New and exciting small business contracting opportunities are out there – if you know where to look.

Under Federal Acquisition Subpart 19.5 (Set-Asides for Small Businesses), government purchases with an anticipated dollar value exceeding $3,000 (but not over $150,000) are automatically reserved for performance by qualifying small businesses.  For procurements over $150,000, the contract must be set-aside for exclusive small business performance when there is a reasonable expectation that offers will be received from at least two reasonable small business concerns at a fair market price.

Among these regulations is a little known stipulation that the set-aside requirements apply “only in the United States or its outlying areas.”  The extent of this limitation was recently put to the test in connection with a procurement involving both foreign and domestic chartering services that was set-aside for small business performance by the Department of the Navy, Military Sealift Command (MSC).

Maersk Line, Limited, a large business, filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) arguing that MSC should not have conducted the procurement as a small business set-aside because the contract includes provisions requiring performance outside of the United States.  The GAO disagreed, finding that the FAR does not define precisely what percentage of the contract must be performed “in the United States” in order to invoke the FAR’s small business set-aside requirements.  Accordingly, there was no reason to conclude that MSC erred in administering the procurement.

As the government strives to meet its small business set-aside benchmarks, expect the type and variety of small business contracting opportunities to continue to grow and diversify.  Is your small business doing all it can to expand its footprint?