The governmentwide small business contracting goal has been at 23% since 1997. Agencies have done well for the most part in meeting this goal in the last five years, though there are still many hurdles facing small business contractors as primes and subcontractors. One notable contract vehicle which makes this fact evident is 8(a) STARS II, though there have been many others that have gone awry.
The Defense Information Systems Agency’ (DISA) has taken a unique approach to small business contractors, one that puts them at the forefront and holds large firms accountable. In its SETI contract, DISA has taken steps to ensure that small businesses can and will be successful. For this effort, DISA was awarded the 2020 Verdure award from the Defense Department for demonstrating fresh approaches to balancing the development of efficient procurement methods and the utilization of small businesses.
What is so different about SETI? One prominent feature of this contract is the removal of the clearance barrier. To recap, security clearances have often served as a barrier to entry for many small businesses, as sponsorship is required to obtain a clearance. Here, DISA decided to be that sponsor for small businesses and joint ventures. Also, they have removed the requirement for the cost accounting certification. SETI also allows small businesses to submit for a requirement despite not being able fulfill every task on the SOW. This allowed DISA to reach more than 100 offerors, about 80% did not have experience with DISA.
This move by DISA to be more inclusive and accommodating to the small business contracting community has undoubtedly strengthened their pool of capable contractors but has tapped a well of ingenuity and innovation that would have previously been lost. Small businesses have been hailed by many administrations as the “engine that runs the economy,” and DISA is a prime example of that sentiment being a reality. Look for more agencies to follow suit.
Author: Paul McVeigh