Small Business goals causing big confusion

There is a lot of confusion about Small Business goals that we usually see in Requests for Proposals (RFPs) along with requirements to submit Small Business Subcontracting Plans (SBSPs) and/or Small Business Participation Plans (SBPPs). Hopefully, we can shed a little light on the subject.

Since Small Businesses are credited with most of the technical innovations and job creation in the US, the federal Government has a significant interest in seeing that the small business community remains robust.  One of the ways to help company growth and stability is through profitable federal contracting opportunities.  To this end, the Government established the Small Business Administration (SBA) through enactment of the Small Business Act of 1953.  One of the SBA’s goals is to make sure that Small Businesses win a “fair proportion” of federal contracts. That’s why the Government established prime contracting and subcontracting goals.

Congress has established the following prime contracting goal – 23% of all federal contracts should be awarded to Small Businesses.  Further, Congress established the following socioeconomic goals: Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDBs) – 5%; Woman-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) – 5%; Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) – 3%; and Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Small Businesses – 3%. Note that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also has a mandate to track award to Veteran Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) because of their unique position, but awards to VOSBs are not usually tracked outside the VA.

While these are goals for federal contracts overall, the SBA also negotiates “Agency-wide” goals with each federal Department or Agency each year which may account for some of the different figures you see.  For example, for FY 2017, the VA had an overall Small Business prime contracting goal of 28.5% and they exceeded that goal by awarding 29.72% to Small Businesses.  They also had an overall Small Business subcontracting goal of 17% which they missed slightly by achieving only 16.60%. (You can see all the Agency goals and achievements for FY 2017 on the SBA website at https://www.sba.gov/document/support–small-business-procurement-scorecard-overview .)

The Agency goals may be higher or lower than the national goals.  In addition, the Agency can set goals for each procurement higher than those negotiated with SBA.  However, the sum total of all the Agencies’ goals must meet the goals for the federal Government by statute (i.e., 23%, 5% or 3% depending on socioeconomic category).

Since the Government also tracks the percentage of subcontracts as well as Prime contracts, there is a mandatory requirement that Large Business contractors who win federal contracts over the simplified acquisition threshold must give the “maximum practicable opportunity to participate in contract performance” to SDVOSBs, WOSBs, SDBs, HUBZones, and other Small Businesses that don’t fall into one of those categories.  If the contract is expected to exceed $700,000 (or $1.5M for construction), the Prime must create a SBSP that meets specific detailed requirements.

For some acquisitions (particularly those from Department of Defense), you may have also seen a requirement to create a SBPP.  This participation plan is different from the SBSP in a number of ways and when required, must be submitted by both Large and Small Businesses (unlike the SBSP which is only required from Large Businesses).

The title of the plan is the key to the distinction between the two documents – an SBPP credits the Small Business Prime’s “participation” in achieving the goals and does not mandate any subcontracting (if the goals can be met by the Small Business Prime alone).  The SBSP is limited to Large Businesses who must subcontract to meet Small Business goals.  SBPPs take various forms and do not conform to the specific requirements that the SBSP does

There are numerous nuances to this subject which can’t be covered in this short space, but the “bottom line” is that there are serious consequences to not achieving your Small Business goals so you need to ensure that your plans are constructed properly and reasonably.  If you need help with understanding the Small Business program goals and documents, we may be able to help.

Enhanced Postaward Debriefing Rights

On March 22, 2018, the Department of Defense (DoD) published a Memorandum entitled “Enhanced Postaward Debriefing Rights.” This was issued to implement paragraphs (b) and (c) of Section 818 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 which amended 10 USC 2305(b)(5) and 31 USC 3553 (d)(4).

This memo requires the DoD to include more information in the debriefings than currently given. Specifically, the Government must provide a redacted copy of the Source Selection Decision Document and give the unsuccessful offeror an opportunity to submit additional questions within 2 days after the debriefing. The debriefing won’t be considered concluded until those questions are answered in writing, and they must be answered within 5 days. This provision is applicable to small business awards between $10 Million and $100 Million or for any contract (regardless of size of the business) valued over $100 million.

The memo also warned DoD agencies that it must suspend contract performance upon receipt of a GAO protest: within 10 days after the date of award, or 5 days after the debriefing if no additional questions are posed, or 5 days after the written answers are delivered if additional questions are asked – whichever is later.

For help crafting debriefing questions or a discussion about whether or not to protest, please feel free to contact us.

Senior VA TAC Engineer joins F&A!

We are pleased to announce that Chris Swenarton has joined our team!

