Miss these? 15 Small Business Federal Contracting Stories of 2015

For small federal contractors, it was a busy year, with many ups and downs, and a few surprises.

It was a Twitter feed that blasted hundreds of messages each day. It was a networking event that was only half full but worth it anyway. It was checks that were “in the mail” but then actually–surprise!–arrived. The year of 2015 brought many ever-faster changes and new developments in the federal market. In case you missed some of them, here is a recap of the Top 15 Small Business Federal Contracting Stories of 2015:

#1 – Goal achievement

The Obama Administration reached the 23% goal for small business participation for fiscal 2014 for the second year in a row. The actual total was just shy of 25%. However, critics pounced, questioning why the eligible pool of dollars had shrunk. Here’s our summary of the FY2014 small business scorecards by agency.

#2 – U.S. Supreme Court case

In what promises to be a landmark case, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted a service-disabled veteran small business owner’s complaint against the Veterans Affairs Department.  The plaintiff, Kingdomware Technologies Inc., accuses the VA of not doing what Congress intended in the 2006 law that gave strong preferences to veterans in VA contracting. The VA says Congress did not intend for those preferences to extend to every Federal Supply Schedule contract, which would be unwieldy and make it harder to deliver care to veterans.

#3 – WOSB questionable data

Set-Aside Alert conducted an independent investigation of $139 million in set-aside contracts awarded to Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) and Economically-Disadvantaged WOSBs that were expiring in 2015 and beyond. That represents most current WOSB and EDWOSB set-aside contracts.

It has been estimated that $69 million in 176 set-aside contracts had been awarded in industries ineligible for the type of set-aside used. Those contracts may have been improperly awarded or reported.  That represented about half of the total contract value examined.  SBA officials said they were “very concerned” about the findings and would follow up.

#4 – SBA mentor-protege

The Small Business Administration published a proposed rule for a governmentwide mentor-protege program in February 2015, following Congress’ mandate. The final rule is expected in early 2016.

#5 – SDVOSB contracts tripled

Federal contracts with service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) more than tripled in recent years, rising from $3.8 billion in fiscal 2007 to $13.5 billion in fiscal 2014, according to an exclusive analysis of federal data by Set-Aside Alert.

Set-Aside Alert also reported that veterans who are not service-disabled have seen their federal contracts decrease in value over the last five years. Awards to those veterans dropped by 22%, from $7.1 billion down to $5.5 billion, during the period.

In addition, Set-Aside Alert found that set-aside contracts for SDVOSBs have dominated construction at the VA for the last five years. Those set-asides totaled 57% to 66% of the value of all VA construction contracts from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2014.

#6 – WOSB sole-sourcing

Congress approved sole source contracting for women-owned small businesses in the 2015 national defense authorization law, and the Small Business Administration released regulations in May 2015. Starting Oct. 14, 2015, WOSB sole-sourcing has been in effect.

#7 – OPM hack

2015 was the year that cybersecurity became an urgent priority for federal agencies, following the hugely damaging hack of Office of Personnel Management systems totaling up to 21 million people, including many federal contractors. Official notifications to victims are still ongoing. The mitigation measures, including credit monitoring, are expected to last for a number of years.

#8 – NDAA for FY2016

Approved in late 2015, the terms of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2016 are still being sorted out. There were a number of goodies for small businesses, including new rules to consider joint venture past performance, and authorization for the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals to hear appeals of size standard regulations.

#9 – Vendors question new rules

Small and large federal contractors banded together in concern about several new proposed rules.

The SBA’s Office of Advocacy, as well as several organizations, urged changes to “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces,” which would require federal contractors to disclose labor law violations.  Others objected to the Labor Department’s overtime rule and to a ruling on joint employers by the National Labor Relations Board.

#10 – Professional services

The General Services Administration consolidated several professional services schedules into a single schedule.

#11 – OASIS success

The GSA announced the award of a $937 million contract under its “OASIS” professional services acquisition vehicle. The contract is for management of the Defense Department’s FEDSIM threat mitigation center.

#12 – 8(a) rebounding

Contract awards to 8(a) firms grew by 38% from fiscal 2005 to fiscal 2014, from $11.8 billion to $16.3 billion, according to an exclusive analysis by Set-Aside Alert. The number of 8(a) firms, however, continues to decline. In addition, contract awards to non-8(a) small disadvantaged firms grew faster, doubling from $9.2 billion in fiscal 2005 to $18.4 billion in fiscal 2014.

#13 – 2015 shutdown avoided

Faced with internal divisions within the GOP, House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, resigned. While many conservatives were threatening a government shutdown in a fight over Planned Parenthood funding, the new speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, won agreement on a budget. Small federal contractors widely consider the government shutdown of 2013 to have had a very negative effect on their businesses.

#14 – FedBid upheaval

FedBid, a reverse auction provider, went through a major shakeup in early 2015 following critical audit reports from the Government Accountability Office and the Veterans Affairs Department’s Office of Inspector General.

FedBid signed an agreement with the Air Force to stop a debarment in February. The company also split off its reverse auction business and its founder and chairman resigned. Chief executive Joe Jordan said in an interview in FCW in June that the company has refocused and has not lost any of its federal customers.

#15 – GSA prices paid tools

The GSA established a Common Acquisition Platform Prices Paid Portal to allow for price comparisons on federal contracts. The GSA also is setting up the StrategicSourcing.gov Prices Paid Tool.

From Set-Aside Alert, Jan 8, 2016