Alliant 2 Small Business bogged down by size standard appeals

Because of an unusual volume of complaints, it appears that Alliant 2 Small Business won't be open for business any time soon.

Shutterstock image (by Mascha Tace): business contract competition, just out of reach.
 

In early December, the General Services Administration released a list of 80 companies it intended to name as winners of the $15 billion Alliant 2 Small Business contract.

Generally, this is a formality on the way to making a final award. The notice of intended awardees is a requirement of small business set aside contracts and is an opportunity for companies to challenge whether a winner qualifies as a small business.

Most appeals are handled by the Small Business Administration area offices and very few are appealed in another step to SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. But given the size and scope of Alliant 2 SB, there is nothing typical or ordinary going on here.

SBA says a whopping 185 appeals have been filed. The volume of appeals is so great that GSA extended the "Offer Acceptance Period." That was to expire Dec. 31, but has been extended until the end of February.

The extra time was needed for SBA to work through all the appeals.

An SBA spokesman said the area offices will process the appeals "ASAP, however, they are not given priority over cases that were previously submitted or in process."

It generally takes about 15 working days to process an appeal if all the needed information is filed. But the length of time depends on the workload and the number of requests received, the spokesman said. 

If SBA determines that one of the 80 does not qualify as a small business, that one will be deemed ineligible for an award.

GSA did not respond to a request for comment.

A common complaint I have heard is that GSA slanted its small business requirement to favor the biggest of the small businesses, or the largest of the small. One source said there is concern that a significant number of proposed winners will not qualify as small by the time Alliant 2 SB gets underway.

So if the appeals fail, then you potentially would have a business on a small business contract that is not qualified as a small.

I read an interesting appeal on the SBA site involving Alliant 1 SB and a task order. A company appealed to claim that the winner was no longer small But SBA ruled that because the contracting officer did not ask companies to re-certify their small business status, then the award was okay.

Apparently, asking for a recertification is an option on task orders and not a requirement. Recertification is only required when options are exercised or contracts are extended.

So far GSA has not conducted any debriefings. Those will only come after official awards are made.

And of course, after awards are made and debriefings held there is still the possibility of protests being filed with the Government Accountability Office.

In short, it does not look like Alliant 2 Small Business will be open for business any time soon.

This story originally appeared in FCW's sibling publication Washington Technology.

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