Agencies told to set aside more orders for small firms

Agencies need to seriously consider setting aside task and delivery orders for small businesses, according to a new interim rule, as procurement officials try to help the companies in the expansive world of multiple-award contracts.

Regulators have revised the Federal Acquisition Regulation to match the fluctuation toward task- and delivery-order contracts, such as governmentwide acquisition contracts, blanket purchase agreements, and even agency-wide contracts. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has pushed those types of vehicles in an effort to bulk buy and lower prices.

Officials released an interim rule Nov. 2 about the FAR revisions. The rule took effect the same day.


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The changes make clear that contracting officers can set aside orders for small businesses on blanket purchase agreements, under the General Services Administration’s Multiple Award Schedules and on multiple-award contracts.

The revisions add a new section in the FAR. It authorizes agencies to set aside one or more contracts for small business on a multiple-award contract, including any of the socio-economic programs, such as the service-disabled, veteran-owned small business program.

With new changes, officials want small companies to get more business in the growing world of task and delivery orders since that’s where the money has increasingly been going since the mid-1990s.

Officials are hopeful for what the changes will bring to small businesses. The Defense Department, GSA, and NASA expect agencies to take advantage of the set-aside revisions. They want agencies to identify possible multiple-award contracts through which they could set aside orders for small businesses. They also want agencies to set aside more orders when using GSA’s Schedules, according to the notice.

The changes are based on law and advice from an advisory group.

Congress included language in the Small Business Jobs Act, which became law in 2010, addressing set-asides among task and delivery orders.

Also in 2010, an interagency panel, which was created by President Barack Obama to study small-business contracting, found that the issue needed some attention since multiple-award contracts have become so popular.

“There has been no attempt to create a comprehensive policy for orders placed under either general task-and-delivery-order contracts or Schedule contracts that rationalizes and appropriately balances the need for efficiency with the need to maximize opportunities for small businesses,” the Task Force on Small Business Contracting wrote in its report.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 Stan Jenkins Morgantown, West Virginia

This interim rule is directing agencies to do no more than consider setting orders aside for small businesses. The permissive word "may" is used and not "shall". Do we really think agencies are going to buck the fair opportunity provisions of a contract which were negotiated among the awardees in order to conduct a set-aside? I don't think so.

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