This is a continuation of the last blog relating issues that were discussed in the Colorado Springs NDIA panel discussion. I thought these issues were relevant enough to devote 2 blogs to cover the content.
There was an issue with solicitations for Women Owned Businesses. It seems that most of the set asides for a Woman Owned Business is usually only in the areas termed “girl contracts”. A “girl contract” is in cleaning, bathrooms, & HVAC. The complaint is that a woman owned firm (whether it is an engineering firm or any other business concern) is equally qualified today to compete with a man owned company. As a result, there should be more set asides for women owned businesses in these other areas, especially when there are firms qualified in the field. An example was cited about an architectural contract where 3 of the top 5 bidders were woman owned firms but the contract was not let to a woman owned firm. This is an issue of particular interest to the Ombudsman. Specific examples of this would be helpful. If you have one, please either contact the Ombudsman office or let me know and I will take this in for you.
The fourth issue relates to subcontract plans in proposals. Many large primes will put together a small business subcontract plan in a proposal but many times they do not use the small business in the plan. If the small business is not called out by name in the proposal, many times they do not see a subcontract when the contract is issued to the prime. The small business would like to see ways to ensure they can share in the award when the contract is won. The key for the small business is to form a “teaming plan” with the prime and not just be a “number” in a subcontracting plan.
The final issue of the day had to do with LPTA evaluation criteria (Lowest Price, Technically Acceptable). This seems to be used more and more within the government. This usually doesn’t result in the best product (or service) being purchased by the government. There may be quality issues, delivery issues or other by using this criteria. The result can be a company that will “buy” the work and perhaps either not deliver or will modify the contract after they cannot perform, thereby costing the government more in the long run. The old adage, you get what you pay for comes to mind. The honest small business is at a disadvantage when this happens. This action tends to drive labor costs down as lower bids come in. One business in the room stated “it is not fair to ask employees to take 20% pay cuts per year in order to win a contract”.
Good issues and issues that won’t be resolved overnight. I suspect there are others out there that have seen these same issues or other issues. I highly recommend that you bring these issues to the SBA office of the National Ombudsman. The process can be completely confidential. Other avenues are to bring the issue to me and I can present it in the proper forum to the SBA or the NDIA offices. Of course, you can always try yourself to contact the heads of agencies, your congress representatives or SBA officials. Whatever choice you make, be sure to be vocal. That is how we can even the playing field for small business.