The Federal Acquisition Council published several new contracting rules Thursday, including one designed to increase government subcontracting to smaller businesses.
The new federal acquisition circular adds the terms of a 2013 Small Business Administration rule that made a number of changes to federal small business subcontracting requirements into the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the council said. The rule will go into effect at the beginning of November.
The circular also includes several other changes, such as clarifications meant to reduce confusion for contractors, according to the council, which includes the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. General Services Administration and NASA.
Contractors will have to assign specific North American Industry Classification System codes — used for collecting statistical data — to subcontracts and to provide socioeconomic status of a subcontractor in notifications to unsuccessful subcontract offerers. In addition, contractors will be barred from blocking subcontractors from discussing payment or utilization issues with a contracting officer.
Contracting officers will also get expanded authority, including the discretion to require that small business subcontracting goals be defined in terms of total contract spending — not just based on required subcontract spending — and to request a new subcontracting plan if and when prime contractors grow beyond small business status.
Officers can also establish subcontracting goals at the task or delivery order level when making procurements under overarching indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts, among other changes.The rule also changes the way credit is assigned to federal agencies for meeting their small business contracting goals, allowing agencies that fund a contract — not just those responsible for awarding the deal — to receive credit.
The council had issued a proposed version of the rule in June 2015, following on from the SBA’s final rule, which had been put in place in July 2013, and received several dozen comments on the proposal.
Responding to those comments, the council made several tweaks in the final measure, including clarifying that although contracting officers can establish subcontracting goals for each task order, they cannot ask for new subcontracting plans.
In another tweak, the council also said that prime contractors won’t be held liable for misrepresentations made by a subcontractor regarding size or socioeconomic status, if the contractors otherwise acted in good faith.
The other changes in the circular include revisions to forms related to contracts involving bonds and other financial protections aimed at clarifying liability limitations and reducing confusion for contractors, and updates to outdated references in the regulation to federal guidance on administrative and audit requirements.