Size protest proposal would allow more flexibility to SBA
The Obama administration wants to revise several acquisition rules dealing with small-business size protests in an effort to standardize rules. The proposal to update the Federal Acquisition Regulation was detailed in a Federal Register notice published March 7.
Among other measures, the proposal would:
- Allow SBA 15 days to determine the size of a protested company, up from 10 days;
- Clarify that contracting officers have the authority to give SBA more time to make that determination;
- Give guidance to contracting officers on what to do if SBA misses the deadline, and;
- Clarify that contracting officers would determine whether to suspend the work until SBA’s Office of Hearing and Appeals renders a decision.
At SBA, the rule change would give OHA discretion to accept an appeal or reopen a formal case to correct an error, if it is within the appeal period and no appeal was filed with the office.
More broadly, the proposal would emphasize to contracting officers that they must update the Federal Procurement Data System to reflect the final size determination.
The proposed amendments match SBA’s rules that clarify the initial and appeal eligibility decisions across the small business programs, including the new Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program.
SBA processes almost 500 size protests each fiscal year. Most protests fail because officials determine the target of the protest to be properly designated as a small business (41 percent) or because the protest is dismissed on procedural grounds (33 percent). Officials determine the protested company to not actually merit the designation in 26 percent of the protests.
Matthew Weigelt is a former FCW senior writer who covered acquisition and procurement.