Set-aside programs

Why you should understand set-asides

  • They can reduce competition, helping you win: The government can “set a contract aside” for a a group, meaning that only companies with that set-aside can bid on it, which reduces competition making you more likely to win (assuming you have that set-aside)
  • They can help customers work with you: If a customer wants to buy from you they can directly award a contract to you via a “sole source” award
  • They are not a value proposition: Customers are not going to work with you BECAUSE you have a set-aside. A set-aside can help at the margins but will not drive your success.

Who can get a set-aside

  • The designation applies to the company: Companies get a “set-aside” but qualifying for a set-aside often is based on the identity of the owner(s).
  • Congress has identified 6 groups that can apply for a set-aside:
    • Women
    • Economically disadvantaged Women
    • Veterans
    • Service disabled veterans
    • Minority members
    • People who live and work in low-income areas
  • The small business set-aside: Even if a company doesn’t qualify for one of the set-asides above they can still be a “small business” which allows them to compete for
  • Only applies to small businesses: Only a small business can have a set-aside.

Program size:

23% of federal contract awards: 23% of all contracting spend should go to small businesses (across all set-asides)

What you need to do:

  • Start the application early: It can take months from starting your set-aside application to getting approved so start early
  • Put your set-aside on your website, capability statement etc
  • Do not lead with it: When you are pitching your company make your set-aside the last thing you say, because it is the least important thing about your company