Increasing Small Business Participation on Multiple-Award Contracts

Did You Know?

The Biden Administration has taken significant steps to enhance the participation of small businesses in
federal contracting, particularly through the expansion of the “Rule of Two” to multiple-award contracts.
This is especially important as an increasing number of contracts are being awarded through these
government-wide acquisition contract and multiple-award contract vehicles, reaching an all-time high in 2023. A recent independent, 3rd party report showed that almost 55.8% of all awards went through a
contract vehicle with the GSA OASIS and NASA’s SEWP V, seeing record awards of $13.4 billion and $10.5 billion, respectively. GSA says its schedules contract saw a record $46 billion in sales for 2023, a $4.6 billion increase over 2022.

The “Rule of Two” is a provision in Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR 19.502-2) that requires that if
there are at least two small businesses that can offer their services at fair market prices and terms, the
government must set aside the contract specifically for small businesses. This rule traditionally applied
to single contracts but now, with the new directive, extends to task and delivery orders under multiple-
award contracts as well.

Key Changes Include:

  • Application of Rule of Two to Task and Delivery Orders: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has directed federal agencies to apply the Rule of Two when issuing task and delivery orders under multiple-award contracts. This directive seeks to increase small business participation significantly by making it mandatory to consider small businesses for these orders unless specific exceptions apply.
  • Documentation Requirements: If an agency decides not to set aside an order for small businesses, contracting officers must now document their reasoning in detail. This includes showing the market research conducted, the rationale for the contract vehicle selected, and inputs from agency small business specialists.
  • Long-term Strategy and Regulatory Updates: The Small Business Administration (SBA) and the FAR Council are working on regulatory amendments to firmly establish these changes, indicating a long-term strategic shift towards enhancing small business access to federal contracts. There are even ongoing efforts by the House Small Business Committee to codify the rule, making it a permanent law requiring set-aside considerations for small businesses prior to contract release.

These adjustments are part of a broader initiative under the Biden Administration to empower small
businesses and ensure they have greater access to the vast market of federal contracting. This
expansion of the “Rule of Two” is seen as a crucial step in creating a more inclusive and accessible
contracting environment for small businesses across the country.

What Will it Allow You To Do?

Once the final rule is promulgated, it will empower RMSDC Councils to directly impact the availability of
opportunities to member companies within the same NAICS code and interested in competing for
Federal contracts.

Pursuant to FAR 19.502-3, a small business set-aside “shall not be made unless such a reasonable
expectation exists” that they will receive “offers from at least two responsible small businesses
concerns… at fair market prices.” With the intimate knowledge of its member companies and
communicating opportunities among other Councils, Presidents and member companies will be able to
send correspondence to agency contracting officers that identifies at least two “responsible small
business concerns” that are available to submit offers at “fair market prices” and therefore triggering a
set-aside. This includes a deferential provision to FAR 19.203, which prioritizes set-asides for 8(a),
women owned, service disabled veteran, and HUBZone firms.

You can find a copy of the memo from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) here.