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Even Work Meant for Small Business is Elusive.

Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC, Sunday, November 02, 2014
Updated: Sunday, November 02, 2014

Even Work Meant for Small Business is Elusive.

For FY2014, sixty-one federal agencies have reported $15.5 billion in Simplified Acquisition Procedure obligations to the Federal Procurement Data System, so far. When you consider Department of Defense obligations that are not currently viewable to the public, the YTD number is $19 billion which represents a two billion dollar increase over FY13 obligations.

Of the dollars reported to FPDS-NG that are public, $13.2 billion was obligated to 6,850 entities who each received at least $250,000 in 'simplified' dollars during FY14. As also reported by agencies, five thousand small business concerns captured $7 billion of these streamlined purchase obligations when they too had at least $250,000 in obligations via Simplified Acquisitions.

How significant of an impact would there be if three to five billion additional dollars was awarded to small federal contractors in a given fiscal year? How many jobs could be created if five thousand additional American small businesses received $1 million dollars each in FY2015? What if it were ten thousand small businesses receiving $500,000 in business from federal agencies? It could happen very easily.

Purchases by federal agencies under the Simplified Acquisition Procedures (FAR Part 13) have an inherent preference for small business contracting. The Federal Acquisition Regulations cite these buys as reserved exclusively for small business concerns (when the amount is within the Simplified Acquisition Threshold) yet it seems many small federal contractors ignore what could be tremendous opportunities for growth and sustainment. Routinely small business captures as many of these dollars without set-aside as they do with set-aside. For FY14 this is represented by the nearly $9 billion awarded to small business with just over $4 billion of it set-aside

Which is why it's so puzzling that nearly $5 billion of the total simplified spend during FY14 was competitively awarded to 'other than small businesses.' I'm good with the two billion in non-competitive awards to large companies, after all, the agency took the time to write a J&A, right? But the other five billion doesn't make sense. Even if agencies didn't expect to receive two or more offers from small businesses competitive in terms of price, quality and delivery so they could set-aside the opportunity, we can still go toe-to-toe with whomever shows up, right?

But I don't believe for a second there are not two or more small business concerns who can provide:

  • Card Reader Access Control System
  • Repairs to a Bulldozer
  • Disposal of Two Armored Vans in Finland
  • Herbicide Treatment
  • Cleaning Supplies/Daily Janitorial Service
  • Cleaning Supplies for Embassy - Commissary
  • 60 EA Unlocked Q10 Blackberry Devices
  • Printer Toner for MFPS
  • Dumpster Rental and Services
  • Interpretation Service
  • Car and Driver from 26 March to 4 May
  • Canopies for US Embassy N,Djamena Vehicles
  • Drapery Installation
  • Install Terminate and Tag for 30 CAT 6 Single Voice Jack Locations
  • Exclusive Use of Helicopter Services for BLM
  • Clothing for the Inmate Population
  • Translation/Interpretation Service
  • Postage Machines Statewide
  • Maintenance Support for UPS Units
  • Language Training Services
  • Survival Japanese Course for Newcomers
  • Upholstery of Furniture
  • Parenting Program Services at USP Lewisburg, PA
  • Inspect Faulty Transformer
  • Brother Intellifax 4100E Laser Plain-Paper Fax
  • Rescue Swimmer Drysuits
  • Medical Technicians
  • 12 Passenger Van
  • Jewish Rabbi Services for FY2014
  • Provide Transitional Drug Abuse Treatment (TDAT) and mental Health Services to Offenders

This is a small sample of the nearly thirty-thousand descriptions of competitive Simplified buys (and modifications) made to large companies during FY2014.

The majority of these dollars, $3.3B, had a place of performance in the United States, most dollars were awarded via a purchase order versus a delivery order or task order against an established contract, and most were the result of a Request For Quotation (RFQ) versus a Request For Proposal (RFP) which means the initial level of effort for responding was a little to a lot less than if it were an RFP.

If you are a small federal contractor who believes these buys are not worth your while, or you simply need more information to understand the opportunity, call or write and I'll point you in the direction of the resources to help you make a good decision. The main issue for small federal contractors when it comes to this low-hanging fruit is not the number of opportunities or that they are too hard to pursue, it's much more basic than that. We're simply not asking for the business. Part of the ask means making the buyer aware of you, your company and your offering. In a nutshell, show up.

On a related note, I have a message for the folks in Congress. Quit over-complicating everything. There is a much more simple approach to take if you want to do something productive and measurable for small federal contractors. In fact, I have language you can feel free to use when updating the language in FAR Part 13.  It goes something like this:

“Each acquisition of supplies or services that has an anticipated dollar value exceeding $3,000 and not exceeding $150,000 $500,000 is reserved set-aside exclusively for small business concerns and shall be set aside.”

The result of this change this will make a very large number of your constituents happy for years to come. Questions?


The Chief Visionary

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."

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