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13 CFR 125.3 - What types of subcontracting assistance are available to small businesses?

(a) General. The purpose of the subcontracting assistance program is to provide the maximum practicable subcontracting opportunities for small business concerns, including small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans, small business concerns owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans, certified HUBZone small business concerns, certified small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and small business concerns owned and controlled by women. The subcontracting assistance program implements section 8(d) of the Small Business Act, which includes the requirement that, unless otherwise exempt, other than small business concerns awarded contracts that offer subcontracting possibilities by the Federal Government in excess of $650,000, or in excess of $1,500,000 for construction of a public facility, must submit a subcontracting plan to the appropriate contracting agency. The Federal Acquisition Regulation sets forth the requirements for subcontracting plans in 48 CFR 19.7, and the clause at 48 CFR 52.219-9.

(1) Subcontract under this section means any agreement (other than one involving an employer-employee relationship) entered into by a Government prime contractor or subcontractor calling for supplies and/or services required for performance of the contract or subcontract (including modifications).

(i) Subcontract award data reported by prime contractors and subcontractors shall be limited to awards made to their immediate next-tier subcontractors. Credit cannot be taken for awards made beyond the immediate next-tier, except as follows:

(A) The contractor or subcontractor has been designated to receive a small business or small disadvantaged business credit from an ANC or Indian Tribe; or

(B) Purchases from a corporation, company, or subdivision that is an affiliate of the prime contractor or subcontractor are not included in the subcontracting base. Subcontracts by first-tier affiliates shall be treated as subcontracts of the prime.

(ii) Only subcontracts involving performance in the United States or its outlying areas should be included, with the exception of subcontracts under a contract awarded by the U.S. Department of State or any other agency that has statutory or regulatory authority to require subcontracting plans for subcontracts performed outside the United States and its outlying areas and subcontracts for foreign military sales unless waived in accordance with agency regulations.

(iii) The following should not be included in the subcontracting base: internally generated costs such as salaries and wages; employee insurance; other employee benefits; payments for petty cash; depreciation; interest; income taxes; property taxes; lease payments; bank fees; fines, claims, and dues; Original Equipment Manufacturer relationships during warranty periods (negotiated up front with product); utilities such as electricity, water, sewer, and other services purchased from a municipality or solely authorized by the municipality to provide those services in a particular geographical region; and philanthropic contributions. Utility companies may be eligible for additional exclusions unique to their industry, which may be approved by the contracting officer on a case-by-case basis. Exclusions from the subcontracting base include but are not limited to those listed above.

(2) Subcontracting goals required under paragraph (c) of this section must be established in terms of the total dollars subcontracted and as a percentage of total subcontract dollars. However, a contracting officer may establish additional goals as a percentage of total contract dollars.

(3) A prime contractor has a history of unjustified untimely or reduced payments to subcontractors if the prime contractor has reported itself to a contracting officer in accordance with paragraph (c)(5) of this section on three occasions within a 12 month period.

(b) Responsibilities of prime contractors. (1) Prime contractors (including small business prime contractors) selected to receive a Federal contract that exceeds the simplified acquisition threshold, that will not be performed entirely outside of any state, territory, or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and that is not for services which are personal in nature, are responsible for ensuring that small business concerns have the maximum practicable opportunity to participate in the performance of the contract, including subcontracts for subsystems, assemblies, components, and related services for major systems, consistent with the efficient performance of the contract.

(2) A small business cannot be required to submit a formal subcontracting plan or be asked to submit a formal subcontracting plan, a small-business prime contractor is encouraged to provide maximum practicable opportunity to other small businesses to participate in the performance of the contract, consistent with the efficient performance of the contract.

