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This legislation affects lots of us, including joint ventures that involve an 8(a) protégé, or are led by an 8(a).

After three or four months of working from home, it’s good to go back to one of the things that passed in 2019 and was signed by the President back before any of this happened.

This legislation affects lots of us, including joint ventures that involve an 8(a) protégé, or are led by an 8(a). It’s also particularly close to my heart, and may just be the most wonderful section that ever exists. Why? Because 823 also happens to be my birthday!

Section 823 of the 2020 NDAA increases the threshold for justification and approval for 8(a) Program sole-source awards. While the 2010 NDAA required justification and approval for 8(a) Program sole-source awards valued at or above $20 million (later increased to $22 million), Section 823 of the 2020 NDAA increases this threshold to $100 million. 

[Note from Bill: $20M is a long way from the $4M threshold in place when I first started out!]

This change will benefit entity-owned 8(a) Program participants because, under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and Small Business Administration’s (SBA) regulations, those are the only participants eligible for sole-source awards above the competitive thresholds ($7 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts).

What this new legislation means is that if the contracting officer makes the determination that there is a single source that can perform a certain piece of work, and you can couch the language in such a way that states you are the only person that can do so, you can now get a sole-source contract for up to $100M. That is pretty cool!

For contracting officers, there is usually a threshold or limit as to what they can sign for (and this limit is now decidedly higher for 8(a) awards), before the award needs to be approved by another level of command or even by the Pentagon. Still, there is a big distinction in time and energy between a contract that anyone can compete on (e.g., in a vehicle), and a sole-source contract.

There’s still an approval process, but they don’t have to compete the award. They just need to write a J&A and get it approved by the appropriate levels of authority based on the number of dollars involved. Then lo and behold, they can award a contract.

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The All-Small Mentor-Protégé Program

SBA had a well-established mentor-protégé program (MPP) for SBA 8(a) certified firms but lacked an MPP program for other small business concerns and specifically, one for specialized certified concerns such as WOSB, EDWOSB, SDVOSB, & HubZone. The 2010 Jobs Act and 2013 NDAA gave SBA the authorization to address this by establishing an all-encompassing mentor-protégé program. Ms. Sandi Clifford, deputy director of the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program (ASMPP), visited the Mid-Tier Advocacy (MTA) earlier this year to discuss the program. Here are some of the highlights of this candid and informative discussion: As Ms. Clifford explained, mentor services to protégés include: • Management and technical assistance (internal business management systems) • Financial assistance (in the form of equity investments and/or loans) • Contracting assistance (contracting processes, capabilities acquisitions and performance) • International trade education (learn how to export, international trade business plan, finding markets) • Business development assistance (strategy, finding contracting and partnership opportunities) • General and/or administrative assistance (business processes and support) As administrators of the program, SBA provides: • Central HQ as opposed to 8(a) distributive model • Online application – certify.sba.gov • Online course tutorial requirement • Annual review and evaluation • Template agreements, i.e., MPA (Mentor-Protégé Agreement) Other All-Small Mentor-Protégé Program (ASMPP) details: • A protégé may generally only have one mentor at a time; SBA may approve a second (two is the maximum) where no competition exists, or if the protégé registers under a new NAICS or otherwise requires new mentor skills.  • Both protégé and mentor must be for-profit (with exception of protégé being an agriculture cooperative). • A mentor may have no more than three protégés at same time (no lifetime limit). • A participant can be both a protégé and mentor at the same time, if there is no competition or conflict. • The ASMPP is self-certifying and is open to businesses who qualify as small in their primary NAICS code, or who are seeking business development assistance in a secondary NAICs where they also qualify as small.  • SBA will not authorize MPAs in second NAICS in which firm has never performed any work; or where firm would only bring “small” status to Mentor and nothing else. • Existing 8(a) firms in last 6 months of the 8(a) program may transfer their MPA to the ASMPP via the online application process. Coordinate with 8(a) office to fine tune the process but there is no reapplication required. • Application requirements include upload of business plan, but no financial statements or tax returns. • JV agreements: ASMPP will not review and approve joint venture agreements. How to apply for the ASMPP: • Applicants are required to register in the System for Award Management (SAM) prior to submitting their mentor/protégé application. • Complete your business profile in certify.SBA.gov. • Evaluate and select your mentor prior to applying. This is not a matching program. SBA will not find a mentor for you. • Begin the ASMPP application process. • Protégés and mentors must complete the online tutorial and have their certificate of completion and all other required documents ready for upload Thank you to Sandi Clifford, Deputy Director, All Small Mentor-Protégé Program, for this helpful overview. TAPE has mentored several small businesses over it’s life as a large business (we’re large in some NAICS codes, though still small in others) and it has been gratifying, satisfying, and integral to our success. As protégés ourselves, we have benefitted from working with some really classy large businesses, and have also had the experience of being a protégé and really getting no tangible benefits. We are currently working with two small businesses, and negotiating ASMPP agreements. You can learn more about the ASMPP on the SBA site. To join MTA and attend future events like this one, please visit www.midtier.org.
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