As we’ve stressed about the mentor-protégé program, the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) primary concern is that the program benefits the small business protégés.
Past performance is a particularly delicate topic for small businesses, presenting something of a what-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg question. Past performance is not strictly required in order to win prime federal contracts, and its weighting and restrictions can vary greatly by procurement. For example, FAR 15.305 prohibits an offeror without a record of relevant past performance from being evaluated favorably or unfavorably under past performance. Nonetheless, many small businesses find it exceedingly difficult to break into the federal market without a record of past performance.
Of concern when SBA initially established the All-Small Mentor-Protégé Program was how past performance would be treated for small business joint ventures authorized under 13 C.F.R. § 125.9. SBA initially required procuring agencies to consider not only the past performance and experience of the joint venture but also of the joint venture members. In the recent rulemaking, SBA broadened the regulation to provide for contracting agencies to consider not only past performance and experience but also the capabilities, of the joint venture members.
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