We recently posted an article discussing changes to the limitations on subcontracting rules for small business federal contractors.  The changes were marshaled in by Congress as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA” or “the Act”), which actually includes a number of other changes affecting small business contractors.  Several of those changes are designed to assist women-owned small businesses (“WOSB”) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (“EDWOSB”) in securing more federal work.

The current Woman-Owned Federal Contract Program, which became effective on February 4, 2011 after being mired in political red tape for years, allows contracting officers to set aside contracts for certified WOSBs and EDWOSBs (see our previous blog post concerning how to get certified).  By statute, the federal government must attempt to steer five percent (5%) of all federal contracting dollars to WOSBs and EDWOSBs.  Under the current law, however, reaching this goal has been elusive.  This is, in part, due to the caps in place that govern set-aside contracts for women-owned businesses.  Manufacturing contracts in excess of $6.5 million, and any other contract exceeding $4 million, cannot be set-aside for WOSBs or EDWOSBs.  The NDAA removes this ceiling, allowing women-owned businesses greater access to federal contracts, and, hopefully, enabling the government to actually reach its 5% goal.

The NDAA also includes a provision requiring the SBA to further study and identify those industries in which WOSB and EDWOSBs are “underrepresented.”  Currently, eighty-three (83) NAICS codes have been recognized as those where women have been historically underrepresented.  Contracting officers are permitted to set aside contracts in industries falling within those classification codes, as long as that contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price, and the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSB or EDWOSBs will bid or submit offers.  The identification of additional industries should result in more contracts being set aside for women-owned concerns.

SBA Administrator Karen Mills, who will be stepping down very soon, described the potential benefits of these changes, explaining that women currently own approximately thirty percent (30%) of all small businesses, making women one of the fastest-growing sectors of business owners in the country.  As such, Mills said, “opening the door for women to compete for more federal contracts is a win-win.”  If you are a woman-owned, small business contractor and want these new changes to result in a “win” for you, check your eligibility, and get registered as soon as possible!

Edward T. DeLisle is a Partner in the firm and a member of the Federal Contracting Practice Group. Maria L. Panichelli is an Associate in the firm’s Federal Practice Group.