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Vets' advocates want changes in set-aside.

Veterans groups plan to ask Congress to strengthen the set-aside program for service-disabled veterans after the Bush administration declined to accept the changes they wanted.

SBA and the FAR councils issued final rules March 23 that left intact two provisions opposed by many veterans organizations: contracting officers must apply the "rule of two," and cannot award a sole-source contract if two qualified SDV companies are available to compete for the work; and the rule states that agencies "may" set aside contracts for SDVs. The rules governing the 8(a) and HUBZone programs provide that agencies "shall" set aside work if qualified companies are available, and veterans groups want the same treatment.

"The Rule of Two effectively counters efforts by SDVOBs to work hard and identify requirements for their SDVOB by disallowing sole source awards to the most deserving firms," said Alan Gibson, chair of the Employment, Training and Business Opportunity Committee of Vietnam Veterans of America, in a February statement to OMB's Acquisition Advisory Panel. "The Rule of Two is clearly inconsistent with the spirit and intent" of the law and President Bush's executive order mandating additional opportunities for SDVs.

The FAR councils said the "rule of two" and the word "may" are specified in the Veterans Benefit Act of 2003, the law that created the program.

Supporters of existing set-aside programs had previously objected to a provision in the rule giving SDV companies parity with 8(a) and HUBZone firms. SBA's final rule says contracting officers "should look at the 8(a), HUBZone and SDVO programs before considering setting aside the requirement for [other small businesses.] The rule does not say which of those programs has first claim on a contract.

Veterans groups will take their case to Capitol Hill April 6 at a National Conference on Veterans Entrepreneurship organized by the Association for Service Disabled Veterans and the Task Force for Veterans Entrepreneurship, an umbrella group that includes most major veterans organizations. For details, go to www.asdv.org.
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Title Annotation:veterans
Publication:Set-Aside Alert
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
Words:331
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