Today, one week following the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to set-aside contracts and Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) orders for eligible veteran-owned businesses under the Rule of Two, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a hearing on how the decision will affect VA procurement going forward. Chairman David Vitter (R-LA) orchestrated the two-panel hearing alongside Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Chairman Vitter made clear that the Senate wanted to understand how the Kingdomware decision will affect veteran-owned businesses and how to ensure that the VA is implementing the statute’s proper interpretation.
The first panel featured Thomas J. Leney, the Executive Director for the VA, and John A. Shoraka, an Associate Administrator of Government Contracting and Business Development for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Speaking on behalf of the VA, Leney stated that the VA is committed to implementing the Supreme Court’s decision and has already started its review of current procurements. According to Leney, to enforce the decision, the VA is working on creating formal rules and new policy guidelines to regulate how veteran-owned businesses are considered under the Rule of Two. The Supreme Court clarified that the Rule of Two requires setting aside contracts for every competitive VA acquisition, including FSS orders, when two or more eligible veteran-owned concerns will submit offers and an award can be made at a fair and reasonable price. While his remarks emphasized the VA’s approach moving forward, Leney struggled to respond to Senator Vitter’s inquiry into why the VA has spent years improperly applying the Rule of Two to veteran-owned small businesses. While the VA was unable to set a hard cutoff date for when it can assure that all awards will comply with the guidelines of the decision, Senator Vitter set a July 15, 2016, deadline for the VA to issue an update to the Committee to demonstrate their improved procurement methods. According to the chairman, a delay in implementing the Rule of Two would be equivalent to resisting the decision of the Supreme Court – even a three month delay would be unwarranted.