Obtaining Federal Contracts
Listed below are four common ways an 8a Certified firm is awarded contracts by the Federal Government.
1. SBA SEARCH LETTER
This pathway begins with the SBA District Office to which your company is assigned sending out a “Search Letter” on your behalf. This type of action can be initiated by either your company requesting it, or because your assigned SBA Business Development Specialist elected to do this on your behalf as part of SBA’s 8(a) business support processes. In this type of Search Letter, the SBA advises the agency contracting office of your firm’s capabilities and NAICS code(s), and asks the agency to identify current or planned acquisitions that your company could qualify to perform. The agency responds by providing the requested information, and it can either end there, or the agency might be interested in doing something further with SBA, or the SBA may decide to take further action.
2. SBA REQUIREMENTS SEARCH LETTER
Your company conducts research and finds an emerging procurement whose estimated dollar value is near or under the 8(a) sole source threshold, and has been assigned one of your NAICS codes (or is likely to be assigned one of your NAICS codes). It is recommended that your company contact the SBA by telephone to re-establish your personal business relationship with your SBA Business Development Specialist, and then send the SBA a letter of request for consideration. If mutual agreement is reached about your qualifications to perform the procurement, your company can then request that the SBA consider doing a “Requirements Search Letter” on behalf of your company. The object of this type of search letter is a possible Sole Source Award to your company. This letter “directs” the contracting agency to consider your company for this type of award. If more than one 8(a) firm initiates marketing for the same eligible procurement, the date on the Requirements Search Letter determines the order of consideration by the contracting agency. If the first company in line is determined to be “not capable” of performing the requirement(s), then the second company in line will be evaluated. (You should contact the SBA as early as possible, because it is “first come first served.”
3. AGENCY UNILATERAL PROCESS
The third pathway is when the agency decides to initiate the 8(a) sole source award process by sending an “Offering Letter” to the SBA, asking the SBA to place the procurement in the 8(a) BD Program and to approve awarding it to your firm as a sole source action. This is usually referred to as a “unilateral action.” Receipt of the “Offering Letter” would most often be the first time the SBA became aware of an opportunity at the particular agency that’s making application. The agency may become aware of your firm’s capabilities as a result of your firm’s marketing efforts, the government technical customer’s market research, or the government contracting office’s market research. Also, the agency may choose to begin the process by requesting recommended 8(a) sources from the SBA, and then evaluate the capabilities of the most promising of these recommended sources.
4. INITIATE YOUR OWN PROCESS
Also, at any time your company can contact an agency’s contracting office directly about a specific, eligible procurement. If you believe your company is capable of performing the particular requirements of the procurement, and your company qualifies as a small business under the NAICS code that the procurement is likely to be awarded under, and you estimate the dollar value of the procurement to be under the dollar threshold for the probable or assigned NAICS code, you can contact the agency’s contracting office to inquire about the possibility of doing a sole source award to your company. The agency may be very receptive to this idea, and then again, it may not. If your firm’s market research involves direct contact with an agency, and leads to a discussion of a potential procurement with an agency, it is recommended that you ask the agency’s contracting office to please consider your firm and to please send an Offering Letter to your local SBA District Office, addressing it to the SBA Business Development Specialist to which you are assigned.