Small Business Regulations and Programs

We are looking forward to participating in Solvability’s GovCon Summit 2021 of which the firm also serves as a sponsor. This year’s GovCon Summit will provide tactics and strategies from the nation’s top GovCon professionals that have helped thousands of companies win government contracts.

Attendees of GovCon Summit 2021 will learn how to increase revenue

After a successful challenge last year to the award of a service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) set aside task order for technology service desk operations by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP or the Agency), our government contracts team successfully defended the award of that task order after the re-evaluation to our client, Patriot, LLC. The challenge and subsequent successful defense of the award highlight the usefulness of the protest process, a process some contractors are hesitant to use.

CBP initially awarded the task order, issued under the Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 3 (CIO-SP3) indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC), to Candor Solutions, LLC in April 2020.  Patriot protested the award to Candor on April 16, 2020, and less than two weeks later the Agency took corrective action.

Candor’s September 2020 Protest

In September 2020, after re-evaluation, CBP awarded the task order to Patriot.  Candor protested, alleging the agency:

  1. Used a facially unreasonable adjectival rating scheme.
  2. Unreasonably deviated from the rating scheme.
  3. Unreasonably evaluated Candor’s proposal.
  4. Did not evaluate Patriot’s proposal in accordance with the solicitation.


Continue Reading Bass, Berry & Sims Successfully Protests—And Then Defends—Client Award of a Task Order Before the GAO

The Court of Federal Claims (COFC) recently affirmed that agencies are required to apply the “Rule of Two” to all federal acquisitions in its decision of Tolliver Grp., Inc. v. United States. Further, agencies must give a reasonable explanation supported by factual evidence when canceling solicitations. The decision ensures that small businesses will continue to have robust access to federal procurement opportunities.

Army Cancels SDVOSB RFPs in Favor of Unrestricted Multiple Award Contract

The two solicitations at issue in this case were for the procurement of training staff for a field artillery school located in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Both solicitations were set-aside for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs). After the Army awarded the contracts to two SDVOSBs, a third SDVOSB bidder protested the awards, alleging deficiencies in the Army’s evaluation of various factors.

The Army issued Notices of Corrective Action for both contracts, stating that it would cancel both awards, “[r]e-evaluate the requirement and acquisition strategy to ensure that it accurately reflects the Army’s current need,” and either cancel or amend the solicitations. The Army’s internal memorandums indicate that part of the rationale for revisiting the solicitations was because the Army now had a new multiple award indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (MAIDIQ) contract vehicle that encompassed the scope of the two solicitations at issue.


Continue Reading COFC: “Rule of Two” Must Be Analyzed Before “Any” Acquisition

In October, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) published a final rule entitled “Consolidation of Mentor-Protégé Programs and Other Government Contracting Amendments,” which went into effect on November 16, 2020. This final rule merges two existing mentor-protégé programs, revises SBA’s affiliation rules, and makes other technical changes to clarify SBA’s size requirements for contractors. Contractors of all sizes should review this sweeping final rule for any changes that may impact them. Here, we present some of the most significant changes this final rule implements.

Merger of SBA’s 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program into the All-Small Mentor-Protégé Program

SBA’s first mentor-protégé program was created in 1998 solely for 8(a) small businesses. The goal of the program was to pair SBA-approved experienced businesses (mentors) with SBA-approved 8(a) small businesses (protégés) to help them develop. Mentors and protégés were able to form joint ventures to compete for contracts and, importantly, were not subject to SBA’s affiliation rules. This affiliation exception is important because SBA’s regulations require a small business to count its annual receipts or employees, plus the annual receipts or employees of each affiliate when determining its size status. Waiving this requirement for mentors and protégés allowed them to be awarded contracts they might have otherwise been ineligible for because of affiliation rules.

In October 2016, SBA created the All-Small Mentor-Protégé Program (ASMPP) to expand the mentor-protégé program beyond 8(a) small businesses to include all small businesses, including women-owned small businesses, service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and Historically Under-Utilized Business Zone small businesses. The ASMPP program possessed similar benefits as SBA’s 8(a) mentor-protégé program, including the ability to form joint ventures and the exception to affiliation rules. The ASMPP has been very popular, with more than 1,200 active mentor-protégé agreements currently in existence under the program. Because of ASMPP’s success and the overlap that exists between ASMPP and SBA’s 8(a) mentor-protégé program, the final rule eliminated the 8(a) mentor-protégé program and merged it into ASMPP in its latest final rule.


Continue Reading Bye Bye 8(a) MPP and Hello to New Small Business Rules!

Information technology (IT) and consulting businesses have continued to attract private equity attention and dollars.  For IT businesses contracting with the federal government, there are additional attractions for private equity investors.

Benefits of Federal Businesses

For starters, federal government business is not as exposed to the vagaries of the U.S. consumer economy as pure B2B or B2C businesses. It is true that the federal sales cycles can be much longer than in the commercial sector.  However, this cuts both ways as once a contract is awarded, it tends to be relatively long-term (up to five years in most cases) and the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) procurement requirements disincentivize the government from terminating a contract for convenience, thus protecting the business from cost-undercutting, at least until a re-compete.

There are also high barriers to entry into the federal marketplace, including regulatory compliance programs and requirements to demonstrate experience. Finally, the size and creditworthiness of the customer, coupled with the relative “stickiness” of contracts awarded, make these investments financeable by lenders knowledgeable about the sector.  Given these attributes, it is little wonder that more and more private equity sponsors are expanding into the federal market space.


Continue Reading Revisiting Private Equity Investment in Federal IT Contractors

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has released the first major guidance regarding the forgiveness of loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by publishing the form of the PPP loan forgiveness application. The forgiveness application, which was posted to the U.S. Treasury’s website on May 15, provides some long-awaited and much needed clarity

Last night the Senate passed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, (CARES Act), by a vote of 96 to 0.  This rescue package will now be considered by the House, which, according to the latest reports, will likely vote on the legislation this Friday.

The bill, which is 883 pages long, will provide immediate assistance to American workers and companies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  For the 3.28 million Americans who filed initial unemployment claims last week, this is welcome, and much-needed legislative action that includes extended unemployment benefits, direct cash payments, small business loans, among other emergency assistance.

Like any complex legislation that is passed so quickly, it will take time to fully digest the implications of all of the provisions, many of which have not been debated or widely discussed.  Among them is a section that has received little notice to date that, if included in the bill when it is signed into law by the president, gives agencies the authority to provide relief to government contractors by authorizing them to pay contractors for paid leave, including sick leave, to maintain employees in a ready state during the shutdown.


Continue Reading Possible Federal Contractor Reimbursement for Keeping Employees in a “Ready State” During the COVID-19 Shutdown

The federal government has taken and will continue to take a host of actions to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.  Our Government Contracts Practice Group at Bass, Berry & Sims is carefully monitoring these developments and will keep you updated through our blog and through our Firm’s COVID-19 Response website page.

While the health of our citizens is, as it must be, the primary focus of the response, Congress and the Executive Branch are scrambling to ensure that companies have sufficient liquidity to continue operations, and continue employing people, notwithstanding the global economic shutdown that could run for months.  Given that the federal procurement budget is in the hundreds of billions of dollars and government contracting involves hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide, our government procurement workers play an important role in facing this crisis.


Continue Reading Increased Progress Payments: DoD Adjusts Procurement Rules to Increase Liquidity

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.


Continue Reading Merging Mentoring Programs: SBA’s Proposed Rule to Simplify its Mentor-Protégé Programs

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.


Continue Reading Covering the Basics: CISA Announces Cybersecurity Essentials for Small Businesses