If you run a small business and have thought about bidding on government contracts, you’ve most likely looked into the FAR. Truth be told, this set of federal regulations, formally known as the Federal Acquisition Regulation, can be pretty daunting, even for the pros. Fortunately, the government has provisions to give small businesses a leg up. This month and next month we’ll highlight parts of the FAR most pertinent to small firms.

Before we dive to the FAR, small business owners need to know that when it comes to doing business with the government, it is federal government policy to provide the maximum opportunities practical for small businesses. To this end, Congress established a 23% government-wide goal for all awards going to small business. Of that, 5% is meant for businesses with economically or socially disadvantaged owners.

So how’s the government’s report card looking? Since 2006, or for more than a decade, the government has missed its small business contracting goal. Some steps to remove barriers and open doors for small businesses in the federal market place are in process; others have yet to be implemented. The FAR is one step that is intended to help.  

Organized by 53 main parts, the two key parts to clue into are Parts 19 and 52. Part 19 covers the policies and procedures for small business, including the rules for different set-aside types, such as:

  • Small business,
  • 8(a) business programs,
  • HUB Zone small businesses,
  • Service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses,
  • Economically disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB), and
  • Women-owned small business (WOSB) categories eligible under the WOSB program.

FAR Subpart 19.304 addresses how to claim Small Disadvantaged Business Status and FAR Subpart 19.8 outlines the 8(a) program. If your company qualifies under any of these special categories, it is to your advantage to get formally registered.

FAR Part 52 covers standard terms and conditions highly applicable to small businesses. Size standards─whether you are actually considered small─are determined by your product or service classification. You can look up the product or service classification for your business in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Manual online at www.census.gov. These size standards are established by the Small Business Administration. Contracting officers are required to specify the NAICS code in a solicitation so bidders can be appropriately represented as a small or large.

Small businesses owners have been recognized as leaders in innovation, and the backbone and drivers of the economy. Next month we will take a deeper dive into FAR Subpart 19.202. Stay with us and make the doors of opportunity swing open for you!