Pushing Congress for an Accessible and Effective 8(a) Set Aside Program for SDB
In December, the Biden administration began moving forward with their objective to direct $100 billion in contract opportunities to small, disadvantaged businesses (SDBs) over the next 5 years. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has provided a memorandum on December 3, 2021, that provides detailed targets. It also adds meeting SDB contracting levels as a key performance indicator for many senior executive service members such as chief acquisition officers, SDB utilization directors, and other personnel with control over contracting. The target is to expand the share of federal contracts awarded to small, disadvantaged businesses from 5% to 15% by 2025.
While this is a great step toward increasing the amount of federally awarded dollars doing to SDBs, administrative obligations can complicate entry to the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program. Obviously, that’s to no one’s surprise as Bureaucracy and government go hand and hand. Fortunately, The House of Representatives Small Business Committee’s Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure has been seeking advice to ameliorate this issue. Consequently, previous Small Business Administration (SBA) employees, lawmakers and small business owners have all been offering recommendations.
Based on the experience of former SBA staff, much of the effort related to the 9-year 8(a) program is spent combatting companies who are fraudulently trying to gain access to the program, however the level of actual fraud is low enough that it doesn’t warrant this amount of attention. This time would be better spent processing applications.
Another issue is that businesses that are eligible for the program and are admitted to it have little experience in the federal government. This can lead to years of submitting proposals before being awarded. A number of attendees recommended providing SDB firms with full-time assistance through the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and offering precedence to application processing for SDB mentors.
It remains to be seen which of these improvements will be implemented, but the subcommittee is dedicated to bipartisan legislation addressing the need for improvements to the 8(a) program. It is clear that small, disadvantaged businesses will start getting a bigger piece of the pie as new legislation is passed and the new metrics are targeted.
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Coronavirus 8(a) response: As an FYI for 8(a) program members, if you were the 8(a) program on January 13, 2021, you will receive an automatic one-year program extension. If you voluntarily suspended your participation in connection with the nationwide coronavirus disaster declaration, the length of the suspension will first be added to your program term along with the additional year. The extension will not cause you to be subject to a higher non-8(a) business activity target (BAT) for the extension period. The BAT will remain at 50% for the final year.