SBA issues proposed rules for small-biz participation in multiple-award contracts

Thursday - 5/17/2012, 4:11pm EDT

The Small Business Administration has published proposed regulations in the Federal Register, clarifying how agencies should include small-business contractors in multiple-award contracts.

MACs have proliferated across government in recent years, but small contractors contend they are frequently left out of the process. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 sought to rectify that by allowing agency contracting officers to set aside parts of a multiple-award schedule for small-business contractors.

The 2010 law tasked the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the head of the SBA with developing regulations for awarding small-business contracts in connection with MACs.

The new rules spell out three areas where small business can be included in MACs:

  • Partial set-asides — Setting aside parts of a multiple-award schedule for small-business contractors

  • Contract reserves — Reserving awards for small businesses under MACs

  • Order set-asides — Setting aside certain orders for small businesses
The rules state that agencies must "give meaningful consideration" to the above options, and contracting officers must provide an explanation if they decide not to use any of them when awarding multiple-award contracts.

The proposed rule stressed that it will not impose new burdens on agencies and that it does not compel them to award small businesses.

"The rule only requires that agencies consider these tools before awarding the multiple award contract and, if they choose not to use any of them, document the rationale," the proposal stated.

Agencies would be able to bypass the new tools if they have consistently met their small-business goals or have a history of awarding "significant amounts of work" to small businesses, among other reasons.

"SBA seeks to strike the best balance to maximize small-business participation on multiple-award contracts without compromising the greater flexibility and leverage agencies gain in conducting procurements through multiple award contracts," the rule stated.

The proposed regulations also make changes to how small business size standards are applied to companies on multiple-award contracts and orders.

Some agencies inconsistently assign size codes to companies that might be considered small for some work on a multiple-award contract but not all parts of it.

The proposed rules would allow a contracting officer to divide a MAC for "divergent goods and services" into separate categories, which would be assigned their own codes.

SBA will accept comments on the proposed regulations through July 16.

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