The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) recently announced that, yet again, the federal government exceeded its small business contracting goal by awarding $145.7 billion dollars in federal prime contracts – 26.01% of the government’s total procurement spending – to small businesses last year, with at least an additional $82.8 billion in small business subcontracts. The SBA released statistics in its FY 2020 Small Business Procurement Scorecard, available here. Notably, while small business contracting increased $13 billion in prime contracts, small business subcontracting may have decreased by an estimated $7.9 billion. Other Scorecard highlights include that the U.S. government exceeded the service-disabled veteran-owned small business goal of 3% and far-exceeded the small disadvantaged business goal of 5%. The government failed, however, to meet the women-owned small business goal of 5% and the HUBZone goal of 3%.

Continue Reading Small Business Federal Government Contracting Dollars Continue to Increase

Many small businesses learn the hard way that a “bid protest” and a “size protest” differ in much more than name only. Whereas generally a “bid protest” challenges agency action taken in connection with a procurement and can be timely brought at the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) or in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) after award, a “size protest” challenges an offeror’s eligibility as “small” for a small business set-aside and must be filed with the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) within 5 days of contract award; otherwise, a disappointed offeror will forfeit its right to challenge the awardee’s size. While this consequential distinction may seem clear in a vacuum, a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“Federal Circuit”) demonstrates that distinguishing between a “bid protest” and a “size protest” may not always be so easy. Instead, the Federal Circuit’s decision leaves open the possibility that even when a timely size protest was not filed with the SBA, a disappointed offeror still may be able to challenge the contracting officer’s failure to refer an awardee of a small business set-aside to the SBA for a size status determination by filing a bid protest at the COFC.


Continue Reading “What’s In A Name?”: Federal Circuit Holds Claims Court Blurred Distinction Between ‘Size Protests’ And ‘Bid Protests’ In Dismissal For Failure To Exhaust Administrative Remedies

According to a recent decision in United States ex rel. Scollick v. Narula, Case No. 14-cv-1339 (D.D.C. Nov. 6, 2020), the fraudulent inducement theory of False Claims Act (“FCA”) liability does not require plaintiffs to satisfy the “demanding” materiality standard set forth in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016).  Though that may sound like good news for plaintiffs, it is not.  The fraudulent inducement theory holds that fraud in a contractor’s proposal can taint every claim for payment it submits under the resulting contract, making them all “false claims” under the FCA.  This bears hefty consequences if proven: the defendant could be liable for civil penalties on every single claim for payment submitted over the life of the contract, in addition to treble damages the government may have suffered as a result of the fraud.  Perhaps in recognition of these severe consequences, the U.S. District Court for District of Columbia held that a plaintiff must plead and prove an even higher standard than Escobar materiality to establish fraudulent inducement liability—actual causation.  Rather than alleging that misrepresentation by the defendant merely was material to the government’s decision to award the contract to defendant, the Scollick decision concludes that “a misrepresentation in the defendant’s bid must have caused the government to award the defendant the contract.”  If the FCA materiality standard is “demanding,” then the actual causation standard is formidable.
Continue Reading “Would You Rather…” – Escobar’s Demanding Materiality Standard or Actual Causation?

Beginning October 15, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”), implementing the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”), will begin requiring women-owned small businesses (“WOSBs”) and economically disadvantaged WOSBs (“EDWOSBs”) to undergo a formal certification process to be eligible under the Procurement Program for Women-Owned Small Business Concerns (the “Program”). Thus, WOSBs and EDWOSBs no longer will be allowed to self-certify that they meet the Program requirements to compete for set-aside or sole source contracts, as has been the case for the last few decades. Instead, WOSBs and EDWOSBs now must apply for a formal government-issued certification at https://beta.certify.sba.gov/, which includes creating an account and uploading the necessary paperwork to establish eligibility. 13 C.F.R. Subpart C (§§ 127.300 – 127.356).
Continue Reading Women-Owned Small Business Self-Certification Ends October 15, 2020 When SBA Begins Requiring Formal Government-Issued Or Third-Party Certifications for Awards

The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) recently announced that the federal government exceeded its small business contracting goal by awarding $132.9 billion dollars in federal contracts – 26.5% of the government’s total procurement spending – to small businesses last fiscal year, with at least an additional $90.7 billion in subcontracts.  The SBA recently released statistics in its FY 2019 Small Business Procurement Scorecard, available here and here.  Also notable in these reports: (a) for only the second time ever the government met the 5% woman-owned small business goal; (b) the government met the service-disabled veteran-owned small business goal (3%, awarded 4.39%); and (c) the government also met the small disadvantaged business goal (5%, awarded 10.2%).  The government did not, however, meet the 3% HUBZone goal, coming in at 2.28%.  That said, small business contracting was up across all categories.  Here we provide a summary of the SBA’s findings, noting some of the potential opportunities available for small business contractors, while also highlighting some of the risks inherent in doing business with the U.S. government.
Continue Reading Government Small Business Contracting Continues to Increase: Creating Opportunities and Potential Pitfalls

In response to widespread interest in allowing more small business participation in opportunities involving cloud computing, the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) has decided to exclude cloud computing from the limitation
Continue Reading Small Business Subcontracting for Cloud Computing Gets Easier

On November 6, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) released its Cyber Essentials guide. Consistent with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, these Cyber
Continue Reading CISA Releases “Cyber Essentials” to Assist Small Businesses

In its most recent attempt to strike the appropriate balance between the Veterans First and AbilityOne programs, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) issued on May 20, 2019 a class deviation to the VA Acquisition Regulations (“VAAR,” 48 C.F.R. Chapter 8), instructing contracting officers to conduct a “Rule of Two” analysis before procuring from the AbilityOne Procurement List.
Continue Reading Veterans Are First at the VA Following New Class Deviation Implementing Recent Federal Circuit Mandate

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acquisitions are about to get a lot more attention – from the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and possibly Congress, as well. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently published a report (GAO-19-157SP) updating its “High Risk List,” which lists 35 government agencies and programs that may be particularly vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, adding “VA Acquisition Management” to the list of the usual suspects. If, as Aesop opined, “a man is known by the company he keeps,” then the VA has now joined a notorious group. VA vendors should be aware of this development, because any attempt by the VA to “get well” will likely come with heightened compliance obligations for VA vendors.
Continue Reading VA Vendors Beware: Mind the Company You Keep; It’s Time for a Compliance Checkup

Each year, the Government purchases more and more cloud computing from contractors.  But while many small businesses can provide cloud computing, the current rules associated with small business set-aside contracts prevent agencies from awarding prime contracts with a large cloud computing component to small businesses.
Continue Reading More Opportunities On the Horizon for Small Businesses Seeking to Sell Cloud Computing to the Government

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently affirmed a May 2017 Court of Federal Claims decision requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) to give veteran-owned small businesses first priority before purchasing from the AbilityOne Program.
Continue Reading Federal Circuit Affirms Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Are the VA’s First Priority