Prior to joining Ferlise and Associates, Chris functioned as a Program Manager (PM) for the VA’s Technology Acquisition Center (TAC).   In that role, Chris served as the Source Selection Evaluation Board (SSEB) Chair and as the Technical Factor Chair for numerous high dollar value, mission critical Information Technology (IT) acquisitions at the TAC to include T4 and T4NG.   Chris also managed the development and deployment of numerous cloud-based IT solutions to address the VA’s massive compensation claims backlog.   These innovative IT solutions digitized all paper-based claims documentation, improved the accuracy of claims rating decisions, and reduced the backlog by over 85%.

Prior to his years at the VA, Chris supported the Department of the Army for over 25 years.   His experience includes serving as Acting Director for the CERDEC’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate (S&TCD) where he managed a workforce of over 400 employees in the development and testing of battlefield communications technologies.   Chris also served as the Deputy PM for Tactical Radio Communications Systems (TRCS) and as Chief of the Technical Management Division for three unique PM offices:  TRCS, Field Artillery Tactical Data Systems (FATDS), and Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T).

Chris has received numerous civilian awards and decorations, most notably the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service and the Fort Monmouth Employee of the Year.  He holds a Bachelor’s of Chemical Engineering from Villanova University (1984) and a Masters of Computer Science (1992) from Monmouth University.

Welcome aboard Chris!

Is the SBA’s All Small Mentor-Protégé Program right for you?

As a small business, do you find yourself missing out on opportunities that you know you can do well but can’t compete because you don’t have the right past performance?

Or, as a large business, do you find yourself shut out from opportunities that are set-aside for small businesses?

In either case, the SBA’s All Small Mentor-Protégé Program (ASMPP) might be a good way for you to overcome these barriers. Once the SBA approves your Mentor-Protégé application, you may form a Joint Venture (JV) to pursue opportunities for which you would otherwise not be eligible.

A large business that mentors a small business through this program can compete for those small business set-asides through the JV and a small business protégé can rely on the large business’ past performance. For more information on the benefits of this program or to discuss whether this is right for your business, please contact us today.

F&A to attend the AFCEA Belvoir Industry Day

Vic Ferlise and Mike Ferlise will be attending the upcoming AFCEA Belvoir Industry Days on April 3-4, 2018 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Oxon Hill, MD. This popular event had attracted over one thousand attendees and has boasted hundreds of industry participants in the past.

The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) – Belvoir Chapter, supports the Fort Belvoir community, through this event by connecting the Government with IT industry professionals. Fort Belvoir is home to over 90 diverse tenant and satellite organizations from the Department of Defense, including PEO EIS, INSCOM, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Army Cyber Command, Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), DTIC, PEO Soldier, and many others

F&A to attend the AUSA Global Force Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville Alabama

Vic Ferlise and Mike Ferlise will be attending the AUSA Global Force Symposium in Huntsville Alabama from March 26th through the 28th.

The three-day event will include featured presentations from Army leadership including keynote remarks from the Secretary of the Army, the Undersecretary of the Army, the Chief of Staff and the Vice Chief of Staff. Other senior Army leaders such as the commanders of Forces Command, Training and Doctrine Command and Army Materiel Command will also participate.

The Global Force Symposium and Exposition combines the interests and ideas of warfighters and Senior Army Leaders with the spirit of entrepreneurial and commercial leaders of the Defense Industrial Base. The symposium also incorporates thought leaders from academia and industry to provide a professional development forum that allows participants to learn, network, and move our Army forward.

The New Year brings new rules regarding debriefings

Look for some changes in the New Year regarding debriefings.  For years, Ferlise & Associates has been recommending that clients request a copy of a properly redacted source selection document in connection with debriefings, regardless of the dollar value of the acquisition or and the agency involved.   Now Section 818 of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), titled the “Enhanced Post-Award Debriefing Rights”, which was signed into law December 12, 2017, makes production of a redacted copy of the written source selection award determination mandatory for ANY Defense Agency contract valued over $100 million, or for any Small Business award which is valued at $10 million or more.

That section also requires written or oral debriefings for ALL contract/task or delivery order awards valued at $10 million or more. The third major change is that Defense Agencies must give offerors the option to ask questions within 2 business days after receiving a debriefing. This means that the “protest clock” doesn’t start until the Government answers those questions. While these changes are certainly welcome, please note that they only are applicable to Defense Agencies and not Civilian Agencies like the VA.  Hopefully, we will see these reforms spread soon.

F&A members attending this year’s NVSBE

Wendy McCutcheon (the former VA TAC Director) and Vince Buonocore (the former VA TAC Chief Counsel) along with Vic and Mike Ferlise will be attending this year’s National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE) from December 5–7, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri at the America’s Center. The NVSBE is a great opportunity to meet other Veteran Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) including Service Disabled VOSBs as well as other businesses and to learn about VA procurement opportunities.

We look forward to seeing you at this year’s conference.

Veterans Day

To all those who have put their lives on the line in defense of this great nation….   THANK YOU from all of us here at F&A!