(3) Efforts to provide the maximum practicable subcontracting opportunities for small business concern may include, as appropriate for the procurement, one or more of the following actions:

(i) Breaking out contract work items into economically feasible units, as appropriate, to facilitate small business participation;

(ii) Conducting market research to identify small business subcontractors and suppliers through all reasonable means, such as performing online searches via the System for Award Management (SAM) (or any successor system), posting Notices of Sources Sought and/or Requests for Proposal on SBA's SUB-Net, participating in Business Matchmaking events, and attending pre-bid conferences;

(iii) Soliciting small business concerns as early in the acquisition process as practicable to allow them sufficient time to submit a timely offer for the subcontract;

(iv) Providing interested small businesses with adequate and timely information about the plans, specifications, and requirements for performance of the prime contract to assist them in submitting a timely offer for the subcontract;

(v) Negotiating in good faith with interested small businesses;

(vi) Directing small businesses that need additional assistance to SBA;

(vii) Assisting interested small businesses in obtaining bonding, lines of credit, required insurance, necessary equipment, supplies, materials, or services;

(viii) Utilizing the available services of small business associations; local, state, and Federal small business assistance offices; and other organizations; and

(ix) Participating in a formal mentor-protégé program with one or more small-business protégés that results in developmental assistance to the protégés.

(c) Additional responsibilities of large prime contractors. (1) In addition to the responsibilities provided in paragraph (b) of this section, a prime contractor selected for award of a contract or contract modification that exceeds $650,000, or $1,500,000 in the case of construction of a public facility, is responsible for the following:

(i) Submitting and negotiating before award an acceptable subcontracting plan that reflects maximum practicable opportunities for small businesses in the performance of the contract as subcontractors or suppliers. A prime contractor may submit a commercial plan, described in paragraph (c)(2) of this section, instead of an individual subcontracting plan, when the product or service being furnished to the Government meets the definition of a commercial item under 48 CFR 2.101;

(ii) Making a good-faith effort to achieve the dollar and percentage goals and other elements in its subcontracting plan;

(iii) The contractor may not prohibit a subcontractor from discussing any material matter pertaining to payment or utilization with the contracting officer;

(iv) When developing an individual subcontracting plan (also called individual contract plan), the contractor must decide whether to include indirect costs in its subcontracting goals. If indirect costs are included in the goals, these costs must be included in the Individual Subcontract Report (ISR) in www.esrs.gov (eSRS) or Subcontract Reports for Individual Contracts (the paper SF-294, if authorized). If indirect costs are excluded from the goals, these costs must be excluded from the ISRs (or SF-294 if authorized); however, these costs must be included on a prorated basis in the Summary Subcontracting Report (SSR) in the eSRS system. A contractor authorized to use a commercial subcontracting plan must include all indirect costs in its SSR;

(v) The contractor must assign each subcontract the NAICS code and corresponding size standard that best describes the principal purpose of the subcontract (see §121.410). The prime contractor may rely on subcontractor self-certifications made in SAM (or any successor system), if the subcontract contains a clause which provides that the subcontractor verifies by submission of the offer that the size or socioeconomic representations and certifications in SAM (or any successor system) are current, accurate and complete as of the date of the offer for the subcontract. A prime contractor or subcontractor may not require the use of SAM (or any successor system) for purposes of representing size or socioeconomic status in connection with a subcontract;

(vi) The contractor must submit timely and accurate ISRs and SSRs in eSRS (or any successor system), or if information for a particular procurement cannot be entered into eSRS (or any successor system), submit a timely SF-294, Subcontracting Report for Individual Contract. When a report is rejected by the contracting officer, the contractor must make the necessary corrections and resubmit the report within 30 days of receiving the notice of rejection;

(vii) The contractor must cooperate in the reviews of subcontracting plan compliance, including providing requested information and supporting documentation reflecting actual achievements and good-faith efforts to meet the goals and other elements in the subcontracting plan;

(viii) The contractor must provide pre-award written notification to unsuccessful small business offerors on all subcontracts over $150,000 for which a small business concern received a preference. The written notification must include the name and location of the apparent successful offeror and if the successful offeror is a small business, veteran-owned small business, service-disabled veteran-owned small business, HUBZone small business, small disadvantaged business, or women-owned small business; and

(ix) As a best practice, the contractor may provide the pre-award written notification cited in paragraph (c)(1)(viii) of this section to unsuccessful and small business offerors on subcontracts at or below $150,000 and should do so whenever practical.

(2) A commercial plan, also referred to as an annual plan or company-wide plan, is the preferred type of subcontracting plan for contractors furnishing commercial items. A commercial plan covers the offeror's fiscal year and applies to the entire production of commercial items sold by either the entire company or a portion thereof (e.g., division, plant, or product line). Once approved, the plan remains in effect during the contractor's fiscal year for all Federal government contracts in effect during that period. The contracting officer of the agency that originally approved the commercial plan will exercise the functions of the contracting officer on behalf of all agencies that award contracts covered by the plan.

