The Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a final rule on September 14, 2015, expanding contracting officers’ authority to issue sole source awards to Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs). This rule takes effect on October 14, 2015 (the “New Rule”).
Prior to the issuance of the New Rule, the WOSB program was the only SBA small business contracting program without a sole source option. The New Rule will put WOSBs on equal footing with SBA’s other socioeconomic small business programs with respect to a sole source award option.
The New Rule creates opportunities for WOSBs to market their capabilities directly to contracting agencies to take advantage of the new option for sole source awards. The New Rule brings the WOSB program more in line with the HUBZone and SDVO small business programs. Under those two programs, and now the WOSB program, a contracting officer must conduct market research prior to making a sole source award. If the contracting officer does not expect there to be two or more offers from eligible companies from the applicable small business group (WOSB, SDVO, etc.), he or she is authorized to make a sole source award directly to an eligible small business from the applicable program.
However, the New Rule does allow WOSB sole source awards at a higher dollar value than the current limits in the HUBZone and SDVO small business programs. The new rule actually allows contracting officers to make WOSB sole source awards of up to $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts—the same dollar thresholds as SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program.
The WOSB program is still somewhat limited compared to the other socioeconomic programs in the number of industries available for set-asides or sole source awards. SBA has identified 330 different industries in which WOSBs are underrepresented, and it is only those industries in which a WOSB set-aside or sole source award can be made. Some commenters to the New Rule suggested making all NAICS codes available for WOSBs, however SBA declined to do so. Nevertheless, this New Rule should have a significant impact on the WOSB program, increasing the number of contract opportunities for eligible WOSBs.
Summary of the New WOSB Rule
- A contracting officer can make a sole source award directly to a WOSB or EDWOSB if the following conditions are met:
- The award is in an underrepresented industry as determined by SBA;
- There is no expectation that two or more WOSB/EDWOSBs will submit offers; and
- The expected value of the contract does not exceed $4 million ($6.5 million for manufacturing contracts).