Marines could do a better job on small biz contracts, IG says

Marine Corps Systems Command is failing to adequately ensure small business contractors get access to defense contracts, according to an Inspector General’s report.

Marine CorpsThe report found that the Quantico, Virginia-based command had not ensured small business contractors had opportunities to subcontract on 12 prime contracts valued at $221 million, offered no compliance tracking on four contracts, did not follow up on large businesses not meeting small business-goals and awarded contracts without subcontracting plans.

“As a result, small businesses may have been denied subcontracting opportunities that large businesses were required to make a good faith effort to provide,” the report said. “In addition, MCSC contracting officials did not determine whether the prime contractors are making good faith efforts to comply with negotiated subcontracting goals and whether liquidated damages should be assessed.”

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SBA proposes to give credit for small business subcontracting at any tier

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is proposing to amend its regulations to  allow an “other than small prime contractor” to receive credit towards its small business subcontracting goals for subcontract awards made to small business concerns at any tier.

Federal RegisterCurrently, other than small business prime contractors establish small business subcontracting goals at the first tier level, and receive credit toward their subcontracting plan goal performance at the first tier level.

The rule also proposes to implement the statutory requirements related to the subcontracting plans of all subcontractors that are required to maintain such plans, including the requirement to monitor subcontractors’ performance and compliance towards reaching the goals set out in those plans as well as their compliance with subcontracting reporting requirements. SBA is also proposing to clarify that the size standard for a particular subcontract must appear in the solicitation for the subcontract.

The proposed rule implements Section 1614 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, Public Law 113-66.

In order to be considered, public comments on this proposed rule must be received on or before December 7, 2015.  The proposed rule and instructions for submitting comments may be found at:

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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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.

Incumbent’s past performance score lowered as a result of missing subcontracting goals

A large incumbent contractor was properly assigned a mere “satisfactory confidence” past performance rating because the large business failed to meet its small business subcontracting goals under four of the five contracts it submitted for evaluation.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO upheld the agency’s assignment of a satisfactory confidence score to the large incumbent–despite the incumbent’s strong performance in many areas–because of the incumbent’s failure to satisfy its subcontracting goals.

In Science Applications International Corp., B-408690.2, B-408690.3 (Dec. 17, 2014), the Defense Logistics Agency issued a solicitation to provide supplies and services pursuant to DLA’s tailored logistics support prime vendor program in the Southeast Region of the United States.  The solicitation provided that each contract would be awarded on a best value basis, considering three evaluation factors: past performance, technical merit, and price.

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SBA proposes stronger enforcement of subcontracting plans

Large businesses’ subcontracting plans would be subject to stricter compliance standards under a SBA proposed rule introduced December 29, 2014.

The intent of the new regulations is to compel prime contractors to make good faith efforts to comply with their subcontracting plans by implementing reporting mechanisms and harsher penalties for fraudulent actions or actions made in bad faith.  Small businesses subcontractors are likely to agree that these are positive changes.

Many large businesses take their subcontracting obligations seriously, and make every effort to meet (or exceed) their goals.  But there are also the bad apples–those that continually over-promise and under-deliver when it comes to small business subcontracting.  Dealing with these bad apples have led some small businesses to become skeptical that large primes will follow through on their stated subcontracting intentions.

The SBA’s proposed regulation attempts to address this problem.

Comments on SBA’s proposed rule are due by Feb. 27, 2015.

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GTPAC-hosted Jan. 22 event to aid Georgia small businesses

On Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) will play host to six federal agencies holding an industry day forum directed at small businesses in Georgia.  NOTE: As of Jan. 16, 2015, this event is booked to capacity, and no further registrations are being accepted.

NCMA logoThe event is being sponsored by the Atlanta chapter of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) and the regional office of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

The event, billed as “Building Partnerships and Collaborating for Success, a Small Business Industry Day and Matchmaking Event,” is open to all businesses in the region who wish to learn more about doing business with  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the General Services Administration (GSA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

In addition to federal agencies, representatives of major prime contractors also are expected to be present, including Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, ICF International, RTI International, WYLE, Westat, Deloitte, and DB Consulting Group, Inc.

Businesses interested in participating in this event must preregister at:

More than 200 vendors are expected to attend.  Matchmaking events will be scheduled by vendors based on NAICS code requirements of government agencies and prime contractors. Details for the matchmaking aspect of the event will be promulgated separately to confirmed registrants.

All vendors participating in this event are expected to have the following completed prior to attending:  SAM and DSBS registration, business cards, an elevator speech, and a capability statement. See web link above for more information.

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.

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Large business’s unmet subcontracting goals result In “marginal” score

A large business was appropriately awarded a “Marginal” score for small business participation based on the large business’s history of failing to meet its small business subcontracting goals.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that the procuring agency properly assigned the large business a low score based on the large business’s history of unmet subcontracting goals, even though the large business apparently pledged to subcontract a significant amount of work to small businesses under the solicitation in question.

The GAO’s decision in Cajun Constructors, Inc., B-409685 (July 15, 2014) involved an Army Corps of Engineers solicitation for the construction of a concrete-covered canal in Louisiana.  The solicitation was issued in an unrestricted basis.  Award was to be made to the offeror presenting the best value to the government, considering price and four non-price factors: past performance, technical approach, key personnel and project management plan, and small business participation plan.

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How one small word change could mean many more contracting dollars for small businesses

Sometimes, it’s the most subtle nuances in a phrase that matter most — and for small government contractors, that appears to be the case in the federal procurement rulebook.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation, a long list of government-wide contracting rules established by the heads of several federal agencies, requires all large companies bidding on prime contracts to specify what percentage of the money awarded would flow through to small-business subcontractors.

The rule is meant to ensure that small firms “have the maximum practicable opportunity to participate in performing contracts,” according to the FAR, and to help the government meet its annual goal of awarding 35.9 percent of all subcontracting dollars to small companies. Collectively, federal agencies have missed that mark each of the last five years.

Bob Justis says one odd word on page 1,343 in the rulebook isn’t helping.

“Out of all your planned subcontracting dollars, you’re required to set aside some percentage of that for small businesses,” Justis, head of Justis Consulting, a contracting proposal development firm based in Washington, said in a recent interview. “However, it’s required to be stated as a percentage of your total subcontract dollars — not as a percentage of the total contract dollars.”

It’s a subtle but important distinction, Justis explained, because a large prime contractor can, based on that rule, pledge to commit 40 percent of its subcontracting dollars to small businesses. If the company then handles all the work itself, resulting in a total subcontracting spend of zero, it still met its small-business subcontracting goal.

After all, 40 percent of nothing is nothing.

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