VetLikeMe July 24, 2014


VLM logo1Where the Heck are the SBA SDVOSB Mentor-Protégé Programs?


by Steven Koprince


(July 24, 2014 by Steven Koprince Filed Under: News) – A recent Gallup poll puts Congress’s approval rating at 15 percent (which is actually up six points since November). But SDVOSBs hoping to participate in strong federal mentor-protégé programs shouldn’t blame Congress, which has twice passed legislation authorizing—and in one case requiring—the SBA to create or strengthen federal mentor-protégé programs affecting SDVOSBs. Instead, it is the SBA that has dragged its feet, leaving SBVOSBs to wonder if and when 8(a) firms’ monopoly on SBA mentor-protégé programs will end.

Let’s quickly recap where things stand:

  • The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 authorized (but did not require) the SBA to create mentor-protégé programs for SDVOSBs, as well as HUBZones and WOSBs. The Small Business Jobs Act called for any new SBA mentor-programs to be modeled on the 8(a) mentor-protégé program—including, one would surmise, the 8(a) program’s special mentor-protégé joint venturing capability. In the immediate aftermath of the Act’s passage, the SBA indicated that proposed rules implementing the new programs were coming, but the rules never materialized.


  • In 2011, the SBA updated its size rules to state that other agencies running mentor-protégé programs could not confer an exemption from affiliation upon participants, unless those mentor-protégé programs were established by Congress, or approved by the SBA. The DoD’s mentor-protégé program is the only non-SBA mentor-protégé program established by Congress, and the SBA has not approved any other agencies’ mentor-protégé programs. In practical terms, the SBA’s 2011 regulation means that SDVOSBs participating in mentor-protégé programs run by agencies other than DoD could be at risk of affiliation with their mentors. Indeed, in 2012, the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals issued its decision in Size Appeal of J.R. Conkley & Associates, Inc., SBA No. SIZ-5326 (2012), confirming that the VA’s mentor-protégé program does not confer an exemption from affiliation.
  • In January 2013, the President signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act into law. The 2013 NDAA authorized (but did not require) the SBA to establish new mentor-protégé programs for all small businesses. The NDAA stated that any mentor-protégé programs created under the new authority should be modeled on the 8(a) mentor-protégé program, but left the SBA some room to differentiate between the 8(a) mentor-protégé program and “mentor-protégé for all.” A year and a half later, no proposed rules have been issued.
  • The 2013 NDAA also attempted to resolve the problem of affiliation under other agencies’ mentor-protégé programs. The NDAA directed the SBA to issue regulations governing mentor-protégé programs of other agencies. After the SBA’s regulations are finalized, each agency running a mentor-protégé program (except DoD) must conform its program to the SBA’s plan and receive the SBA’s approval. Once the SBA has approved a program, participants in that program would be exempt from affiliation. Non-approved programs would become invalid. Congress directed the SBA to issue these proposed regulations in 270 days (by fall 2013). Nearly a year after the deadline expired, here is no sign of the proposed rules.

On June 13, the SBA’s semiannual regulatory agenda stated that the SBA will “make it a priority” to establish new mentor-protégé programs for SDVOSBs, WOSBs, and HUBZones over the next 12 months. Although the SBA’s statement sounds promising, the SBA said the same thing in the January 7 agenda, as well as its July 23, 2013 and January 8, 2013 agendas. Each agenda has characterized the creation of an SDVOSV mentor-protégé program as a “priority” and each agenda stated that proposed rules are likely forthcoming over the “next 12 months.” Forgive me if I wonder what we are more likely to see in January 2015: the proposed SDVOSB mentor-protégé regulations, or a semiannual agenda again pledging to make SDVOSB mentor-protégé programs a priority over the coming year.

Interestingly, the recent semiannual agendas say nothing about the rules affecting other agencies’ mentor-protégé programs, despite Congress’s deadline. After all, if the SBA currently lacks the resources to implement its own SDVOSB mentor-protégé program, the least the SBA could do is help SDVOSBs participate in other agencies’ mentor-protégé programs without risking affiliation.

To be fair, the SBA has a lot on its plate, and like many other federal agencies, must deal with sequestration and shrinking budgets. But nearly six years after the Small Business Jobs Act became law, it seems clear that the SBA has not yet prioritized SDVOSB mentor-protégé programs. Hopefully, that will soon change.

Since VetLikeMe began publication in January 2010, Steven Koprince has been a regular contributor. His insightful content applicable to small business in all aspects of government contracting has helped VLM develop its reputation as a forceful voice within the SDVOSB community.

