The Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program allows Federal contracting officers to limit competition for Federal contracts to qualified Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs), in select industries.
Until now, one aspect lacking from the WOSB Program was sole source authority, something that all other small business contracting programs have. Sole source authority would permit contracting officers to directly award contracts to women-owned small businesses, and eliminate the previous, lengthy process for distributing these highly needed contracts.
A recent amendment by Congress to the WOSB Program in section 825 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2015 bestowed contracting officers with sole source authority, reduced the time requirements for the SBA’s mandatory study determining industries in which WOSBs are underrepresented in Federal contracting, and established a requirement for companies to certify as WOSBs or EDWOSBs by the SBA, a Federal Agency, a State government or an SBA-approved agency.
On May 1, 2015, the SBA published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to put sole source authority into practice for WOSBs and EDWOSBs and to shorten the process for the SBA’s required study. In an effort to avoid delaying the fulfillment of sole source authority, the SBA stated that it would address certification in a future rulemaking.
The proposed rule received 495 comments, most of which offered general support. Commenters particularly expressed appreciation for the rapidity the SBA adopted in the matter.
On Friday, the Small Business Administration announced a final rule authorizing sole source authority in the WOSB Federal Contract Program. The final rule will become effective on October 14, 2015 and will have a manufacturing cap of $6.5 million and a $4 million cap for all other contracts.
The issuance of sole source authority for the WOSB Program will incredibly benefit women-owned small businesses. The business field is slowly but surely becoming more level for women entrepreneurs and this final rule is a good start to providing these businesses with the consideration and opportunities they deserve.