A recent amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation established that there is no order of precedence for awarding contracts among several small business categories.

The May 2011 amendment to FAR subpart 19.203 says there is no order of precedence among the 8(a) program, HUBZone program, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Procurement Program, or the Women-Owned Small Business Program, according to Glenn West, SDVOSB program manager, Army Contracting Command Small Business Program Office.

He said the new rule is intended to eliminate any confusion on the part of contracting officers and others regarding the relationship among small business programs. Although the intent behind the rule is to provide clarification, some in the acquisition community are confused on the word “parity” and its application towards SBA’s small business programs.

“Socioeconomic program rarity” leads some to think that the path forward to contract award for 8(a), HUBZone, SDVOSB and WOSB programs are now the same. They are not, he said.

“When most people think about parity, they usually start comparing like products, similar services, processes, etc,” he explained. “They are not relating their ‘discretion of choice’ as parity. Except for a requirement that has been accepted by SBA under the 8(a) program, the FAR states that there is no order of precedence and allows the contracting officer to make a determination whether an acquisition above the micro-purchase threshold will be restricted to small businesses participating in the aforementioned programs.”

He said the fact that the contracting officer can choose the 8(a), HUBZone, SDVOSB or WOSB path is where socioeconomic program parity begins and ends.

Contact West by e-mail at gaither.west@us.army.mil for mor information