The June 16, 2016 Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling on Kingdomware vs. The United States will drive more contractor teaming with veteran-owned small businesses in the federal market. Here's more about the opportunities, the risks, and five things every federal contractor can do now to leverage this news for more success.
The two big changes: First, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must now give preference to SDVOSBs and VOSBs on purchases made through GSA Schedules. And, second, the VA must give preference to veteran-owned business on all its acquisitions, whether or not the VA has met its annual veteran contracting goals.
New opportunities, risks and challenges for buyers and sellers
Expect more opportunities and more contract awards by the Department of Veterans Affair for veteran-owned businesses. VA contracting officers will be required to give greater priority, attention and consideration to veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses as suppliers to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The change in priorities also means more risk. The rule of two requires the determination of the contracting officer that two or more businesses can meet a requirement at a fair and reasonable price. So watch for a rise in two kinds of risk mitigation: education and audits. Some contracting operations will slow considerably as many buyers (a) assess and document their efforts to seek a greater number of responsive, responsible suppliers. and (b) have to spend more time responding to auditors and the close watch of contractors, and the media of VA contracting practices and awards. And expect more attention on finding mistakes on the road to new practices.
Action steps all federal contractors can take now
- Research potential federal market partners, so you are only teaming with the best. Find out who are the top -- veteran-owned and other -- federal contractors in your niche today, and how they do business in your target agencies. Create a focused strategy to get to know them, open a conversation, and explore possible partnership.
- Understand how the decision affects your company. Watch for articles, seminars, and webinars with insight into how buyers and contracting officers can maximize opportunity and good practices, and avoid mistakes. READ the SCOTUS decision and related blog posts by top law firms, and consider the implications for your company's strategy. Take advantage of other local resources to learn more about the VA, how it does business, opportunities for your company, and and about teaming successfully between veteran-owned and other businesses. Those include Procurement Technical Assistance Centers as well as seminars and webinars by expert law firms and government contracting associations.
- Get legal help for teaming. As VA buyers perceive a shift in priorities, and contractors perceive a shift in opportunities, toward veteran-owned business, more large and small businesses will seek veteran- and service-disabled veteran-owned teaming partners. Veteran-owned businesses risk getting hit on by both potential partners that will inevitably range from qualified and well-intentioned through opportunistic. Smart contractors, large and small, vets and non-vets, do savvy background research of prospective partners and get legal guidance for due diligence and teaming agreements.
- Register for the National Veteran Small Business Enterprise Conference (NVSBE) today. The Kingdomware SCOTUS decision will drive record attendance at the (NVSBE) on 1-3 November, 2016 in Minneapolis. Tom Leney, VA OSDBU Chief, estimates will be over 1,000 procurement decision-makers as well as key VA staff. Thousands of experienced, qualified veteran-owned businesses will be there.
- Connect with and support Veteran-owned businesses in your region that are seeking federal business. Check out the National Veterans Small Business Coalition (NVSBC)'s DC Chapter. If there isn't a chapter near you, contact NVSBC's Executive Director Scott Denniston to find out about starting one.
If your veteran-owned business is new to federal contracting
Research, register, certify, verify.
Research the federal marketbefore plunging in, to be confident that selling to the VA or other federal agencies is a good fit for your business strategy. If so, you'll need to register in SAM.gov. Registration is free, as is assistance in doing so from your Procurement Technical Assistance Center. Once you confirm that you're specifically interested in doing business with Veterans Affairs, apply for certification & verification as a veteran-owned business through the VA's Center for Verification and Evaluation. (Good thing that CVE has been working hard to streamline its processes. But recent reports from some veteran business owners suggest you bring your patience if you're in the application process.)