(3) An offeror must represent to the contracting officer that it will make a good faith effort to acquire articles, equipment, supplies, services, or materials, or obtain the performance of construction work from the small business concerns that it used in preparing the bid or proposal, in the same scope, amount, and quality used in preparing and submitting the bid or proposal. Merely responding to a request for a quote does not constitute use in preparing a bid or offer. An offeror used a small business concern in preparing the bid or proposal if:

(i) The offeror references the small business concern as a subcontractor in the bid or proposal or associated small business subcontracting plan;

(ii) The offeror has a subcontract or agreement in principle to subcontract with the small business concern to perform a portion of the specific contract; or

(iii) The small business concern drafted any portion of the bid or proposal or the offeror used the small business concern's pricing or cost information or technical expertise in preparing the bid or proposal, where there is written evidence (including email) of an intent or understanding that the small business concern will be awarded a subcontract for the related work if the offeror is awarded the contract.

(4) If a prime contractor fails to acquire articles, equipment, supplies, services or materials or obtain the performance of construction work as described in (c)(3), the prime contractor must provide the contracting officer with a written explanation. This written explanation must be submitted to the contracting officer prior to the submission of the invoice for final payment and contract close-out.

(5) A prime contractor shall notify the contracting officer in writing if upon completion of the responsibilities of the small business subcontractor (i.e., the subcontractor is entitled to payment under the terms of the subcontract), the prime contractor pays a reduced price to a small business subcontractor for goods and services provided for the contract or the payment to a small business subcontractor is more than 90 days past due under the terms of the subcontract for goods and services provided for the contract and for which the Federal agency has paid the prime contractor. "Reduced price" means a price that is less than the price agreed upon in a written, binding contractual document. The prime contractor shall include the reason for the reduction in payment to or failure to pay a small business subcontractor in any written notice.

(6) If at the conclusion of a contract the prime contractor did not meet all of the small business subcontracting goals in the subcontracting plan, the prime contractor shall provide the contracting officer with a written explanation as to why it did not meet the goals of the plan so that the contracting officer can evaluate whether the prime contractor acted in good faith as set forth in paragraph (d)(3) of this section.

(7) The additional prime contractor responsibilities described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section do not apply if:

(i) The prime contractor is a small business concern;

(ii) The prime contract or contract modification is a personal services contract; or

(iii) The prime contract or contract modification will be performed entirely outside of any state, territory, or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

(d) Contracting officer responsibilities. The contracting officer (or administrative contracting officer if specifically delegated in writing to accomplish this task) is responsible for evaluating the prime contractor's compliance with its subcontracting plan, including:

(1) Ensuring that all contractors submit their subcontracting reports into the eSRS (or any successor system) or, if applicable, the SF-294, Subcontracting Report for Individual Contracts, within 30 days after the report ending date (e.g., by October 30th for the fiscal year ended September 30th).

(2) Reviewing all ISRs, and where applicable, SSRs, in eSRS (or any successor system) within 60 days of the report ending date (e.g., by November 30th for a report submitted for the fiscal year ended September 30th) and either accepting or rejecting the reports in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provisions set forth in 48 CFR subpart 19.7, 52.219-9, and the eSRS instructions (www.esrs.gov). The authority to acknowledge or reject SSRs for commercial plans resides with the contracting officer who approved the commercial plan. If a report is rejected, the contracting officer must provide an explanation for the rejection to allow prime contractors the opportunity to respond specifically to perceived deficiencies.

(3) Evaluating whether the prime contractor made a good faith effort to comply with its small business subcontracting plan. Evidence that a large business prime contractor has made a good faith effort to comply with its subcontracting plan or other subcontracting responsibilities includes supporting documentation that:

(i) The contractor performed one or more of the actions described in paragraph (b) of this section, as appropriate for the procurement;

(ii) Although the contractor may have failed to achieve its goal in one socioeconomic category, it over-achieved its goal by an equal or greater amount in one or more of the other categories; or

(iii) The contractor fulfilled all of the requirements of its subcontracting plan.

