GSA AND SBA LAUNCH NEW 8(a) SCHEDULES EFFORT
As part of its effort to expand opportunities for small, disadvantaged businesses, GSA announced last week that it is partnering with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to create a special section of the Multiple Award Schedules program for 8(a) businesses. The 8(a) Multiple Award Schedule Pool Initiative will create a pool of 8(a) firms that will make it easier for federal buyers to find such firms and hopefully drive more business to them. Participants in the initiative will receive a designation that indicates their eligibility for 8(a) sole-source awards and competitive set-asides. According to the joint GSA-SBA press release, “Customer agencies will be able to place 8(a) directed awards once the MAS Solicitation is refreshed and the MAS 8(a) companies are in the pool, beginning later this year.” The new program could create both opportunities and frustrations for the businesses it is envisioned to help. On one hand it makes sense to put a pool of 8(a) companies in one place as doing so provides greater visibility. The speed and price reasonableness of the Schedules Program, coupled with the benefits of the 8(a) program, could make for a fast and flexible way for federal buyers to meet commercial needs and get small business credit at the same time. On the other hand, the hurdles that businesses of any size must go through to obtain a Schedule contract, including the ability to obtain a fair contract-level price, are well documented. So, too, is the infrastructure needed to ensure compliance. These issues extend to current Schedule small business contract holders who already make up the majority of Schedule contractors, a reality indicating that 8(a) firms may not come in for special treatment. Still, the addition of 8(a) firms could expand the reach of the government’s largest commercial solution IDIQ contract vehicle, something that could ensure better and faster acquisitions overall.