Based on his analytical skills and reader feedback, he will now assume a more substantial role in VetLikeMe Weekly. He will feature a weekly article on small business with a concentration on SDVOSB and respond to reader comments. His legal expertise in government contracting will enhance this publication.

Steven Koprince

Small Business News July 24, 2014


July 24, 2014 by Hardy Stone Filed Under: News


Committee examines regulatory hurdles facing entrepreneurs

The House Small Business Committee explored barriers during a hearing on Wednesday that federal licensing regulations place on entrepreneurs and steps the FTC could take to improve the system.

House Small Business Committee Chairman Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said five percent of occupations required licenses 60 years ago, but the number has since ballooned to 30 percent, according to a press release.

The House Small Business Committee explored barriers during a hearing on Wednesday that federal licensing regulations place on entrepreneurs and steps the FTC could take to improve the system.

House Small Business Committee Chairman Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said five percent of occupations required licenses 60 years ago, but the number has since ballooned to 30 percent, according to a press release.

Practical tips for growing small businesses into middle-market businesses




Special to the Miami Herald

It’s a common question for small-business owners: “How can I take my company to the next level and become a middle-market business?” Although at Cassel Salpeter we focus on working with middle-market businesses, I often run into small-business owners in the community who ask for some practical tips.

Read more here:

Testimony of Mr. Robert A. McDonald Nominee to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs


July 24, 2014 by Hardy Stone Filed Under: News

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


Before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs


July 22, 2014Chairman Sanders, Ranking Member Burr, Distinguished Members of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and veterans here and across the country – thank you for the privilege of addressing you today. I am honored to be before you today seeking your endorsement to become the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thank you for scheduling this hearing so expeditiously.

I would like to recognize my wife of nearly 37 years, Diane. Diane and I are blessed with three living parents (her father has passed away), and two children Jenny and Rob. Jenny is married to Scott, and Jenny and Scott have blessed us with two grandchildren, Matthew and Michael. Only Diane could be here today.

Over the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet with many of you individually. I deeply appreciate the Committee’s concern for and unwavering support for our veterans and for the mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs. I’ve listened carefully to your concerns and advice, and have benefited from your counsel.

I very much appreciate the confidence of President Obama in this nomination and am fully committed to fulfilling his charge to me—that is, to transform the Department of Veterans Affairs into an organization that delivers on its Mission. That Mission is to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan’ and by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans. I also want to create an organization that lives by its Core Values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect, and excellence.

My life’s purpose has been to improve the lives of others. I went to West Point to be an officer in the Army to try to help free people who were living in non-free societies. I became an Airborne Ranger Infantry Officer in the 82nd Airborne Division, I wanted to be on the front line in leading that change. I joined The Procter & Gamble Company 34 years ago because of its purpose, which is to improve the lives of the world’s consumers.

My time at West Point and as a Captain in the 82nd Airborne Division instilled in me a lifelong sense of duty to country. My values are steeped in my experiences at West Point and in the military. Those values are what allowed me to be an effective leader at Procter and Gamble – and those values are what I will bring to the management of the VA. I am still guided by the West Point Cadet Prayer, which encourages us to “choose the harder right rather than the easier wrong.”mcdonald

For me, taking care of veterans is personal. I come from and care deeply for military families. My father served in the Army Air Corps after World War II. My wife’s father was shot down over Europe and survived harsh treatment as a POW. Her uncle was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and still receives care from VA. My nephew is in the Air Force, deployed in the Middle East.

My 33 years with the Procter & Gamble Company taught me the importance of effective management, strong leadership, and of being responsive to the needs of customers. When I joined the company in 1980, we recorded $10 billion in sales with over 60,000 employees and with an extensive domestic and international field structure. Today that business is over eight times larger, at $84 billion, with almost double the number of employees. Now P&G’s brands are present in nearly every country of the world. I helped lead this transformation.

I am a forward-looking leader who spent my business career expanding P&G to serve new, emerging, and underserved customers. For example, during my time at the company, we worked to digitize the operations of P&G from end to end, including using digital technology in remote areas to acquire and serve new customers. We added approximately one billion new customers over four years.

