New rule funnels more contracts to small businesses

Regulators want agencies to reserve more orders on multiple-award contracts and the GSA schedules for small businesses.

Under a proposed new rule, small companies are expected to get more business through multiple-award contractors because that’s where the money has increasingly been going since the mid-1990s.

Regulators have revised the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to match the fluctuation toward task-order contracts, such as governmentwide acquisition contracts, blanket purchase agreements and agencywide contracts. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has pushed those types of vehicles to streamline purchasing and get lower prices.

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

The changes make clear that contracting officers can set aside orders for small businesses both 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 socioeconomic programs, such as the service-disabled, veteran-owned small business program.

Officials are hopeful for what the changes will bring to small businesses. at 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 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 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.