8(a) program administration

As a contracting officer, you can help socially and economically disadvantaged businesses get their fair share of contracting opportunities.


Meet your agency goals for small disadvantaged businesses

The federal government's goal is to award five percent of all prime and subcontracting dollars to small disadvantaged businesses each year. To help meet that goal, you can make set-asides awards for businesses that participate in the 8(a) Business Development program.

Your responsibilities as a contracting officer in connection with the 8(a) Business Development program are outlined in Title 13 Part 124 Subpart A of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

Types of 8(a) contracts

As a contracting officer, you’re allowed to use set-aside contracts for small disadvantaged businesses. You can find the dollar thresholds for mandatory competition and the procedures for requesting a waiver in 13 CFR 124.506.

You can award a competitive 8(a) set-aside contract if:

  • You have a reasonable expectation that at least two qualified 8(a) small businesses will submit offers
  • The resulting contract can be awarded at a fair market price
  • The government estimate exceeds $7 million for manufacturing requirements or $4.5 million for all other requirements
  • The requirement hasn’t already been accepted by the SBA as a sole-source 8(a) award on behalf of a tribally-owned or ANC-owned business

You can award a sole-source 8(a) contract if:

  • You determine that the qualified small business is responsible
  • The resulting contract can be awarded at a fair market price
  • The government estimate doesn’t exceed $7 million for manufacturing requirements or $4.5 million for all other requirements (There's an exception to this rule for entity-owned businesses)

Contracts at or below $250,000 are automatically set aside for small businesses. If possible, you can choose to set it aside specifically for businesses in socio-economic programs like the 8(a) program.

Both the SBA’s regulations and the FAR require you to consider socio-economic programs first for set-aside contracts worth above $250,000. There is no order of preference among the programs.

You must document the rationale you used to make your decision in the contract file. Include information about your research and documentation of the winning contractor’s certification in the System for Award Management (SAM).

If a requirement has been accepted by SBA under the 8(a) program, it must remain in the 8(a) program unless the Associate Administrator of the Office of Business Development agrees to its release. You can read more about releasing a requirement in 13 CFR 124.504.

How to find 8(a) program contractors

As part of your market research, you can find 8(a) program-certified businesses using the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS).

Additionally, you can:

  • Get personal assistance from the SBA’s local district offices
  • Contact your agency’s Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization or your Agency Small Business Specialist
  • Issue a sources sought announcement in FedBizOpps seeking interested 8(a) small businesses
  • Use the GSA Schedule program to find certified disadvantaged 8(a) small businesses

Consider using language in your sources sought announcement that specifically encourages targeted 8(a) small businesses to respond, along with the other federal small business categories if applicable. Ask only for key pieces of information you need to make the set-aside determination and include a page limit to make it easier for interested businesses to respond.

You must contact your local district office to verify a business’ 8(a) eligibility.

A man looking at a laptop computer.

Contractors live at DSBS

As a contracting officer, you can use the Dynamic Small Business Search to find small government contractors that can do the work.

8(a) program protests

When the government awards a contract, someone may challenge the size status of the winning small business. As a contracting officer, you have specific responsibilities during a protest.

A size protest is one that challenges whether the business qualifies as small. Procedures for size protests are outlined in 13 CFR 121.1001-09.

No one may challenge a business' eligibility in the 8(a) program based on ownership and control, according to the regulations outlined in 13 CFR 124.517.


Regulations governing the 8(a) program are outlined in 13 CFR 124 and FAR 19.8.

Need help?

Contact your local district office.

Last updated December 1, 2023