Limitations on Subcontracting: FAR Council Finally Proposes Rule Change

For small government contractors, the disconnect between the SBA’s updated limitations on subcontracting rule and the FAR’s outdated rules has been very confusing.  For more than two years, the FAR and SBA regulation have used different formulas to determine compliance, and the SBA rule–but not the FAR–allows the use of “similarly situated entities” on small business set-asides and 8(a) contracts.

This has created major headaches for small businesses, who have had no definitive answer to what should be a simple question: “which rule do I follow?”  Now, finally, there is some important progress to report in clearing up this discrepancy: yesterday, the FAR Council issued a proposed rule to update the FAR’s limitations on subcontracting provisions and conform them to the SBA’s rule.

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“Similarly Situated Entities” Exempt From Ostensible Subcontractor Affiliation, SBA OHA Confirms

A “similarly situated entity” cannot be an ostensible subcontractor under the SBA’s affiliation rules.

In a recent size appeal decision, the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals confirmed that changes made to the SBA’s size regulations in 2016 exempt similarly situated entities from ostensible subcontractor affiliation.

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Limitations On Subcontracting: FAR Change In The Works

It’s been more than a year since the SBA issued a final rule overhauling the limitations on subcontracting for small business contracts.  The SBA’s rule, now codified at 13 C.F.R. 125.6, changes the formulas for calculating compliance with the limitations on subcontracting, and allows small businesses to take credit for work performed by similarly situated subcontractors.

But the FAR’s corresponding clauses have yet to be changed, and this has led to a lot of confusion about which rule applies–especially since many contracting officers abide by the legally-dubious proposition that “if it ain’t in the FAR, it doesn’t count.”  Now, finally, there is some good news: the FAR Council is moving forward with a proposed rule to align the FAR with the SBA’s regulations.

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