Meeting your agency goals for women-owned small businesses
To help level the playing field for women businesses owners, the federal government's goal is to award 5 percent of all prime and subcontracting dollars to women-owned small businesses each year. For the second time in the last seven years, women-owned small businesses exceeded the goal by achieving 5.19 percent, or $26.0 billion of eligible contracting dollars in 2019 – the highest amount ever, which could equate to over 134.5K jobs.
To help your agency meet that goal, you can create set-aside or sole-source awards for businesses that participate in the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract program.
Your responsibilities as a contracting officer in connection with the WOSB Federal Contract program are outlined in Title 13 Part 127 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and Subpart 19.15 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).
Contracting officers will now be able to verify a firm’s WOSB Federal Contract program participation status by searching in the Dynamic Small Business Search database.
Types of WOSB contracts
As a contracting officer, you’re allowed to use set-aside and sole source contracts for Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs) if the NAICS code assigned to the procurement is authorized for use under the WOSB Federal Contract program.
Note: Not all NAICS codes are authorized for use under the WOSB Federal Contract program. The SBA maintains a list of eligible industries and their NAICS codes.
- You can solicit a competitive WOSB set-aside contract if you have a reasonable expectation that at least two responsible WOSBs or EDWOSBs will submit offers and that the resulting contract can be awarded at a fair market price.
- You can award a sole-source WOSB contract if you don’t have a reasonable expectation that two or more qualified WOSBs or EDWOSBs will submit offers, determine that the qualified small business is responsible, and determine that the contract can be awarded at a fair price. The government estimate cannot exceed $7 million for manufacturing requirements or $4.5 for all other requirements. Please note that a Justification and Approval is required.
When contracts are at or below $250,000, they 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 WOSB Federal Contract program.
Both the SBA’s regulations and the FAR require you to consider socio-economic programs first for set-aside contracts 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.
If a requirement has been accepted by the SBA under the 8(a) program, it must remain in the 8(a) program unless SBA agrees to its release.
Improvements to the certification process
The certification process for WOSBs and EDWOSBs has changed. SBA has implemented Congress’ changes to the WOSB Federal Contract program, as put forth in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
These updated regulations make it easier for qualified small businesses to participate in the WOSB Federal Contract program by improving the customer experience. They also make it easier and more efficient for contracting officers to set aside contracts for, and make awards to, firms certified as WOSBs and EDWOSBs. At the same time, SBA is also strengthening oversight and maintaining the integrity of the certification process.
The updated WOSB Federal Contract program regulations were published in the Federal Register in May 2020. These regulations detail changes to the certification process.
With the updated WOSB Federal Contract program regulations in effect:
- Contracting officers no longer have to verify a WOSB firm’s documentation. Program participation will be displayed on the firm’s Dynamic Small Business Search profile.
- SBA’s new free, online certification process for WOSBs and EDWOSBs is live on SBA’s new online portal: beta.certify.sba.gov.
- SBA allows participation from firms certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Verification and Evaluations (CVE) and 8(a) Business Development Certification Program, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.
- SBA allows continued participation from businesses that utilize approved Third-Party Certifiers (TPCs) to obtain WOSB or EDWOSB certification.
- As of October 15, 2020, the previous self-certification option on the certify.sba.gov platform is no longer available.
- If firms currently have active contracts through the WOSB Federal Contract program, they will remain certified through the duration of existing contracts (this applies to currently self-certified or TPC-certified).
- All WOSB firms need to take action in beta.certify.sba.gov in order to compete for WOSB Federal Contract program set-aside and sole-source contracts. See specifics in the sections below based on status.
Please review SBA’s latest FAQs, certification options table, infographic, and wosb.certify.sba.gov fact sheet, as well as visit sba.gov/wosbready for more information about the certification changes and the new application process.
How to find WOSB Federal Contracting Program contractors
A few simple steps and market research will set you up for success to find qualified WOSB Federal Contract program contractors. First, you can find businesses that participate in the WOSB Federal Contract program by using the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS).
Additionally, you can:
- Contact your agency’s Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization or your Agency Small Business Specialist.
- Get guidance or training from the SBA’s WOSB Federal Contract program office.
- Issue a sources sought announcement in SAM.gov seeking interested WOSB Program participants.
- Use the GSA Schedule program to find WOSBs.
Consider using language in your sources sought announcement that specifically encourages targeted 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 or sole-source determination and include a page limit to make it easier for interested businesses to respond.
Contractors live at DSBSAs a contracting officer, you can use the Dynamic Small Business Search to find small government contractors that can do the work.
WOSB Federal Contract program protests
As with the other federal small business contracting programs, any interested party may challenge the program status of the winning small business. As a contracting officer, you have specific responsibilities during a protest.
A status protest is one that challenges the business’ eligibility for the WOSB Federal Contract program on the grounds of ownership and control. Status protests are made to the SBA headquarters. Status protests for the WOSB Federal Contract program are processed in accordance with 13 CFR 127 Subpart F.
A size protest is one that challenges whether the business qualifies as small. Size protests are processed in accordance with 13 CFR 121 Subpart A.
Office of Government Contracting
Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract program
409 Third St. SW, Eighth Floor
Washington, DC 20416