Despite its official passage into law and SBA’s implementation, some contracting officers in federal agencies are waiting for the addition of official language to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to use the new sole source authority in the women’s procurement program. We have seen first hand that regardless of SBA’s assurances that the law is ready to use, some agencies are reticent to use the new authority until the FAR has officially adopted the change in law. The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council has already drafted the rule, which is currently in a review phase. And so we wait.
On October 14th, after many years of advocacy spearheaded by WIPP, sole-source authority for Women Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) officially went into effect. The Small Business Administration (SBA) fast-tracked its official rule authorizing WOSB sole-source, allowing Contracting Officers to cite the rule and award sole source contracts. SBA encouraged agencies to use the new law upon release—before the October 14 date.
How can women business owners speed the process and become an early pioneer in sole source contracts? Sharing key information with federal agencies is important. Small business offices as well as the contracting community need education on the program. Since this is the newest small business contracting program on the books, many acquisition officials are still getting used to it. The sole source piece, although mirroring the HUBZone program, is brand new and worthy of explanation.
Resources from WIPP such as the criteria for a WOSB sole source article, SBA’s final rule on sole source, and any future rulings by federal agencies reinforcing sole source awards for WOSBs, can help Contracting Officers support a sole source justification. ChallengeHER events now being held around the country are an excellent venue for learning about the WOSB program and recent changes.
And, it is important to dispel the myth that sole source justifications can only be used if your company is the only company in the universe that has a particular product or performs a specific service. Take a look at other sole source justifications found at FBO.gov. You will find that reasons such as close proximity to the buyer, employing the most highly skilled staff, and the ability to customize a product have all served as justifications for sole-source awards in other programs.
We are so close but every day that the FAR Council fails to act, some woman owned company stands to lose what could have been a contract award. WIPP, through its advocacy, will continue to do what it takes to get this final piece in place.