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.
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.
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.
A prospective contractor has the right to file a GAO bid protest challenging an agency’s refusal to set aside a solicitation for small businesses–but only if the protest is filed before the proposal deadline.
In a recent protest decision, the GAO applied the longstanding rule that “alleged improprieties in a solicitation that are apparent prior to the closing time for receipt of initial proposals be filed before that time,” and held that an agency’s failure to issue a set-aside is an “alleged impropriety” to which the timeliness rule applies.
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.
Small business set-asides are not required for simplified acquisitions conducted outside the United States and its outlying areas, according to a recent GAO bid protest decision.
In Latvian Connection General Trading and Construction LLC, B-408633 (Sept. 18, 2013), the GAO rejected the protester’s contention–which was backed by the SBA–that simplified acquisitions must be set-aside whenever the “rule of two” is satisfied, notwithstanding the fact that the procurement is outside the United States.
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.