Small Business Regulations and Programs

On November 8, 2019, the Small Business Administration (SBA) released an expansive proposed rule to merge its two mentor-protégé programs, while also modifying a number of rules applicable to participants in the program. Under the proposed rule, the SBA will combine its 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program into its All Small Mentor-Protégé Program (ASMPP).

The 8(a) program is about two decades old and is reserved for 8(a) firms, while the ASMPP was created in 2016 and is open to any small business. According to the SBA, the benefits to participants in both of the programs are identical and the merging of the two programs is being done to “eliminate confusion regarding perceived differences between the two programs, remove unnecessary duplication of functions within SBA, and establish one, unified staff to better coordinate and process mentor-protégé applications.” Below is a summary of the material proposed changes and new recertification rule that could have a big impact on who qualifies for set-asides under unrestricted multiple award contracts.


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In line with recent actions taken across the government to enhance the resilience of the nation’s cybersecurity apparatus, the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently released a set of best practices for small businesses.  These Cyber Essentials, according to CISA, are intended as a starting point to nurture a “culture of security, and specific actions for leaders and their IT professionals to put that culture into actions.”

The Cyber Essentials provide guidance for both organization leaders and IT professionals across six elements:

  • Yourself
  • Your Staff
  • Your Systems
  • Your Surroundings
  • Your Data
  • Your Actions under Stress.


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In 2016, the Small Business Administration (SBA) established a new government wide mentor-protégé program for small businesses called the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program (ASMPP). The purpose of the program was for established government contractors to serve as mentors to protégé small businesses by providing business development assistance and to improve the protégé’s ability to successfully compete for federal contracts.

This relationship between the two companies is intended to be mutually beneficial. For protégés, the program creates a framework under which firms obtain valuable technical, management, financial, and contracting assistance from established government contractors. For mentors, one of the benefits was the ability to form a joint venture with their protégé to pursue small business set aside contracts without the two companies being considered affiliated for purposes of SBA’s small business size standards.

Three Findings from SBA’s OIG Review of ASMPP

The SBA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) reviewed the ASMPP with the objectives of determining whether SBA implemented effective controls to ensure that it conducted initial application reviews and annual evaluations in accordance with the program regulations and if the SBA successfully measured program success.


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I am looking forward to presenting at ETEBA’s 2019 Business Opportunities & Technical Conference (BOTC) which takes place at the Knoxville Convention Center on October 8-10, 2019. More than 400 participants will gather at the 20th annual BOTC to learn about upcoming opportunities with prime contractors and government procurement officials in the energy, environmental and

Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys Todd Overman and Sylvia Yi will be presenting on key government contracting issues for small businesses.

We are excited to be presenting on key government contracting issues for small businesses on July 17, 2019 at The Tower at Peabody Place in Memphis, Tennessee. The presentation, titled, “Government Contracting Law Overview,” will discuss the pros and cons of business entity types, requirements of the SBA’s All Small Mentor Protégé Program, protecting partnerships

In an article published on April 9, 2019 in CO—, a new digital platform by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, I provided insight on the process of securing federal contracts for small businesses.

Once a business has searched for contracting opportunities and has completed all the necessary registration requirements, it can begin bidding on contracts. Though before bidding, it is important that the company can handle the job the contract requires and that it can meet all of the regulatory requirements – otherwise the contract could ultimately be terminated. “Don’t overpromise in your technical proposal, that becomes part of your contract and you’re going to have to deliver to those technical specs,” I explained.

Additionally, the proposal should include pricing information and according to Todd, the company will want to be realistic and not overcharge while also keeping in mind that the government sometimes chooses the best value over the lowest price.


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Late last month, the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Hearings & Appeals (OHA) issued a decision adhering to its prior line of cases discussing when present effect will be given to an indication of interest (IOI) between a small business and its potential large business acquirer for size determination purposes.  As with prior cases, OHA conducts a fact-intensive analysis to determine whether the parties had an agreement in principle at the time the small business submits its bid on a federal procurement.  The case, Size Appeal of Enhanced Vision Systems Inc., SBA No. SIZ-5978, offers some helpful tips on how to avoid an affiliation finding when negotiating an IOI and still pursuing small business set-aside opportunities.

Background

On October 5, 2017, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Acquisition Operations – Strategic Acquisition Center (VA) issued a small business set-aside RFP for in-home video magnification closed-circuit televisions.  The solicitation had a 1,250 employee size standard.  Proposals were due on December 12, 2017.  Enhanced Vision Systems, Inc. (EVS) timely submitted its proposal and was subsequently acquired by Freedom Scientific, Inc., a subsidiary of VFO Holdings, BV.  The contracting officer notified bidders that EVS was the apparent successful offeror.  In response, FedBiz IT Solutions LLC (FedBiz), an unsuccessful offeror, challenged the awardee’s size arguing that EVS had already entered into negotiations at the time of its initial offer, and therefore should be considered affiliated with VFO, the acquiring large business.  The Area Office sustained the protest, finding EVS and VFO affiliated, and therefore exceeded the employee size standard for the procurement.


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Taylor Hillman and I recently discussed how small Alabama businesses can enter the world of federal contracts. The All Small Mentor-Protégé Program (ASMPP) was established by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to extend business development assistance to all small businesses and help them achieve success in competing for federal government contracts. Only 20 of the 511 approved Mentor-Protégé Agreements had Alabama addresses as of May 5, 2018, despite one of the ASMPP’s top 10 district offices being located in Alabama, showing the potential for growth of the program within the state.

The SBA created an all-inclusive program with the Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses, Women Owned Small Businesses, HUBZones, and others, to streamline and enhance the program. Protégés can learn valuable lessons from mentors, including financial support; assistance in navigating the federal procurement bidding, acquisition and performance processes; business development advice including strategic planning and opportunity identification; and guidance on internal business management systems.
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On February 15, 2019, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a consequential decision for those contractors who will compete for federal contracts as part of a mentor-protégé joint venture.  In Ekagra Partners, LLC, B-408685.18, Feb. 15, 2019, the GAO partially sustained the protest on the basis of an improper limitation on the submission of teaming agreement member past performance, and partially denied the protest finding that agencies can limit the number of past performance experience projects that can be submitted in a mentor-protégé joint venture’s proposal in reliance on a large business mentor firm.

In Ekagra, the protestor challenged the terms of the request for proposals (RFP) seeking to award additional Multiple Award Task Order Contracts (MATOCs) under the General Services Administration’s (GSA) One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) Small Business (SB) Pool 1.  OASIS SB Pool 1 MATOC covers a wide variety of professional services including, but not limited to, consulting, logistics, engineering, scientific, management consulting, project management, and other professional services.


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What are the recent changes in rules that could impact your small business and teaming partners in federal contracting in 2019? The Small Business Administration (SBA) and Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council have recently finalized and issued proposed rules implementing provisions of past NDAAs that could alter how you team and ensure compliance with set-aside requirements on future procurements.

I will address these issues at an upcoming meeting of the Society of American Military Engineers, as well as highlight some lessons learned from SBA’s All Small Mentor Protégé Program as the program enters its third year.


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