The Women-Owned Small Business Program, implemented by the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) in October 2010, was created to expand federal contracting opportunities to small businesses owned and run by women. It authorized contracting officers to set aside certain federal contracts for eligible Women-Owned Small Businesses (“WOSBs”) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Businesses (“EDWOSBs”). However, under the original statutory scheme, these set-asides were capped to manufacturing contracts under $6.5 million and all other contracts under $4 million.
Changes in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 now provide monetarily limitless contracting opportunities to WOSBs and EDWOSBs. On May 7, 2013, in response to this change, the SBA issued an Interim Final Rule, which removes those dollar value limitations on WOSB and EDWOSB set-asides. Contracting officers may now set aside contracts of any price under the program as long as:
1) there is a reasonable expectation that:
a) in industries where WOSBs are underrepresented, two or more EDWOSBs will submit offers for the contract, or
b) in industries where WOSBs are substantially underrepresented, two or more WOSBs will submit offers for the contract; and
2) the contracting officer estimates the contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price.
To be eligible to bid for contracts under this program a firm must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more women and primarily managed by one or more women.[i] The women must be U.S. citizens. In accordance with SBA industry size standards, the firm must be considered “small” in its primary industry. To be deemed an EDWOSB the firm’s owners must demonstrate economic disadvantage in accordance with the requirements set forth by the SBA’s program regulations.[ii]
The federal government has mandated a goal to award 5 percent of all federal contracting dollars to WOSBs. [iii] This directive, found in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), has yet to reach its goal in the 12 years that it has been active. According to the SBA’s government performance scorecard of 2012, prime contracts awarded to WOSBs have reached 4 percent, while subcontracts awarded to WOSBs have reached 5.6 percent. The SBA’s latest changes are aimed at making the goal of 5 percent of total contracting attainable in the near future.
[i] 13 C.F.R. § 127.102
[ii] 13 C.F.R. § 127.203
[iii] “New National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 Removes Contract Thresholds for Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB).” PRWeb., 2 May 2013. Web.