That’s the experience needed to modernize VA to serve the next generation of returning warriors, including women, post-9-11 veterans with complex injuries, and those suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

As I have met with members of this Committee over the past few weeks, you have told me the depth of the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs. While there is much that is going well, there have been systematic failures, which suggest that some in the organization have lost track of the Mission and the Core Values. The Department’s problems with access, transparency, accountability, and integrity have been well documented by this Committee and your congressional colleagues, as well as by the President, Secretary Shinseki, Acting Secretary Gibson, the Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, the Office of Special Counsel, Veterans Service Organizations, and Military Service Organizations. There is a lot of work to do to transform the Department and it will not be easy, but it is essential and can be achieved.

The seriousness of this moment demands urgent action, and if confirmed, I pledge to this Committee, and to our nation’s veterans, to take a series of immediate actions over the first 90 days to deliver the needed reforms our veterans deserve. I will put the veteran at the center of all we do, consistent with our Mission.

If confirmed, on day one, I will lay out my leadership vision directly to all VA employees on a national video conference with all VA sites. My charge will be to provide veterans the care they have earned in the most effective way possible. I will ask VA employees to join me in reaffirming our commitment to VA’s Mission and Core Values. I also plan to ask all employees to bring forward any additional flags, concerns, or problems, so as the leader, I know the full picture of what’s going wrong and what can be improved. If confirmed, it will be important to incentivize this process and reward those that constructively come forward to solve problems. I have much to learn about the organization and look forward to gaining valuable input and insights from its employees as well as veterans and other stakeholders.

If confirmed, I will also renew the Department’s strategic plan and ensure it is properly deployed, so that each individual in the organization knows how their work every day ties back to the strategic plan and the Mission of caring for veterans. In the short term, this will mean asking employees to refocus on the Mission and Values of VA. By getting out in the field and talking with veterans and employees and learning as much about the organization as possible, I would be able to determine the processes that would need to be reorganized or streamlined. In the longer term, this will require restructuring employees’ performance metrics and evaluations.

In order to regain the trust of the American people, and most importantly veterans, we must ensure every employee has an action plan in their annual performance review that rolls up to the strategic plan and Mission of the Department. The majority of employees at VA are dedicated to the Mission and Values of the organization. But, those employees that have violated the trust of the Department and of veterans must be, and will be, held accountable.

If confirmed, I plan to improve the communication between the field structure and the central office; between the employees and the leadership. I will start by hosting quarterly video conferences with the entire field structure. I also plan to travel extensively over the first several months to hear directly from employees, veterans, and other stakeholders. I also plan to establish a board of physicians to advise the Secretary on best practices for delivering timely, quality health care.

If confirmed, I will also focus on reorganizing the Department to most efficiently and effectively use our resources to get veterans the care they earned and deserve. The Department must improve its forecasting and develop a strategy for meeting increased demand. At the same time, I believe the Department will need to continue to expand the use of digital technology to free human resources that can be applied more to care for the veterans. Further, I plan to take advantage of VA’s scale to improve productivity and flow people to the work. Today, the Department operates as loosely-connected individual Administrations. Tomorrow, I hope the Department can be “one team with one dream” that will be to get the best care and services to our veterans in an efficient and timely manner.

It is clear that VA must be more efficient and productive. The Department needs to demonstrate that it can manage a complex facilities portfolio; that it can create, with Department of Defense, an integrated records system; that it can regularly and accurately produce key data for decision-makers and oversight entities; and most importantly, providing to veterans the highest quality and most cost-effective benefits possible. All of these things are possible through some of the steps I’ve outlined here and will continue to pursue: expanding the use and application of technology; redefining roles, and increasing accountability.

If confirmed, I will work to transform the Department of Veterans Affairs. I will continue to partner with you, members of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, others in Congress, government agencies, Veterans Service Organizations, and other stakeholders.

The Department has made great strides in serving veterans thanks to the commitment of many dedicated employees, and hard work with our partners and advocates in the community. But the VA is in crisis. The veterans are in need. There is much to do. I can think of no higher calling than to serve our veterans who have so selflessly served our country. With your support, I am confident we will succeed at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thank you. I look forward to your questions.


Making sense of small business marketing


July 24, 2014 by Hardy Stone Filed Under: News


All veteran entrepreneurs can master this skill with time and patience…


vlm7-241When viewed in its entirety, building an effective marketing model for your small business can seem highly complex and somewhat overwhelming. Many entrepreneurs who are new to the world of small business can become so stressed over the marketing aspect it gives them headaches and nosebleeds.

It doesn’t have to be that way if you approach your marketing plan with the right perspective. When I ask entrepreneurs the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” very few give me the correct answer: “One bite at a time.”

