As recently as May, the Department of Veterans Affairs told a nonprofit helping to employ blind workers that it intended to renew its contract. The organization was shocked, therefore, when on July 30, the VA issued a notice of award to a service-disabled veteran-owned small business. To make matters worse, the nonprofit’s GAO protest of the award was promptly dismissed for being untimely.
GAO recently gave its blessing to a VA decision not to follow the Rule of Two, despite knowing several SDVOSBs would bid. The VA’s decision was based on the contracting officer’s opinion that prices would not be fair and reasonable based on an evaluation of prices and market research. The decision is important for providing some clarification on what research a contracting officer must undertake to establish that prices will not be fair and reasonable for purposes of the Rule of Two.
It’s no secret that the VA has tried to find ways around the statutorily-mandated rule of two–i.e. VA must set aside procurements for VOSBS if it has a reasonable expectation that it will receive fair and reasonable offers from two or more veteran-owned small businesses. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has already told VA, in Kingdomware, that it cannot circumvent the rule of two, VA apparently is still seeking ways to avoid it.