Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program
Practical Advice on GSA Schedule Contracting
By: Carolyn Alston, General Counsel, Washington Management Group
After years of waiting, women owned businesses now have a new opportunity to get a share of the small business federal acquisition pie. Revised rules allow federal agencies to set aside acquisitions particularly for small, women-owned businesses.
Effective April 1, 2011, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) was amended to authorize set-asides of federal contracts to women-owned small businesses and women-owned economically disadvantaged businesses. Note that this is an interim rule; the public comment period ended on May 31, so there is a possibility of some further changes.
FAR now gives contracting officers discretion to:
- Restrict competition to WOSB or Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs (EDWOSB) in industries where women-owned businesses are substantially underrepresented
- Restrict competition to EDWOSBs in industries where women-owned businesses are underrepresented
A contracting officer can utilize this authority only on acquisitions where the anticipated award price of the contract (including options) will not exceed $6.5 million in manufacturing industries, or $4 million, in all other acquisitions.
SBA has determined that women-owned businesses are underrepresented (or substantially under represented) in approximately 83 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. You can view those NAICS codes here:
To be eligible to benefit from a set-aside, a business must be:
- At least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women
- Owned by U.S. citizens
- “Small” in its primary industry in accordance with SBA’s size standards for that industry
A firm can self certify its status as a WOSB or obtain third party certification; SBA, however, has not yet approved any third-party certifiers. In order for a WOSB to be deemed “economically disadvantaged,” its owners must also satisfy certain restrictions of the SBA regulations. Specifically, a woman is presumed economically disadvantaged if she has a personal net worth of less than $750,000, her adjusted gross yearly income averaged over the preceding three years is less than $350,000, and the fair market value of all her assets is less than $6 million.
New clauses implementing the rules should be appearing in applicable solicitations soon. SBA’s goal was to have the program ready for competition by women-owned businesses by the fourth quarter of this fiscal year. We have yet to see any changes to MAS contracts, but expect them soon.
If you are a WOSB or EDWOSB, make sure that you take the administrative steps necessary to qualify your business for potential set-asides.
- Register in Central Contractor Registration (CCR) as a WOSB or EDWOSB
- Represent your status in Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA)
- Upload to SBA’s WOSB Program repository documents that verify your eligibility as a WOSB. If a firm self certifies, quite a bit of information is required such as birth certificates, joint venture agreements, articles of incorporation, etc. A contracting officer must review this documentation prior to awarding a set-aside contract under the WOSB program. Start now to gather that information so that you are well positioned to take advantage of opportunities that may soon become available.
Washington Management Group clients: please contact your consultant if you want more information on this program.
Do you have a government contracting question? Please email it to me at CarolynsCorner@washmg.com.
Carolyn Alston is General Counsel of Washington Management Group. She provides legal counsel to WMG's federal acquisition consulting operation, focusing on Multiple Award Schedule contract award, compliance, and audit procedures.
Prior to joining WMG, Carolyn had a distinguished career with the U.S. General Services Administration. Her experience as a senior attorney in the GSA's Office of General Counsel led to her role as the lead in developing and writing GSA's Multiple Award Schedule policy. Her GSA career culminated in running the agency's successful GSA Schedule program as Assistant Commissioner for Acquisition at GSA.
Carolyn holds a BA from Cornell University and a JD from Georgetown Law Center. Carolyn is a member of the bar in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
WMG offers the information provided on this web site for informational purposes only.
WMG is a well recognized expert in GSA Schedule contracting, with more than 30 years of corporate experience. The information provided on this site is based on our substantial acquisition expertise, particularly with respect to commercial item contracting. Nothing on this site should be interpreted as legal advice.
As you recognize, most decisions regarding your GSA Schedule contract are highly dependent upon the facts of your particular circumstances. You should not rely on this site to make specific decisions about your contract. If you are considering taking specific actions on a matter affecting your GSA Schedule contract, we highly recommend that you contact WMG regarding a proposal for individual acquisition consulting services or that you seek advice from legal counsel with expertise in GSA Schedule contracting.
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