You can’t launch a business concept and not tell anyone you’ve done it, and if you’re going to tell the world you may as well do it such a way as to give your business the highest probability of success. MBA’s have turned business marketing into a comprehensive science, but at its fundamental core the concept is fairly easy to grasp and straightforward.

1. It’s effectively communicating your thoughts; 2. It’s conveying a sense of value and benefit; 3. It’s building brand loyalty and trust with consumers; 4. It’s maximizing exposure to the target market; and, 5. It’s generating profit and being successful.

The internet has provided entrepreneurs with a distinct advantage that affords the opportunity to be competitive with the major players in the industry. While your small business cannot compete with the economies of scale and scope employed by large companies, the ability to market for maximum exposure has leveled the playing field and reduced barriers to entry into markets that were once monopolized.

If you combine those factors with your time advantage and ability to focus on niche services for targeted markets, you’ll understand how truly successful your small business can be in spite of the major players in the industry.

When I launched my first business, I didn’t have any knowledge about business marketing – either online or offline – but that didn’t stop me from becoming successful. I committed myself to the process of lifelong learning and eventually this concept became comfortable for me.

Do not have any doubt in your mind that this will become comfortable for you as well over time, and as your business experience increases. There are people in the business world who are highly successful who have much less creativity and experience than you. Trust me, I know.

Remember that just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, your marketing doesn’t have to be initiated at once. “Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step;” you’ll get to your goal one step at a time with patience and persistence.

The art and science of business marketing can be learned by anyone who wishes to pursue the path of entrepreneurial small business.

One bite at a time.



Michael I. Kaplan is the author of “The Prior-Service Entrepreneur,” a passionate advocate for Military Veterans who are transitioning into the civilian workforce, and works as a program content developer with numerous academic and corporate organizations serving that cause. Michael, a regular contributor to VetLikeMe, can be contacted via email at [email protected].

SDVOSB News July 17,2014

July 17, 2014 by Hardy Stone Filed Under: News


When I started VetLikeMe in 2009, my goal was to produce a publication for SDVOSB that provides news, editorial and information that is bipartisan, ethically sound, fair and balanced. When we carried the Washington Post series earlier this year on MicroTech and its alleged contractual overreach, I received a number of emails and telephone calls that slammed VLM as a ‘traitor’ to all SDVOSB and the ‘success of one of our own.’ After thirty years in print, broadcast and freelance media, my alligator skin was tested.

The “Back Talk” we received was colorfully spiced with drama, profanity and vitriol.

That’s the aim of reputable media, isn’t it? To present news and commentary that fosters independent thought and balances factual truths against hopes, allegiances and nuance? Thanks to everyone for their comments.

Hardy Stone

Confirmation hearings for Bob McDonald, President Obama’s Nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tuesday, July 22-2:00 p.m. Russell Senate Office Building, Room 418 Watch — http://www.veterans.senate.govmcdonald

MicroTech Expands Global Reach with new Executive


TYSONS CORNER, Va., June 5, 2014

TYSONS CORNER, Va., June 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ – Leading Technology Integrator and Services Provider MicroTech announced the expansion of their business development team with the addition of Jose Nino as their Vice President of Strategic Relationships.

Read more:

Medical marijuana debated in Kentucky for PTSDMike Wynn, [email protected] 11:11 p.m. EDT July 10, 2014


FRANKFORT, Ky. – Decades after the war, Vietnam veteran Danny Belcher tells of still waking at night with visions of dead friends and bodies hanging in trees. That’s when he reaches for his marijuana pipe.

“I realize it’s just a nightmare,” he said. “I will light that pipe up. I’ll be a criminal. I’ll go back to sleep.”

Advocates of medical marijuana, like Belcher, returned to Frankfort on Thursday, urging state lawmakers to lift legal restrictions on the drug for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

The testimony to the Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection was the latest in a series of legislative hearings this year on allowing cannabis for health conditions such as pain and cancer symptoms.


Swords Into Brewpubs: How Veterans Build Breweries

American soldiers can’t drink when they’re fighting overseas, but returning vets can work wonders in the brewery.

By Kelly Twedell

Among the thousands of beers that will be drank near Fort Bragg this Fourth, there will be at least one that got its start in the war zone of Iraq. Working as medics in a Baghdad hospital, becoming numb to the wounds of war that they treated around the clock, Gerald Montero and two other medics spent their downtime talking about all the beer they would drink and make upon their return. When Eric Whealton, Tito Valenzuela, and Montero all finished their tours and arrived at Fort Bragg, they found a community perfect for launching their inaugural brew, Dirtbag Ales.


