SBA Plans to Consolidate All Small and 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Programs

The SBA plans to issue a proposed rule consolidating the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program and the 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program.

According to a recent SBA publication in the Federal Register, the SBA has had a change of heart about whether it is necessary to run two similar mentor-protégé programs–one for everybody, and another only for 8(a) firms.

When the SBA created the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program in 2016, the SBA purposely left in place the existing 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program.  At the time, SBA explained that it had considered consolidating the two mentor-protégé programs, but rejected the idea because the 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program “has independently operating successfully for a number of years and SBA believes that it serves important business development purposes that should continue to be coordinated through SBA’s Office of Business Development, rather than through a separate mentor-protégé office managed elsewhere within the Agency.”

Additionally, in 2016, the SBA couldn’t be sure how well the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program would work in practice.  The SBA was concerned that the All Small Mentor-Protégé program might be overwhelmed with applications to the point where SBA might have to institute “open and closed enrollment periods” for that program.  The SBA may not have wanted its 8(a) companies to be subjected to the potential of open and closed enrollment periods–and kept the separate 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program active to make sure that didn’t happen.

Fortunately, the SBA’s concerns about the implementation of the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program proved largely unfounded.  In practice, the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program Office has been, in my opinion, about as close to perfect as a new government office can get.  The ASMPP Office, as it is called (everything in government needs an acronym) is efficient, speedy, and responsive.  Instead of needing to establish open and closed periods, the SBA at one point was able to tell the public that the average processing time of an All Small Mentor-Protégé Program application was a mere eight days.  And because the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program offers the same benefits as the 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program, even many 8(a) companies have elected to apply to the ASMPP instead of the 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program.

Instead of providing a special benefit to 8(a) companies, the existence of two similar SBA mentor-protégé programs has caused some confusion.  For example, many contractors think that an 8(a) company must go through the 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program instead of the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program.  Nope.  Others believe that a mentor-protégé joint venture cannot pursue an 8(a) set-aside contract unless the joint venture was formed under the 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program instead of the ASMPP.  Again, nope.

Now it seems that the SBA has changed its mind about the need for two SBA mentor-protégé programs.  In the Federal Register publication, the SBA says that it “contemplates consolidating the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program and the 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program into one program.”

The SBA plans to issue a formal rule to implement this change, but hasn’t done so yet.  We’ll keep you posted.