The “Three-in-Two” SBA Joint Venture Rule is Partly Gone–Now It’s Time to Get Rid of the Rest

Last year, SBA made joint venturing a little easier by relaxing the so-called “three-in-two” rule. But the “two-year” portion of the rule still exists–and in my view, the rule continues to unfairly elevate form over substance.

SBA, it’s time to take the plunge, and get rid of the rest of the three-in-two joint venture rule.

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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/Protégé 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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