Set-aside contracts for women-owned small businesses no longer have a maximum value, under an interim final rule published May 7 by the Small Business Administration. The fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L.112-239 [.pdf]), signed into law Jan. 2, removed the statutory limitation on set-asides for women-owned small businesses. Previously, a contract could not exceed $4 million to be eligible for the Women-Owned Small Business Program, unless it was a manufacturing contract, in which case it could not exceed $6.5 million.
Under the new rule, the set-aside contracts for women-owned small businesses must still be awarded at a “fair and reasonable price” in the eyes of the contracting officer. There also must be an expectation that, in industries where women-owned small businesses are underrepresented, multiple economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses will submit offers. If industries where women are “substantially” underrepresented, the rule says, there must be an expectation that multiple women-owned small businesses will submit offers.
The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 (.pdf) provided a governmentwide goal to award 5 percent of contract dollars to women-owned small businesses. Only 3.98 percent of the federal government’s contract dollars went to WOSBs in fiscal 2011, the year of the most recent data. The Defense Department awarded $9.95 billion to WOSBs–the most of any department that year–but that was still only 3.43 percent of the value of its total prime contracts. The Energy Department only awarded 0.93 percent of its total prime contracting dollars to WOSBs in fiscal 2011.
The SBA is accepting comments through June 6. See the interim final rule in the Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/05/07/2013-10841/women-owned-small-business-federal-contract-program