House Defense Bill Would Raise Small Business Contracting Goals

By Charles S. Clark

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo. Chair, House Small Business Committee

The defense policy bill that cleared the House May 22 is controversial for multiple reasons, most stemming from its rejection of many of the Obama administration’s cost-cutting proposals in troop compensation, military bases and weapons systems.

But deep inside the 700-plus page National Defense Authorization Act are also provisions to open more federal contracting opportunities to small businesses, and some of these measures are troubling to major contractors.

Senator Brown says Veterans Affairs is “fixable”


By Katie Taylorbrown

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department is “fixable” and that he’ll support President Barack Obama’s choice to fix the troubled agency.

Brown’s comments to Enquirer editors and reporters came a day after Obama nominated the former Procter and Gamble CEO Bob McDonald to be secretary for the department.


How Military Veterans Are Finding Success in Small Business


By Gwen MoranHow Military Veterans Are Finding Success in Small Business

Robert Dyer was sitting around a campfire with some buddies in late 2007 when they came up with an idea for a business. That may not seem unusual, but the campfire was in Afghanistan, and the buddies were all active-duty members and officers of the U.S. Navy, as well as Marines. Their idea was to develop a nutritional supplement designed for the rigors of war.

“Our missions would last about a week at a time, and if we did get resupplied, it would be five or six days into it, so pretty much the food you had with you–that was it,” Dyer says. “But you still need to maintain peak performance; the enemy didn’t really care if you didn’t get any sleep last night or if you weren’t used to the altitude. So pretty much all of us were taking some kind of supplement.”

Instead of toting around various products, the group came up with the concept for RuckPack, a single, power-packed nutritional supplement that would serve the needs of soldiers and others whose bodies need extreme sustenance. Dyer, with the blessing of his fellow soldiers–a few of whom remained on as minority partners in the venture–picked up the idea and ran with it, doing as much as he could while on deployment and then gaining more steam when he returned from another deployment in late 2009. He recently earned his master’s in financial management at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.


Are Budget Battles Slowing Health Care Reforms for Veterans?


Congress is struggling to push legislation over the finish line in response to reports that veterans seeking health care have been left languishing on secret wait lists.


As lawmakers scramble to push through legislation that aims to stop veterans from dying waiting for health care, veterans’ groups hope funding squabbles over the cost of the reforms don’t impede veterans’ access to medical treatment.

The House and Senate are still struggling to push legislation over the finish line in response to reports raised back in April that veterans seeking health care have been left languishing for months on secret wait lists–or never even making it into the queue. Lawmakers were expected to send reform legislation to the president before the Fourth of July recess, but they failed to reach an agreement in time. They’re now under pressure to show results before Congress breaks again at the end of the month.


Abbott unveils jobs for veterans initiatives

Abbott unveils jobs for veterans initiativesTexas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Posted: Saturday, July 12, 2014 9:56 pm

Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott today unveiled a new set of policy proposals that will expand job opportunities for Texas veterans. Speaking to The American Legion in McAllen, Abbott emphasized the importance of encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship among Texas veterans. In discussing his proposals, Abbott offered the following recommendations:

  •  Facilitate employment of skilled veterans by waiving examination and fee requirements for veterans obtaining licenses issued by state agencies.
  •  To increase employment of veterans, allow for a local option property tax exemption for each newly-hired veteran by a commercial property owner.
  •  To increase entrepreneurship among veterans, exempt newly-created, veteran-owned businesses from the Texas Franchise Tax (margins tax) for the first five years that the business is in operation.
  •  Exempt newly-created, veteran-owned businesses from business registration fees.


Bureau of Labor Statistics: Employment Situation of Veterans Summary




The unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001–a group referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans–edged down to 9.0 percent in 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The jobless rate for all veterans also edged down to 6.6 percent. Twenty-nine percent of Gulf War-era II veterans reported having a service-connected disability in August 2013, compared with 15 percent of all veterans.

This information was obtained from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that provides data on employment and unemployment in the United States. Data about veterans are collected monthly in the CPS; those monthly data are the source of the 2013 annual averages presented in this news release. In August 2013, a supplement to the CPS collected additional information about veterans on topics such as service-connected disability and veterans’ current or past Reserve or National Guard membership. Information from the supplement is also presented in this release. The supplement was co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. For more information, see the Technical Note, which provides definitions of terms used in this release.

