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Why is it that federal agencies take credit for the hard work of small federal contractors?

Monday, September 09, 2013   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Guy Timberlake (
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Why is it that federal agencies take credit for the blood, sweat, tears, time away from family and dollars spent by small federal contractors, when the fact is nearly half of what agencies get credit for had little, if anything, to do with their help?

I don't know why after all these years this bothers me, but it does. It stems from a recent email conversation where this fact was unintentionally "thrown in my face" one could say. It's pretty straight-forward though. Federal agencies commit to goals each year based on how much business they intend to do with companies meeting the criteria of a "small business concern" or one of the socio-economic subcategories of small business. Subsequently, their performance is measured against those stated goals.

Now if an agency "intends" to engage small business for an opportunity using other than a sole-source justification, it would seem to me they would use set-aside competition(s) vice full and open competition. However, when a small business concern ventures into the land of full and open competition, squares off with and beats Lockheed, Booz, CACI or any "other than small" business, the agency takes credit for "doing business with small business" as if they somehow effected the outcome.

Consider the impact on agency small business goals if my formula were applied to the current fiscal year. As of today, sixty-four federal agencies, boards and commissions have obligated $302 billion dollars.

Of these total obligations:

  • less than ten percent, just under $30 billion, has been set-aside for small business concerns.

Where small businesses competed for business that was not sole-sourced or set-aside for small business concerns:

  • Contracting Officer's report making $55,923,465,526.54 in awards to small business concerns FY13 YTD.

This means small business was able to win $26 billion more than was set-aside by agencies.

Give credit where credit is due. Let agencies get credit for when they truly make a difference to small business and make a sole-source or set-aside. The rest should be looked at as a lesson to other small businesses to develop their ability to make set-asides secondary and compete for business Survivor-style.

Outwit. Outlast. Outplay. That's what business and competition are all about.


The Chief Visionary

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


Jaime Gracia says...
Posted Monday, September 16, 2013
Many COs and agencies that are simply hostile towards small business. With the vast disadvantage that small businesses have in reach and capture management, those hostile have fallen enamored with the big firms and hear the siren song about the problems of small businesses fulfilling their requirements. As a result, requirements are the issue, and are usually written such that only large firms can compete. Set-asides for small business are seen as a waste of time, and a bad investment. Regretfully, these perceptions are reinforced when small businesses are uneducated about the requirement, the agency, or otherwise waste the time of government officials. Combined with the lack of effective market research, small business are not seen as a viable option. Outplay is the key.
Eva Freund, The IV&V Group, Inc. says...
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Of course, the contract officers do not believe a small business can actually accomplish the work and so they will not make it a set aside. This was certainly true for some COs at GSA.

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