SBA Fixes Joint Venture Security Clearance Problem

For joint ventures operating under the SBA’s regulations (including SBA-approved mentor-protege joint ventures), dealing with security clearances has been a particularly vexing issue: some contracting officers have insisted that a joint venture (an unpopulated, limited-purpose entity) separately obtain a Facility Security Clearance, even when both joint venture members hold FCLs.

Soon, though, joint venturers will be able to stop worrying about obtaining separate FCLs for their unpopulated joint ventures. A new SBA regulation taking effect next month allows a joint venture to rely on the security clearances of its members.

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Bye-Bye, “Three-in-Two” Joint Venture Rule

If you’ve attended one of my presentations on joint ventures over the years, you’ve probably heard me climb up on my soapbox and proclaim that the so-called “three in two” joint venture rule is one of my least favorite rules in government contracting. If you ask me, the rule is both terribly confusing and so easily circumvented as to be largely meaningless.

Perhaps the SBA was listening to me and others who strongly dislike the rule, because the the three-in-two rule is going away. Effective November 16, 2020, the SBA will replace the three-in-two rule with a different and much less confusing requirement–basically, a “two” rule.

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Alert: SBA Issues Final Rule on Consolidation of Mentor-Protégé Programs and Other Contracting Rules

As we discussed, in late 2019 the SBA issued a proposed rule that would make a number of significant changes to the mentor-protege programs and other small business contracting rules. Well, the SBA will soon issue its final rule on these changes, so make sure you are aware of the new rules.

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SBA Proposes to Remove the “Three” from the “Three-In-Two” Rule for Joint Ventures

The SBA recently proposed a rule that would amend the infamous three-in-two (AKA 3-in-2) rule for joint ventures. SBA’s current regulations provide that a joint venture can be awarded no more than three contracts over a two-year period.

While SBA plans to keep the two-year lifespan for joint venture awards, it plans to get rid of the three contract maximum.

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8(a) Mentor-Protege Agreements Cannot Be Protested, Says SBA OHA

8(a) mentor-protege agreements cannot be protested by competitors, according to a recently-issued decision by the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals.  In Size Appeal of Professional Performance Development Group, Inc., SBA No. SIZ-5398 (2012), SBA OHA held that the SBA’s decision to approve an 8(a) mentor-protege agreement is outside the scope of the SBA size protest process.

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8(a) Mentor-Protege Joint Venture Shielded From “Three-In-Two” Rule Affiliation

According to the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals, an 8(a) mentor-protege joint venture may be entitled to an affiliation “shield,” even if the joint venture violates the so-called “three-in-two” rule by receiving more than three contracts over a two-year period.

SBA OHA’s decision in Size Appeal of Magnum Opus Technologies, Inc., SBA No. SIZ-5372 (2012), should reassure 8(a) proteges and their mentors that if the SBA District Office has approved a contract award to an 8(a) mentor-protege joint venture, the joint venturers are very unlikely to be found affiliated as a result of that contract award.

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SBA OHA: Contractors Must Be Permitted To Contest Affiliation

If you have ever gotten a traffic ticket, you know the ticket typically presents you with two options: send in your fine (essentially admitting guilt), or appear in court and contest the ticket.  The second option is available because in our democracy, a citizen accused of wrongdoing–even a minor traffic infraction–has the right to contest the charges.

The same is true when it comes to SBA size protests.  According to a recent decision by the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals, a contractor cannot be found affiliated with another company unless the contractor is given the opportunity to respond to the particular basis of affiliation at issue.

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