Banned GAO protester might have a point hidden in his bluster

Latvian Connection may have flooded GAO with inappropriate bid protests, but hidden in the complaints is at least one kernel of an evolving small business procurement issue.

After posting my blog about the banning of Latvian Connection because of the hundreds of protests it has filed with the Government Accountability Office, I received a large batch of emails from the company founder Keven Barnes.

One thing came to light as I read through his lengthy emails with their accusations of corruption and violations of federal procurement law: GAO made the right decision in banning him for several legal reasons, which I explore in my earlier post.

But just because Barnes flooded GAO with bid protests and his filings and emails are rife with seemingly off-the-wall accusations doesn’t mean he might not have a point. GAO and the bid protest process just wasn’t the right forum.

Strip away the more extreme allegations, and there is at least one point in which Barnes might have a point worth debating.

One of the areas that Barnes has been protesting is that U.S. contracts outside of the United States don’t have to meet small business set-aside regulations. Agencies don’t need to use small businesses for contracts; even if they would be required to use small business if the work was to be done domestically.

This is where Barnes focused some of his protests because there has been movement by the government in this area in recent years.

In 2013, the Small Business Administration amended its regulations saying that small business set-aside requirements need to be met no matter where the work takes place.

I still need to do more research on this, but it appears that SBA’s amendment hasn’t been fully implemented. According to a list of open FAR cases, the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council wants to write a final rule implementing the SBA rule. If I’m reading it right.

So, there is action in this area. Change is coming. I’ll write more as I gather more information.

But it appears that for all the chaff Barnes has been throwing around, there is at least one kernel of an issue that is legitimate. And Barnes cares about this issue because his company is a service-disabled, veteran-owned firm.

He may be blustery, and he might speak in extremes, but it appears that there is some truth to Barnes’ complaints. He just chose the wrong venue to bring those complaints to light.