can lose their qualifying status due to changes in economic conditions, resulting in a three-year transition period before the status is stripped entirely, communication with participating small businesses is crucial.

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Deadline for comments is Feb. 27 on proposed rule affecting small business federal contracts

Are you a small business owner doing business with the government?  As previously reported here, the Small Business Administration (SBA) recently published a proposed rule to implement Section 1651 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA), proposing to change several key areas that could impact you:

  • The performance requirements applicable to small business and socioeconomic program set aside contracts and small business subcontracting.
  • The nonmanufacturer rule and affiliation rules.
  • The performance requirements for joint ventures.

From the SBA’s point of view, the proposed regulations should benefit small businesses by allowing small business concerns to use similarly-situated subcontractors in the performance of a set-aside contract, thereby expanding the capacity of small business prime contractors and potentially enabling small businesses to compete for and win larger contracts. SBA also believes the proposed rules will strengthen the small business subcontracting provisions, which may result in more subcontract awards to small business concerns. The proposed regulations also seek to address or clarify issues that are ambiguous or subject to dispute, thereby providing clarity to federal contracting officers as well as small business concerns.

Have comments? Visit the Federal Register online for information and to submit your comments by February 27, 2015.

Task order size status based on proposal date, not award date

A contractor was eligible for award of a small business set-aside task order because the contractor was “small” as of the date of its task order proposal–even though the contractor outgrew the size standard by the time the task order was awarded.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that a contractor may qualify for the award of a set-aside task order based on the date of its initial proposal, even in cases where the agency is prohibited from taking small business credit for the award.

The GAO’s decision in Research and Development Solutions, Inc., B-410581.2 (Jan. 14, 2015) involved a Navy task order solicitation for technical and engineering services.  The solicitation was issued as a small business set-aside under the SeaPort-e IDIQ contract vehicle.

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Clayton County Water Authority holds monthly vendor workshops

The Clayton County (GA) Water Authority has a contract preference program for small local businesses.  In addition, businesses currently certified as a small business with City of Atlanta, DeKalb County, or Clayton County may be provisionally certified as a small local business with the Water Authority.

To learn more about Clayton County Water Authority contract opportunities and their small business program, you may wish to attend one of their monthly vendor orientation workshops.

The vendor workshops are held each month in the Water Authority’s Community Use Room located at 1600 Battle Creek Road, Morrow, GA 30260. By attending, you can learn about the Water Authority’s new Small Local Business Certification Program and upcoming opportunities, and hear from guest speakers and other business resources that may benefit your company.

Upcoming 2015 Workshop dates are:

Feb 18th – 2 pm      March 12th – 5pm     April 16th – 9 am

May 19th – 5pm      June 16th – 2 pm       July 16th – 5 pm

Aug 12th – 9 am      Sept 16th – 5 pm        Oct 21st – 2 pm

Nov 12th – 5 pm

Download the workshop flyer here: Clayton County Small Business Workshops 2015

Register to attend workshops at:




GTPAC event supports Georgia small businesses, federal agencies, and large prime contractors alike

The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) hosted an event on January 22, 2015 designed to bring clients, federal agencies, and large prime contractors together in order to allow everyone to discuss working together in the future. More than 300 vendors attended, and they participated in over 400 one-on-one matchmaking appointments.

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Attendees at the Jan. 22 GTPAC-hosted small business event used a smartphone app to check-in and make matchmaking appointments.

Management of this large gathering — including the massive amount of appointment-making needed for the event — was made possible through the use of a new technology application developed by the IVSN Group LLC for GTPAC.   The app featured automated appointment-making capability on smart phones, tablets, laptops and PCs.  Once registered, each vendor representative received automatic confirmation via the app and email.  Confirmations included a bar code that attendees utilized to print their own name tags at the event’s check-in desk.

Breaks between workshop sessions allowed attendees to actively collaborate and network.
Breaks between workshop sessions allowed attendees to actively collaborate and network.

The event, entitled “Building Partnerships and Collaborating for Success,” was held in the auditorium and break-out rooms at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Midtown Atlanta.  The GTPAC team used IVSN’s new technology on-site to expedite extra registrations, and to supplement the one-on-one appointments.  Helpful messages were “pushed” through the app to attendees throughout the day.  Any attendees who did not download the app in advance used a QR code on display in multiple locations at the event to allow them to download the app on-site.

Attendees were given access to a QR code in order to download an app that displayed the agenda, speaker profiles, presentation materials, and other resources.
Attendees were given access to a QR code in order to download an app that displayed the agenda, speaker profiles, presentation materials, and other resources.

Here’s a summary of what was accomplished:

  • All pre-registrants were given instruction on how to come prepared with an elevator speech and a written capabilities statement.
  • GTPAC’s program director Joe Beaulieu acted as emcee of the event with speakers from the CDC, EPA, and VA – and featuring the Regional Administrator of GSA, the Regional Director of SBA, and the Executive Director of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA).
  • Training seminars were held on the subjects of proposal-writing, project management, government contracting strategic planning, and business development.
  • All attendees benefited from individual matchmaking appointments with buyers from nine federal agencies, the State of Georgia, the City of Atlanta, and six major federal prime contractors, including big names like IBM, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman.
  • Scores of the small businesses in attendance also took advantage of this occasion to receive contract-related counseling from the team of GTPAC counselors who were on hand.
  • All of the day’s program elements and related resources were made available on an app which was downloaded by attendees to their mobile devices, laptops and PCs.
More than 300 Georgia business people got a chance to meet one-on-one with government contract decision-makers.
More than 300 Georgia business people got a chance to meet one-on-one with government contract decision-makers.

Presenting sponsors of the event were the Atlanta Chapter of the National Contract Management Association and the Small Business Administration. Supporting sponsors included Axiom Corporation, IVSN Group, and Unitech America.

Presently, GTPAC is soliciting event evaluations from all participants and plans to use the resulting feedback to improve future events and refine the event management app.

Copies of all presentations made at the event can be downloaded below.  They are listed in alphabetical order:

Federal officials like GSA's Torre Jessup (pictured here) briefed Georgia business reps on upcoming contracting opportunities.
GSA’s regional administrator Torre Jessup (pictured here) briefed Georgia business reps on upcoming contracting opportunities.  SBA regional director Cassius Butts also addressed an audience that packed the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s auditorium.