DoD Proposes Updates to its Mentor-Protégé Program

Many federal contractors know of and participate in the SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program. However, there are many agency specific Mentor-Protégé Programs, including the oldest continuous program, the Department of Defense’s Mentor-Protégé Program. The DoD’s program has been operating since around the First Gulf War, and like any good machine that is a few decades old, regularly needs some updates. Just in the past week, the DoD released the newest proposed changes to its program.

Here at SmallGovCon, we have always endeavored to stay on top of all the different changes to the myriad of small business contracting programs. As such, you may remember we covered last year’s changes to the DoD’s Mentor-Protégé Program. Those updates proposed changes to the length of the Mentor-Protégé Agreements, and protégé eligibility, among other items. Well, in what appears to be a new fall tradition, the DoD on October 25 released further proposed changes to its Mentor-Protégé Program.

While there are many similarities between the SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program, and its “older cousin” at the DoD, there are quite a few unique characteristics to the DoD’s own program. While a separate blog post about all the differences is likely justified as some point, for this blog, we will just cover the unique items that DoD is planning on updating right now.

Currently, the DoD’s Mentor-Protégé Program has a deadline for hopeful participants to apply for inclusion. Additionally, Mentors are able to either receive some small business contracting credit or reimbursement of costs through the DoD Mentor-Protégé Program. For Mentor-Protégé Agreements entered into after December 23, 2022, the Mentor actually has deadlines to submit data on those items. Also, to qualify as a Mentor, a business must show the ability to impart value to a Protégé. That of course can be shown in many ways, but one is having DoD contracts and subcontracts equal to or greater than $100 million during the previous fiscal year. Additionally, a Mentor-Protégé Agreement under the DoD’s Program can only last for two years currently, with the possibility of reaching five years in special circumstances.

Now the DoD is proposing to change those specific items. In its proposed rule, the DoD plans to make the following adjustments:

First, you may notice in DoD’s regulations, that it calls its program the “Pilot Mentor-Protégé Program.” The DoD is proposing to make their Program permanent (yes, the oldest continuously operating Mentor-Protégé Program technically is not permanent). In line with that the DoD proposes removing the word “Pilot” from all regulations, likely alleviating those among us who are sticklers for proper word usage. Also, the DoD will remove the deadline to apply to participate in the program. Logically, if something has no end, then there should be no deadline to get in.

Next, to the delight of many who may be trying to determine further deadlines, the DoD proposes removing the specific dates found in the DFARS for mentors to submit for reimbursement and credit towards subcontracting goals under mentor-protégé agreements that were entered into after December 23, 2022.

Also, in moves that were likely aimed to increase participation, or at least interest among potential mentors, the DoD is proposing a reduction of the dollar threshold associated with mentor eligibility, and increasing the length of a mentor protégé agreement. The DoD would adjust the amount of revenue from DoD contracts required to be a Mentor, from $100 Million during the previous fiscal year, to $25 Million. Also, a DoD Mentor-Protégé Agreement would now last three years, rather than two.

Finally, the DoD proposes changes to a type of assistance that could occur under a DoD MPA. The DoD is adding “manufacturing, test and evaluation” to the list of assistance that a Mentor may provide to a Protégé, and “manufacturing innovation institutes” to the list of assistance that a Mentor may obtain for a Protégé.

It is important to note that these are proposed changes, not final. So, there is still a period for comments. Therefore, if you have thoughts or comments on these proposed changes, your comments may be submitted up until December 26, 2023. The DoD will consider those comments when forming a final rule.

While these are only proposed changes, it is likely that in the absence of glaring contradictory comments from the public, the DoD will march forward with these proposed changes. Upon first reading, it appears that these changes may actually help encourage more participation in the DoD’s Mentor-Protégé Program as it allows for longer relationships, and more Mentors to qualify. It also helps alleviate any concerns of those on the fence trying to decide whether they will participate due to it being a “temporary” or “Pilot” program. The stability of the Program, and longer-term relationships should do quite a lot to calm the waters of Mentors and Proteges; especially those who were afraid that assistance would not suffice, or they would have the rug pulled out from under them due to the non-permanent nature of the Program. Of course, much of how this goes could be determined by comments submitted. So, if you have thoughts on these changes or want to help leave your impact on the DoD’s Mentor Protégé Program, you have your chance to submit comments up until December 26th.

Questions about this post? Email us. Need legal assistance? Call us at 785-200-8919.

Looking for the latest government contracting legal news? Sign up for our free monthly newsletter, and follow us on LinkedInTwitter and Facebook.