OMB/GSA SAY “BEST” ISN’T ALWAYS BEST
New guidance issued from the Office of Management and Budget, and being supported by the General Services Administration, directs federal agencies to consider whether Best in Class (BIC) contracts permit agencies to meet socioeconomic small business goals before using such contracts. If not, other solutions should be considered. Further, the use of BIC solutions should be balanced with decentralized contracts and other necessary strategies to increase diversity within agency supplier bases. In short, “best” may not always be best if the solution doesn’t allow for appropriate small business participation. All of this is part of the Administration’s push to increase equity in government acquisition and promote the use of disadvantaged small businesses. While this initiative is well-intended, it could be construed to make it appear as if existing BIC solutions do not include participation from small or small, disadvantaged businesses. That is manifestly not the case. There are multiple such vehicles across the government, including several in GSA such as the Alliant II, OASIS, and VET2 contracts. Are those contracts still to be considered “best”, and therefore a preferred acquisition source? GSA’s guidance doesn’t say. It does, however, point to the “under construction” POLARIS contract as one that will have equity solutions built in. That contract, though, is still some ways away from implementation. GSA should advise users on existing contracts that can meet equity goals. Similarly, guidance pointing to large business contracts that benefit small, disadvantaged companies through government-required subcontracting plans may also be advisable. It is certainly the government’s prerogative to use its acquisition system to meet multiple socio-economic and other perceived “good” outcomes. It should not be surprising, though, if some agency customers are left scratching their heads over whether the use of the “best” vehicles is good enough.