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Sole Sourcing: How Helpful Was The VA’s Town Hall?

Today I attended a town hall on sole source contracts hosted by the VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) and presented by Tom Leney (Executive Director of VA OSDBU). (This is part of a series of presentations intended to educate veteran business owners on federal procurement issues, others including VetBiz verification and tiered evaluation under Kingdomware).

While sole sourcing is a hot topic for veteran business owners, and I appreciate the effort of the town hall, the fact of the matter is that half an hour (including the time for questions) is simply not enough to provide significant value. I will say, however, that if one is interested in learning more about how to obtain a sole source award, the slides and the presentation provide good tools for independent research and effort. And we all like to believe that hard work is rewarded.

Sole sourcing is what it sounds like: awarding a contract to one contractor without conducting competition. As pointed out by Mr. Leney, there are two major requirements for sole sourcing to an SDVOSB or VOSB by the VA: 1) the contractor is a responsible source with respect to performance; and 2) the award can be made at a fair and reasonable price at the best value to the VA. While a determination that only one SDVOSB or VOSB can perform the work is not required, a written justification and approval must support the award. (See VAAR Parts 819.7007 and 7008 for further details). Sole sourcing by the VA versus other agencies also has a lower ceiling to permit a sole source contract ($5 million versus $6.5 million); and you have to be VetBiz-verified to be eligible.

Mr. Leney also noted that the sole source program is not a business development program, or otherwise tied to a business plan. In other words, unlike with the 8(a) program, where the government aims to grow and develop those businesses, a veteran-owned business must obtain a sole source contract solely by offering quality performance at a fair and reasonable price. As a business owner, he advises you to engage with a contracting officer to show him that you’re procurement-ready and thus a viable contender for a sole source award. **However, see the below comment from Mr. Miller regarding the appropriate point of contact.

This is a particularly useful approach at the end of the fiscal year, where the contracting officer might be looking for reasons to award a sole source contract. Know which factors to meet to play the game: your ability to offer a fair and reasonable price, and proof of your responsibility.

Consider: do you have evidence that your price is fair and reasonable (i.e., are you on a schedule, are you the incumbent for the work)? Also, what evidence do you have to show you can do the work (i.e., relevant past performance)? Don’t be afraid to respectfully educate your contracting officer/project manager as to what you bring to the table. 

VA sole sourcing – use tools at your disposal to show your business is a viable contender for an award.

As a note, Mr. Leney provided his office contact information for purposes of reaching out in the instance a contracting officer claims that it’s too much work to demonstrate that one business is the only one capable of doing the work (which is an incorrect justification for not sole sourcing a contract). His office number is 202-461-4600. Please comment below to share any stories of your experience in reaching out to Mr. Leney and his responsiveness/the help you received from his office.  (Also, upon request, I can render your comment anonymous before it is approved for publication).

Access the full recording of the town hall presentation here.

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4 Responses to “Sole Sourcing: How Helpful Was The VA’s Town Hall?”

  1. 30 minutes for a presentation on sole-source contracting? I did a sole-source contract once (from the government side), and it took two hours and 30 minutes just to READ the justification I had to prepare for it!

    Not enough time to cover the topic, indeed.

  2. As a Former Contracting Officer I’m always disappointed when potential offerers are referred to Contracting Officers for assistance with anything other than an actual procurement. The Government Small Business Representatives should always be the initial point of contact for procurement matters that do not concern an actual procurement. In my career when someone showed up with a Power Point that they wanted to show to the contracting officer, the normal response from the contracting officer was an eye roll and then pulling a subordinate off the floor to sit through the briefing. The key to this is that Contracting Officers are on the production end of the procurement cycle, not the marketing end. The VA Small Business Reps should be up to speed and the primary point of contact for information not dealing with an actual procurement. In my current capacity as a Veteran Business Counselor I’ve had numerous Contracting Officers call and thank me for advising Veterans to first contact the Small Business Representatives. They are usually GS-12’s or 13’s, and get paid to assist Small businesses and to be their advocates. Contracting Officers are usually swamped with new procurement’s and have little time or initiative to train potential offerers. They will however be professional when dealing with requests for assistance, just not very helpful. In summary, the responsibility for determining if a business is procurement ready should start with the Small Business Rep.


    • That’s very insightful – thanks for commenting. Interestingly, I don’t believe Small Business Representatives were mentioned once during the presentation (only contracting officers and PMs).

  3. Sarah,

    Great information and extremely helpful! Appreciate all that you do to support us.



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