(4) Evaluating the prime contractor's written explanation concerning the prime contractor's failure to use a small business concern in performance in the same scope, amount, and quality used in preparing and submitting the bid or proposal, and considering that information when rating the contractor for past performance purposes.

(5) Evaluating the prime contractor's written explanation concerning its payment of a reduced price to a small business subcontractor for goods and services upon completion of the responsibilities of the subcontractor or its payment to a subcontractor more than 90 days past due under the terms of the subcontract for goods and services provided for the contract and for which the Federal agency has paid the prime contractor, and considering that information when rating the contractor for past performance purposes.

(6) Evaluating whether the prime contractor has a history of unjustified untimely or reduced payments to subcontractors, and if so, recording the identity of the prime contractor in the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS), or any successor database.

(7) In his or her discretion, requiring the prime contractor (other than a prime contractor with a commercial plan) to update its subcontracting plan when an option is exercised.

(8) Requiring the prime contractor (other than a contractor with a commercial plan) to submit a subcontracting plan if the value of a modification causes the value of the contract to exceed the subcontracting plan threshold and to the extent that subcontracting opportunities exist.

(9) In his or her discretion, requiring a subcontracting plan if a prime contractor's size status changes from small to other than small as a result of a size recertification.

(10) Where a subcontracting plan is amended in connection with an option, or added as a result of a recertification or modification, the changes to any existing plan are for prospective subcontracting opportunities and do not apply retroactively. However, since achievements must be reported on the ISR (or the SF-294, if applicable) on a cumulative basis from the inception of the contract, the contractor's achievements prior to the modification or option will be factored into its overall achievement on the contract from inception.

(e) CMR Responsibilities. Commercial Market Representatives (CMRs) are SBA's subcontracting specialists. CMRs are responsible for:

(1) Facilitating the matching of large prime contractors with small business concerns;

(2) Counseling large prime contractors on their responsibilities to maximize subcontracting opportunities for small business concerns;

(3) Instructing large prime contractors on identifying small business concerns by means of SAM (or any successor system), SUB-Net, Business Matchmaking events, and other resources and tools;

(4) Counseling small business concerns on how to market themselves to large prime contractors;

(5) Maintaining a portfolio of large prime contractors and conducting Subcontracting Orientation and Assistance Reviews (SOARs). SOARs are conducted for the purpose of assisting prime contractors in understanding and complying with their small business subcontracting responsibilities, including developing subcontracting goals that reflect maximum practicable opportunity for small business; maintaining acceptable books and records; and periodically submitting reports to the Federal government; and

(6) Conducting periodic reviews, including compliance reviews in accordance with paragraph (f) of this section.

(f) Compliance reviews. (1) A prime contractor's performance under its subcontracting plan is evaluated by means of on-site compliance reviews and follow-up reviews. A compliance review is a surveillance review that determines a contractor's achievements in meeting the goals and other elements in its subcontracting plan for both open contracts and contracts completed during the previous twelve months. A follow-up review is done after a compliance review, generally within six to eight months, to determine if the contractor has implemented SBA's recommendations.

(2) All compliance reviews begin with a validation of the prime contractor's most recent ISR (or SF-294, if applicable) or SSR. A compliance review includes:

(i) An evaluation of whether the prime contractor assigned the proper NAICS code and corresponding size standard to a subcontract, and a review of whether small business subcontractors qualify for the size or socioeconomic status claimed;

(ii) Validation of the prime contractor's methodology for completing its subcontracting reports; and

(iii) Consideration of whether the prime contractor is monitoring its other than small subcontractors with regard to their subcontracting plans, determining achievement of their proposed subcontracting goals, and reviewing their subcontractors' ISRs (or SF-294s, if applicable).

(3) Upon completion of the review and evaluation of a contractor's performance and efforts to achieve the requirements in its subcontracting plans, the contractor's performance will be assigned one of the following ratings: Outstanding, Highly Successful, Acceptable, Marginal, or Unsatisfactory. The factors listed in paragraph (c) of this section will be taken into consideration, where applicable, in determining the contractor's rating. However, a contractor may be found Unsatisfactory, regardless of other factors, if it cannot substantiate the claimed achievements under its subcontracting plan.

(4) Any contractor that receives a marginal or unsatisfactory rating must provide a written corrective action plan to SBA, or to both SBA and the agency that conducted the compliance review if the agency conducting the review has an agreement with SBA, within 30 days of its receipt of the official compliance report.

