Important Update Re: Small Business Runway Extension Act of 2018We recently reported that, on December 17, 2018, President Trump signed into law a bill that amends the Small Business Act to require that the size of a federal contractor be measured by an average of five years—rather than three years—of revenue for the purpose of determining small business program eligibility. As commentators have noted, the bill did not have a specific effective date, and thus it should be presumed to be effective immediately under longstanding principles of statutory interpretation.

However, the Small Business Administration (SBA) very recently issued an Information Notice, which states:

SBA is receiving inquiries about whether the Runway Extension Act is effective immediately—that is, whether businesses can report their size today based on annual average receipts over five years instead of annual average receipts over three years. The Small Business Act still requires that new size standards be approved by the Administrator through a rulemaking process. The Runway Extension Act does not include an effective date, and the amended section 3(a)(2)(C)(ii)(II) does not make a five-year average effective immediately.

The change made by the Runway Extension Act is not presently effective and is therefore not applicable to present contracts, offers, or bids until implemented through the standard rulemaking process. The Office of Government Contracting and Business Development (GCBD) is drafting revisions to SBA’s regulations and SBA’s forms to implement the Runway Extension Act. Until SBA changes its regulations, businesses still must report their receipts based on a three-year average.

Interestingly, the SBA indicated in an April 2018 Federal Register notice that it was not in favor of changing the lookback period from three years to five years:

SBA believes that calculating average annual receipts over three years ameliorates fluctuations in receipts due to variations in economic conditions. SBA maintains that three years should reasonably balance the problems of fluctuating receipts with the overall capabilities of firms that are about to exceed the size standard. Extending the averaging period to five years would allow a business to greatly exceed the size standard for some years and still be eligible for Federal assistance, perhaps at the expense of other smaller businesses. Such a change is more likely to benefit successful small business graduates by allowing them to prolong their small business status, thereby reducing opportunities for currently defined small businesses.

Thus, it is possible that the SBA’s seemingly unfavorable view of the of the Small Business Runway Extension Act informed its decision to issue the Information Notice—even though, as commenters have noted, the validity of the SBA’s position about the present effect (or lack thereof) of the Act is questionable.

The bottom line is this: The SBA presumably will update its regulations in the near future to include the five-year lookback period set forth in the Small Business Runway Extension Act. Accordingly, any confusion created by the SBA’s recent Information Notice hopefully will be ameliorated fairly soon. In the meantime, whether the three-year lookback period or five-year lookback period applies needs to be analyzed on a case-by-case, situation-by-situation, and company-by-company basis.

If you have any questions about any of the foregoing issues, please do not hesitate to contact Aron Beezley.

The Three Most Important Bid Protest Decisions of 2018Bradley attorneys Aron Beezley, Patrick Quigley, and Sarah Osborne  recently published a Law360 “Expert Analysis” article on the three most important bid protest decisions of 2018: Dell Federal Systems, L.P. v. United States, 906 F.3d 982 (Fed. Cir. 2018); PDS Consultants, Inc. v. United States, 907 F.3d 1345 (Fed. Cir. 2018); and Oracle America, Inc., B-416061, 2018 CPD ¶ 180 (Comp. Gen. May 31, 2018). The article—which is available on the Law360 website—provides an overview of these three cases, and provides insights on how they will shape the bid protest landscape going forward.

If you have any questions about the topics discussed in the article, please feel free to contact Aron Beezley, Patrick Quigley, or Sarah Osborne.

Small Business Runway Extension Act Proving to Be a Double-Edged SwordWe recently reported that, on December 17, 2018, President Trump signed into law a bill that amends the Small Business Act to require that the size of a federal contractor be measured by an average of five years—rather than three years—of revenue for the purpose of determining small business program eligibility. Almost immediately after the bill became law, we started hearing from federal contractors—most of them ecstatic about the new law, but some of them less-than-thrilled.

Why are most federal contractors ecstatic about the new law?

Those in the former group generally are ecstatic because this new law may help them keep their small business status for a longer period of time, and thus keep open a lucrative line of business reserved for small companies.

For example, a company operating under NAICS code 236210 (Industrial Building Construction)—which has a size threshold of $36.5 million—with the following revenue from the preceding five years will qualify as a small business under the new law (whereas, they would not have qualified under the old law):

FISCAL YEAR 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
REVENUE $25 million $30 million $35 million $37 million $40 million

 

In other words, this hypothetical company would have an average annual revenue under the old, three-year rule of $37.3 million—which would make them other-than-small—but would have an average annual revenue under the new five-year rule of $33.4 million—qualifying them as a small business.

Why are some federal contractors less than thrilled with the new law?

Those in the latter group generally are not thrilled because this new law will actually have the effect of making them other-than-small, and thus will close a lucrative line of business reserved for small companies.

For instance, a company operating under NAICS code 236210 (Industrial Building Construction)—which, again, has a size threshold of $36.5 million—with the following revenue from the preceding five years will not qualify as a small business under the new law (whereas, they would have qualified under the old law):

FISCAL YEAR 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
REVENUE $47 million $45 million $40 million $35 million $25 million

 

In other words, this hypothetical company would have an average annual revenue under the old three-year rule of $33.3 million—which would make them small—but would have an average annual revenue under the new, five-year rule of $38.4 million—which would make them other-than-small.

Is this new law tenable?

In short, the new law may not be tenable in its current form. The new law clearly is well-intended and will be a significant benefit to many federal contractors, but based on the responses from federal contractors that we have seen thus far, it appears likely that there will be a push by some in the industry to make the lookback period the lower of either the three-year average or the five-year average.

Wait, I have more questions!

If you have any questions about how the new law may impact your business, please do not hesitate to contact Aron Beezley.