GAO: Protester Must Show Awardee’s “Specific Exception” to Subcontracting Limitation

A protester challenging an awardee’s compliance with the FAR’s limitation on subcontracting faces an uphill battle.

As explained in a recent GAO bid protest decision, an offeror’s compliance with the limitation on subcontracting is presumed; a protester, therefore, must present specific evidence demonstrating that the awardee will not comply with the limitation. In many cases–especially when the solicitation does not require offerors to provide a breakdown of costs of the work performed by the prime and its subcontractors–such evidence may be next to impossible to obtain.

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Small Business Set-Asides: Two Small Manufacturers Required

When an agency acquires manufactured products or supplies, the agency need not set aside the solicitation for small businesses under the FAR’s “rule of two” unless the agency has a reasonable expectation of receiving offers from small businesses offering the products of two or more small manufacturers.

A recent GAO bid protest decision highlights a little-known provision of the FAR, which provides that the “rule of two” does not apply to acquisitions for manufactured products over $150,000 where two or more small business nonmanufacturers are likely to submit offers, but the small business nonmanufacturers will not offer the products of two or more small business manufacturers.

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Nonmanufacturer Rule Violation Leads To Default Termination

A procuring agency appropriately terminated a small business set-aside contract for default when the SBA determined, after contract award, that the prime contractor was not complying with the nonmanufacturer rule.

A recent decision of the Armed Service Board of Contract Appeals involved a very interesting factual situation, in which the small business in question told the SBA that it planned to perform the contract in compliance with the nonmanufacturer rule, but then failed to do so.  This failure, according to the ASBCA, justified a default termination.

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GAO: Rule of Two Not Satisfied Where Businesses Do Not Manufacture Products

Where an agency buys manufactured goods, the FAR’s Rule of Two is satisfied when two or small business manufacturers of the end products exist. It is not enough, as GAO recently held, for two or more small business distributors of manufactured products to exist.

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GAO: Rule Of Two Analysis Not Required For Exercise Of “In Scope” Options

The Small Business Act envisions that small businesses will be awarded a “fair proportion” of government contracts. To meet this goal, the FAR instructs agencies to set aside for small businesses acquisitions over $150,000 if there is a reasonable expectation that offers will be received from at least two responsible small businesses, at fair market prices.

While the Rule of Two is powerful, it does not extend to all procurement actions. A recent GAO case illustrates an important exception to the Rule of Two. In Walker Development & Trading Group—Reconsideration, B-411246.2 (Sept. 14, 2015), the GAO held that an agency need not conduct a Rule of Two analysis before exercising an option in accordance with the terms of an existing contract.

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Small Business Set-Aside Decisions May Include Restrictive “Capability” Requirements

The small business set-aside “rule of two” is not satisfied unless the procuring agency has a reasonable expectation of receiving proposals from at least two small businesses capable of performing the work.

Although this sounds like a commonsense interpretation of the rule of two, it may give agencies leeway to define “capability” in manner that eliminates small businesses from participation.  In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that an agency appropriately issued a solicitation as unrestricted based on the agency’s determination that there were not two or more small businesses with at least five years of relevant experience. Of concern, the GAO did not require the agency to prove that five years of relevant experience was necessary to render a firm “capable” of performing the contract.

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GAO: “Rule of Two” Market Research Must Examine Capabilities

When conducting market research to determine whether a small business set-aside is appropriate under the “rule of two,” a procuring agency must do more than determine whether multiple small businesses are likely to submit proposals–it must also make reasonable efforts to ascertain whether those small businesses are capable of performing the work.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that an agency had improperly issued a solicitation as a small business set-aside because the agency’s market research did not reasonably consider whether the identified small businesses were capable of performing the contract requirements.

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