Spending on small business set-aside contracts took a dip recently, falling from nearly $10 billion to just below $8 billion between 2020 and 2021. But over that same time period, the portion of those small business set-asides devoted to women-owned small businesses rose from around $3 billion to around $4 billion, according to analysis by Deltek’s Senior Manager for Research Ashley Sanderson.
“Of late, the government has really been trying to consolidate. There’s a lot more use of vehicles and GWACs, different contracts being combined into one,” Sanderson said during a March 8 webinar. “It’s very popular for the government to then have different pools under these vehicles. So they’ll have a pool that’s a full and open competition, they’ll have a pool that’s a woman-owned small business set-aside competition, a pool for service-disabled veteran-owned businesses, for instance. And I think at times what’s happening is it could be that these pools are more catered to more specific kinds of set asides, and maybe the broader small business is not seeing as much of the set-aside for them as it is for these particular catered pools that you’re seeing.”
That means, Sanderson said, right now “it looks good for women in small business.” To illustrate that, Sanderson looked at 64 opportunities coming within the next 18 months specifically set aside for women-owned small businesses. This isn’t an exhaustive list; Sanderson said there are plenty of opportunities that haven’t settled on an acquisition strategy yet, or have multiple set-asides. Those weren’t included in Sanderson’s list.
The total value of these opportunities comes to around $2 billion, with an average value of $33 million each. The lion’s share of these opportunities come from Defense, with 10 of them totaling about $1.35 billion in total value. The Army has the highest number of opportunities at 15, though the total value of those only amounts to around $100 million. The Department of Homeland Security has seven, worth a total of about $700 million. The rest are scattered among various departments, agencies and components.
Sanderson also broke down these opportunities by industry.
“IT by far has the most spending. Not as many opportunities though, as you can see, so it’s definitely a place to go if you’re looking for high value contracts. But there aren’t as many, so it’s going to be more of a steep competition,” she said. “On professional services, it’s really the place where we see the most contracts for women-owned small business set asides. The value is also pretty good. But remember, the value is based off of the bulk, and there are a ton of them. So they’re smaller contracts. But there’s many more.”
Top 3 opportunities
The biggest opportunity for women-owned small businesses over the next 18 months, according to Sanderson, is support services for the Defense Information Systems Agency’s financial management and logistics and contracts divisions. The primary requirement is IT services. The government estimates it to be worth $1 billion. Deltek expects it to be solicited in October of this year and awarded in June of 2023.
“This is anticipated to be a task order off of a [General Services Administration Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC)]. So that’s something to be very aware of: you can only compete for it if you are on that GWAC,” Sanderson said. “Another thing to be very aware of is that you have to have a secret clearance in order to be eligible for this contract. So that might already route some people out.”
The second comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development. It’s another support services contract — primarily professional services — for USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Development and Innovation. The government estimates it to be worth about $100 million, and Deltek expects it to be solicited in April of 2022, and awarded only a few months later in July. It’s intended to be procured under GSA’s OASIS mechanism.
The third comes from the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s for professional services, specifically disaster recovery and logistics operations.
“If you read the description, the contractor has to be capable of deploying staff experts in public health, environmental health, behavioral health and social services to conduct necessary analysis, planning support, workshop facilitation and research anywhere in the United States and the territories for several weeks to months at a time after a disaster. So it’s technically professional services but it’s definitely got a health bent to it,” Sanderson said.
The government estimates it to be worth $100 million, and Deltek expects it to be solicited in June of 2023, and awarded later that year in December. Sanderson also noted that there is an incumbent on this contract, which can make it difficult to break into.
Daisy Thornton is Federal News Network’s digital managing editor. In addition to her editing responsibilities, she covers federal management, workforce and technology issues. She is also the commentary editor; email her your letters to the editor and pitches for contributed bylines.