Is the Department of Veterans Affairs required to prioritize service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (“SDVOSBs”) when it buys supplies and services? That, essentially, will be the question before the Supreme Court when it takes up the case of Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. vs. United States. On June 22, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Kingdomware will end a long-running battle between the VA and various SDVOSBs, which have accused the VA of creating loopholes to avoid a statutory contracting preference for veterans. Hopefully, the Court will get it right. As a matter of policy and law, the underlying decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is fundamentally flawed.
When issuing task order solicitations under unrestricted multiple award contracts, procuring agencies are not required to apply the so-called “rule of two” and set aside task orders for small businesses.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO–over the objections of the SBA–held that agencies “may,” but need not, set aside task orders under multiple-award contracts. The GAO’s decision essentially overturns a 2008 decision in which the GAO held that the rule of two does require agencies to set aside task orders.
A small business’s expression of interest in a solicitation came too late to affect the agency’s set-aside decision under the so-called “rule of two,” even though there was no indication that the small business knew about the requirement early enough to affect the set-aside decision.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that an agency was not required to consider a small business’s expression of interest when that expression of interest occurred after the RFQ was released. Although the GAO may have been correct as a matter of law, the result is still discouraging, because nothing in the GAO’s decision indicated that the small business knew (or should have known) of the requirement before the agency issued the RFQ.
In a crushing blow to SDVOSBs, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has denied the appeal of a lower court decision allowing the VA to procure goods and services using the Federal Supply Schedule without first considering whether SDVOSBs can satisfy the requirement.
Rejecting well-stated objections by a dissenting judge, a two-judge majority held that the purpose of the “Veterans First” rule is to ensure that the VA meets its SDVOSB goals, and that so long as the VA meets its SDVOSB goals, it is free to procure services and supplies from the Federal Supply Schedule without first considering a SDVOSB procurement.
The VA is not required to prioritize SDVOSB set-asides when it obtains prosthetic appliances and related services, according to the GAO.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that a specific statutory exemption allows the VA to procure prosthetic appliances and related services in whatever manner the VA deems best, without regard to the ordinary requirement that the VA prioritize SDVOSB acquisitions.
Recently, I brought you the story of a contractor protesting its own award.
Now, in the same “strange but true” category comes a GAO bid protest decision in which a small business argued that the procuring agency should not have set aside the procurement for small businesses.
The FAR’s threshold for meeting the so-called “Rule of Two” for small business set-asides is “purposefully low,” according to a recent decision of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
In Adams & Associates, Inc. v. The United States, No. 12-731C (2013), the Court rejected a challenge to a small business set-aside, holding in part that a contracting officer need not conduct a thorough responsibility evaluation of prospective small business offerors before issuing a set-aside.