Highlights from the 2013 data:

–Among all veterans, the unemployment rate for women declined to 6.9 percent in 2013. The rate for male veterans edged down to 6.5 percent. (See table A.)

–Among the 722,000 unemployed veterans in 2013, 60 percent were age 45 and over.

–Thirty-five percent were age 25 to 44, and 5 percent were age 18 to 24.

–Veterans with a service-connected disability had an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent in August 2013, little different than the rate for veterans with no disability (6.6 percent).

Read more:

Rule of Two


July 17, 2014 by Hardy Stone Filed Under: News

A small business’s expression of interest in a solicitation came too late to affect the agency’s set-aside decision under the so-called “rule of two,” even though there was no indication that the small business knew about the requirement early enough to affect the set-aside decision.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that an agency was not required to consider a small business’s expression of interest when that expression of interest occurred after the RFQ was released. Although the GAO may have been correct as a matter of law, the result is still discouraging, because nothing in the GAO’s decision indicated that the small business knew (or should have known) of the requirement before the agency issued the RFQ.

The GAO’s decision in Jacqueline R. Sims, dba JRS Staffing Services, B-409613; B-409613.2 (June 16, 2014) involved a Department of Justice RFQ for parenting program services at the Federal Correctional Institution in Edgefield, South Carolina.

Before issuing the RFQ, the DOJ contracting officer reviewed the SBA Dynamic Small Business Search database, which did not identify any small businesses within South Carolina under the applicable NAICS code that provided parenting instruction or similar instruction. The contracting officer also reviewed the procurement history and discovered that the last three contracts for the services had been awarded to the same individual, which the DOJ concluded would be the only small business likely to submit a quotation at a fair market price.

Based on its market research, the DOJ released the RFQ as unrestricted. Three days after the RFQ was released, Jacqueline R. Sims dba JRS Staffing Services notified that contracting officer that it was interested in competing under the RFQ as a small business. Because JRS is located in Georgia, it had not appeared in the contracting officer’s review of the SBA DSBS database.

After receiving JRS’s notification, the DOJ had reason to believe that at least two eligible small businesses would submit offers at fair market prices. Nevertheless, the DOJ did not revise or amend the RFQ, which continued to be categorized as unrestricted.

JRS filed a GAO bid protest challenging the terms of the RFQ. JRS argued, in part, that the DOJ had erred by failing to issue the RFQ as a small business set-aside.

The GAO held that the DOJ had reasonably confined its market research to small businesses located in South Carolina, and reasonably issued the solicitation as unrestricted after determining that only one eligible small business was likely to compete. The GAO then wrote that the DOJ was not required to switch the solicitation to a small business set-aside after receiving JRS’s notice:

We recognize that JRS, a small business concern located outside South Carolina, notified the contracting officer three days after the solicitation was issued of its interest in competing for this work. Information that first becomes available after issuance of a solicitation does not demonstrate that the contracting officer’s prior determination not to set aside the procurement was unreasonable. Although it is permissible for a contracting officer to change a determination after a solicitation is issued, nothing in the procurement regulations requires the contracting officer to cancel or amend the solicitation when that official subsequently learns of interested, responsible small businesses, assuming that the contracting officer had conducted a reasonable investigation regarding the possibility of two or more responsible small businesses competing on the procurement.

The GAO denied JRS’s protest.

As a legal matter, it is difficult to quibble with the GAO’s decision. Nothing in the FAR or other law requires an agency to revisit its market research or set-aside determination after a solicitation is issued.

However, from a practical perspective, JRS Staffing Services demonstrates the limits of the Rule of Two when it comes to protecting the interests of small businesses. Nothing in the GAO’s decision indicated that the DOJ’s market research included a RFI or any other public notification of the pending acquisition. Without such notice, JRS could not have expressed its interest in the RFQ until the RFQ itself hit the street–and by then, it was too late for JRS’s notice to be taken into account in the set-aside analysis.Steven Koprince

Perhaps this Catch-22 will be addressed one day by the SBA or FAR Council. In the meantime, small businesses that are unaware of an acquisition until the solicitation is issued can hope to persuade the procuring agency to revisit an unrestricted designation, but may not have any legal ability to force the agency to do so.

Koprince is a regular contributor to VetLikeMe

Stone 7/14/14


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Hardy Stone is the editor/publisher of VetLikeMe, the nation's only publication devoted to service disabled veteran owned business.