(5) Any contractor that fails to comply with paragraph (f)(4) of this section, or any contractor that fails to demonstrate a good-faith effort, as set forth in paragraph (d) of this section, may be considered for liquidated damages under the procedures in 48 CFR 19.705-7 and the clause at 52.219-16. This action shall be considered by the contracting officer upon receipt of a written recommendation to that effect from the CMR. The CMR's recommendation must include a copy of the compliance report and any other relevant correspondence or supporting documentation.

(6) Reviews and evaluations of contractors with commercial plans are identical to reviews and evaluations of other contractors, except that contractors with commercial subcontracting plans do not submit the SF-294, Subcontracting Report for Individual Contracts. Instead, goal achievement is determined by comparing the goals in the approved commercial subcontracting plan against the cumulative achievements on the SF-295, Summary Subcontract Report, for the same period. The same ratings criteria set forth in paragraph (f)(3) of this section apply to contractors with commercial plans.

(7) SBA is authorized to enter into agreements with other Federal agencies or entities to conduct compliance reviews and otherwise further the objectives of the subcontracting program. Copies of these agreements will be published on http://www.sba.gov/GC. SBA is the lead agency on all joint compliance reviews with other agencies.

(g) Subcontracting consideration in source selection. (1) A contracting officer may include an evaluation factor in a solicitation which evaluates:

(i) An offeror's proposed approach to small business subcontracting participation in the subject procurement;

(ii) The extent to which the offeror has met its small business subcontracting plan goals on previous covered contracts; and/or

(iii) The extent to which the offeror timely paid its small business subcontractors under covered contracts.

(2) A contracting officer may include an evaluation factor in a solicitation which evaluates an offeror's commitment to pay small business subcontractors within a specific number of days after receipt of payment from the Government for goods and services previously rendered by the small business subcontractor.

(i) The contracting officer will comparatively evaluate the proposed timelines.

(ii) Such a commitment shall become a material part of the contract.

(iii) The contracting officer must consider the contractor's compliance with the commitment in evaluating performance, including for purposes of contract continuation (such as exercising options).

(3) A small business concern submitting an offer shall receive the maximum score, credit or rating under an evaluation factor described in paragraph (g) of this section without having to submit any information in connection with this factor.

(4) A contracting officer shall include a significant evaluation factor for the criteria described in paragraphs (g)(1)(i) and (g)(1)(ii) of this section in a bundled contract or order as defined in §125.2.

(5) Paragraph (g) of this section may apply to solicitations for orders against multiple award contracts, (including a Federal Supply Schedule or Multiple Award Schedule contract, a Government-wide acquisition contract (GWAC), or a multi-agency contract (MAC)), blanket purchase agreements or basic ordering agreements.

(h) Multiple award contracts. (1) Except where a prime contractor has a commercial plan, the contracting officer shall require a subcontracting plan for each multiple award indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract (including Multiple Award Schedule), where the estimated value of the contract exceeds the subcontracting plan thresholds in paragraph (a) of this section and the contract has subcontracting opportunities.

(2) Contractors shall submit small business subcontracting reports for individual orders to the contracting agency on an annual basis.

(3) The agency funding the order shall receive credit towards its small business subcontracting goals. More than one agency may not receive credit towards its subcontracting goals for a particular subcontract.

(4) The agency funding the order may in its discretion establish small business subcontracting goals for individual orders, blanket purchase agreements or basic ordering agreements.

(i) Subcontracting consideration in bundled and consolidated contracts.

(1) For bundled requirements, the agency must evaluate offers from teams of small businesses the same as other offers, with due consideration to the capabilities of all proposed subcontractors.

(2) For substantial bundling, the agency must design actions to maximize small business participation as subcontractors (including suppliers) at any tier under the contract or contracts that may be awarded to meet the requirements.

(3) For significant subcontracting opportunities in consolidated contracts, bundled requirements, and substantially bundled requirements, see §125.2(d)(4).

[69 FR 75824, Dec. 20, 2004, as amended at 74 FR 46887, Sept. 14, 2009; 78 FR 42403, July 16, 2013; 78 FR 59798, Sept. 30, 2013; 78 FR 61142, Oct. 2, 2013]

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