GAO Reports on How Contracting Officers Select NAICS Codes

A newly released Government Accountability Office report provides a rare peek behind the curtain of how contracting officers assign North American Industry Classification System codes.

Contracting officers are required by 13 C.F.R. § 121.402(b) to designate the NAICS code that “best describes” the work to be performed. It sounds simple enough, but the report reveals that it can be tricky.

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NAICS Code Appeals: Infrequent, but Often Successful

Because the NAICS code governs the size standard used to determine whether a company qualifies as a small business, the choice of a NAICS code can dramatically affect the competitive landscape for a set-aside acquisition.

The only legal procedure for challenging the NAICS code assigned by the contracting officer is to appeal the assignment to the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. A NAICS code appeal can be an extraordinarily powerful tool for a business to challenge whether a contracting officer assigned the correct NAICS code in setting aside a procurement.

So how often are NAICS code appeals filed, and how often do these NAICS code appeals succeed? A recent GAO report has some answers.

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NAICS Codes & Task Orders: Underlying Contract Controls

When an agency competes a task order under a multiple-award contract, the agency must assign the task solicitation a NAICS code set forth in the underlying MAC.

As demonstrated in a recent SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals decision, when the MAC is assigned a single NAICS code, all task orders competed under that MAC will also be assigned that NAICS code–even if a prospective offeror believes that a different NAICS code will best describe the principal purpose of the task order acquisition.

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No NAICS Code Appeals Of Presolicitations, SBA OHA Confirms

A NAICS code appeal can be a powerful vehicle for influencing the competitive landscape of an acquisition.  A successful NAICS code appeal can dramatically alter a solicitation’s size standard, causing major changes in the number (and sizes) of potential competitors.

But a NAICS code appeal cannot be filed until the solicitation is issued.  As the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals recently confirmed, a NAICS code appeal cannot be filed with respect to a presolicitation.

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Successful NAICS Code Appeal Dramatically Alters Size Standard

NAICS code appeals, while little known, can be an extraordinarily powerful tool when it comes to affecting the competitive landscape of government acquisitions.

Case in point: in a recent NAICS code appeal decision issued by the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals, the appellant prevailed–and obtained an order requiring the contracting officer to change the solicitation’s size standard from 500 employees to $15 million.

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Tick-Tock: NAICS Code Appeal Clock Keeps Running During Discussions

A NAICS code appeal ordinarily must be filed within ten days of the issuance of a solicitation–and a prospective offeror’s discussions with the Contracting Officer do not extend the deadline.

In a recent NAICS code appeal decision, the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals confirmed that the ten-day clock keeps moving even while a prospective offeror is working behind the scenes in an effort to convince the procuring agency to change the NAICS code.

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No Wholesaler NAICS Codes For Set-Aside Contracts, SBA OHA Confirms

Federal agencies must classify procurements for supplies under the appropriate manufacturing or supply NAICS code, not under a wholesale trade or retail trade NAICS code.

In a recent NAICS code appeal decision, the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals confirmed that supply procurements should not be classified under wholesale or retail trade NAICS codes–and rejected a prospective offeror’s claim that the agency should have assigned a wholesale trade NAICS code to the solicitation.

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