By: Edward T. DeLisle

On Thursday, January 12, 2012, the Small Business Administration issued an interim final rule, which alters the protest procedures pertaining to its Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program. The changes serve two primary functions. First, when the SBA implemented the WOSB program by publishing a final rule in the Federal Register on October 7, 2010, it established set-aside thresholds of $5 million for contracts pertaining to manufacturing and $3 million for all other contracts. As part of the new interim rule, those thresholds have increased to $6.5 million and $4 million, respectively, to account for inflation.

Second, the changes ushered in as part of the interim rule, make the protest procedures for the WOSB Program consistent with the SBA’s other set-aside programs. For example, under the procedures that existed before issuance of the interim rule, if a contracting officer received a protest on a WOSB set-aside and, nonetheless wished to make an award, that contracting officer would have to issue a written determination concluding that doing so was required to prevent significant harm to the public interest. This requirement is inconsistent with the procedure outlined for other programs. Under the interim rule, a contracting officer may issue an award, despite a protest, if he or she makes the simple determination that doing so is necessary to protect the public interest.

As there have been few reported protests involving the WOSB Program, the new rules should not cause wide-spread confusion. If you are considering a protest, however, you are encouraged to read the changes and consult with a legal professional if you have any questions.

Edward T. DeLisle is a Partner in the firm and a member of the Federal Contracting Practice Group.