There has been a lot of debate lately about whether or not the government is doing enough to utilize small businesses in their procurement of goods, services, construction and systems. And though federal, state, and local agencies are – for the most part – meeting their small business contracting goals, it is evident that the public sector is striving to raise the bar (and its spend levels) even higher amongst this supplier category.
For example, the GSA just launched a pilot program that would open up Assisted Acquisition Services to agencies and vendors in the third and final phase of the SBIR program, which has already “helped thousands of small businesses to compete for federal R&D awards” since its inception in 1982. This new program will give the 13 federal agencies involved in SBIR, along with participating small businesses, the resources needed to generate contracts – and solidify the government’s purchase commitment – for their state-of-the-art solutions. By simplifying the SBIR-tied acquisition process, the hope is that the public sector can stimulate widespread commercialization of critical technologies and innovations and ultimately convert more small businesses into long-term government contractors.
The White House is also considering a plan to consolidate programs that offer credentials to small businesses hoping to contract with the federal government. This proposed large-scale reorganization plan from the Trump administration will (hopefully) make it easier to qualify once and compete broadly for small business set-aside contracts. Right now, the eligibility criteria and application process for small business contracting credentials vary from agency to agency, even at the federal level. Transitioning to a more standardized process spearheaded by the Small Business Association (SBA) would certainly relieve the financial and manpower burden often required to secure proper certifications upfront. Many state and local governments already utilize SBA certification programs for small businesses and other disadvantaged business entities, such as 8a.
Even better, as National Defense Magazine has reported, “Recent changes to federal caps on the use of micro-purchasing and simplified acquisition methods hold the promise of more agile acquisition, benefitting small businesses.” It is anticipated that many purchases made in the $100,000-250,000 range will now be allocated to small businesses now that the micro-threshold cap has been raised.
Plus: “By reducing contracting red tape and expanding contracting officers’ discretion over vendor selection, these reforms improve the agility of the acquisition system, which should deliver better capabilities and materiel to warfighters more rapidly.”
In other words, the adoption of a more agile procurement model – even if it comes simply in the form of sourcing flexibility – is likely going to be a boon for small businesses.
Small businesses are being offered more resources, and more opportunities, than ever to successfully compete for lucrative public sector contracts. The government recognizes that size is not indicative of value, and they are doing what they can to level the playing field at all levels.