The Biden administration’s recent changes to regulations regarding small business engagement for federal contractors will help more small firms get through the door.
These changes have come in several ways, starting with Executive Order 13985, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” which President Biden signed on his first day in office. Later in 2021, the Biden Administration increased the targeted percentage of federal contracting dollars that should go to Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDBs) in various categories, whether directly or through subcontracts, from 5% to 12%. The administration’s ultimate goal is to route 15% of federal contracting value to small disadvantaged businesses by 2025.
Small business partners at CGI Federal
Serving as CGI Federal’s Director of Small Business Engagement puts me on the forefront of these efforts. I came to CGI from an 8(a) small business, and I understand the challenges they face. Especially in the federal contracting arena, a complex acquisition system coupled with competition from bigger and better-funded contractors could put small businesses at a severe disadvantage.
However, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requires Other Than Small business concerns (i.e., large and medium-sized businesses) to subcontract a certain percentage of their to work to small businesses in most solicitations and contracts offering subcontracting possibilities and expected to exceed $750,000 ($1.5 million for construction of any public facility). FAR Section 19.708 defines certain types of contracts not subject to the requirement. All solicitations must quote FAR 52.219-8, Utilization of Small Business Concerns, to ensure that small businesses are aware of their opportunities.
Navigating the environment
The federal government arena can be baffling for many companies, and smaller firms often do not have the time or budget to seek out resources. A larger company’s small-business liaison can help, educating them on the intricacies of federal contracting and helping them obtain their federal government small business certifications as prescribed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
At its best, the relationship between a large contractor and a small business includes a significant amount of networking, outreach and mentoring. Small business advocates at larger contractors should vet the small businesses before introducing them to the appropriate account teams.
They also should help the small firms get them engaged with relevant agencies’ Offices of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU). Part of the OSDBU’s job is to assist small businesses, and introduce them to the acquisition and program offices at their agency.
Going beyond the boundaries
CGI and other large companies are becoming more active in engaging with small businesses as we move past the worst of the COVID pandemic, which slowed many things down. Recently, we had a small business symposium , where leaders of the OSDBUs from several federal agencies, including the SBA, came in to take part and engage with the CGI Federal’s senior leadership to discuss the importance of supporting and working with small businesses.
The Defense Contracts Management Agency (DCMA) conducts a small business audit on all large businesses that have federal contracts valued at more than $750k for services, to gauge how well we are working with small businesses. Mandates drive compliance.
Like all large companies, we have certain thresholds to meet, and the DCMA’s job is to make sure we do. We go a little further than what the government requires. I network and outreach with companies in all mandated sub-classifications, but I also network with other small business categories, such as LGBTQ-owned small businesses.
We do this because small businesses have unique things to contribute. Contractors should consider compliance as the least important aspect of engagement. There is a wealth of different types of small businesses out there, with some truly impressive capabilities. Many of these businesses come with innovative idea, sometimes with the aid of the government’s Small Business Innovation Research Program. Neglecting these resources is detrimental to a larger company’s ability to deliver for its clients.
Bringing new companies into the CGI Federal fold is a significant part of my mission. There are so many out there that are good at what they do, and to ensure CGI Federal is providing the best service we can to our clients, it’s important to find those small business partners.
CGI has always sought to partner with small businesses, as they can bring skills, experience and insight that contribute significantly to our success in supporting our clients’ needs.
To learn more about our small business engagement, see our supplier diversity page.Back to top