Congress Requires Large Primes to Provide Past Performance Reviews to Small Subcontractors–And Agencies to Consider Them

Breaking into the federal government contracting marketplace can be challenging, and many small businesses choose to start as subcontractors. But when those companies later bid on prime contracts, they sometimes find that they cannot get past performance reviews for their subcontract work, or that the government won’t consider such reviews.

Now, Congress has stepped in. A provision in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act will require large prime contractors to provide small businesses with past performance reviews in certain cases, and will require agencies to consider them.

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SBA Requires Consideration of Some Subcontractors’ Capabilities, Experience & Past Performance

It’s commonly misunderstood that the FAR requires procuring agencies to consider the capabilities, past performance and experience of an offeror’s proposed subcontractors. Unfortunately, that’s just not true.

But now, as part of a comprehensive new final rule, the SBA will require agencies to consider the capabilities, past performance and experience of small business subcontractors in certain cases.

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GAO: Evaluation of Affiliate’s Past Performance is Optional

In its past performance evaluation, an agency typically can consider the past performance of an offeror’s affiliate, so long as the offeror’s proposal demonstrates that the resources of the affiliate will affect contract performance.

But, as demonstrated in a recent GAO decision involving an Alaska Native Corporation subsidiary, ordinarily there is no requirement that an agency consider an affiliate’s past performance.  In other words, unless the solicitation speaks to the issue, the agency’s consideration of an affiliate’s past performance is optional.

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NHO Prime Gets “Experience” Weakness Despite Experienced Affiliate

An agency was allowed to assign a Native Hawaiian-owned prime contractor a weakness for its experience because the NHO prime lacked relevant experience–even though the prime’s proposal indicated that it would rely in part on the resources of an experienced NHO sister company.

A recent GAO bid decision demonstrates that while a procuring agency is entitled to consider the experience and past performance of a prime contractor’s affiliates under certain circumstances, the agency is not precluded from considering the prime’s own experience (or lack thereof).

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