We Did It by Ann Sullivan, WIPP Government Relations
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
We Did It
By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Government Relations
WIPP Works In Washington
It was against all odds that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included a vitally important improvement to the WOSB procurement program – sole source authority. Yes, you read it right – the WOSB program will now have parity with every other small business procurement program.
The law wasn’t written that way back in the year 2000, but through WIPP’s persistence for 14 years, we finally have a program that is sustainable. First, of course, we had to get the program put into place. If you recall, SBA delayed implementation for 11 years. Then we went about changing the underlying law that was flawed. First, we advocated for the removal of the dollar caps on the program—the original law limited contracts under this program to $5 million, rendering the program largely ineffective. Since the caps on awards through this program were removed, the program has tripled in size.
But, in our view, removing the dollar caps was not enough to make this program work. The original law only permits contracts to be set-aside for women owned companies if the business is owned and controlled by women and two or more women owned companies will submit offers. Meanwhile, every other small business procurement program allows contracts up to $4 million (or $6.5 million in the case of manufacturing) to be directly awarded to one firm. That is a critical tool used by the federal government to award contracts to minorities, veterans and HUBZone firms to access the federal market.
Now that I have explained the long road toward making the WOSB procurement program work, we have a few things left to do. First, agencies (in this case the SBA) have to promulgate rules to implement the law passed by Congress. The SBA did this for the removal of dollar caps in six months, which is lightening speed for an agency. Second, the FAR Council, which oversees contracting rules, has to approve the changes. That takes additional time. Third, all the contracting officers and small business offices in the government need to understand the change and start using it.
It is a long process, but not as long as we have been working on making this program successful. And we certainly did not do this alone. To thank everyone that deserves thanks would require pages but here are some special shout-outs. If you ever responded to a WIPP Call to Action or ever wrote a letter to your elected officials on the WOSB program—THANK YOU, you made a difference. To the fifteen organizations that supported WIPP on this effort—THANK YOU. If you attended the hearing during WIPP’s annual leadership conference, you played a big part—THANK YOU. Special thanks go to those on Capitol Hill who shepherded this program through the Congressional system- Senators Cantwell, Shaheen, Landrieu and Representatives Speier and Graves. The staffs of the Senate and House Small Business Committee were instrumental in this success. The SBA Administrators Mills and Contreras-Sweet made the success of this program a top priority and we will never forget their contribution. Speaking of staff members, the dedicated SBA employees on the Government Contracting team and in the General Counsel’s office deserve our gratitude. The WIPP team and WIPP’s board members have been solidly behind these successes devoting endless hours on these issues, ensuring that Congress heard directly from business leaders. Lastly I am really proud of my team’s efforts. As I am sure you are aware, there has been very few votes in this Congress this year—this effort was particularly difficult and fraught with many twists and turns.
But in the end—WE WON--WOMEN BUSINESS OWNERS WON. Now, for the first time in history, let’s make sure the federal government meets its goal of 5% with women owned firms.