On July 19, 2021, Diz Locaria was quoted in Law360 on the biggest decisions in government contracting law during the first half of 2021, including Innovate Now LLC, file number B-419546, before the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
According to the article, mentor-protégé joint ventures allow larger businesses to lend expertise and resources to smaller businesses, while the joint venture keeps the smaller company's eligibility for federal small-business set-aside contracts. Innovate Now LLC, one of those joint ventures, argued that the terms of an Air Force solicitation for various support services had wrongly required joint venture members, including its protégé member Macalogic, to hold the same level of experience as individual bidders.
The Air Force argued that it acted reasonably by allowing members of joint ventures to submit individual work samples, instead of restricting its experience requirement to only that of work done by the venture itself, and that its experience requirement had reasonably reflected its minimum needs.
However, the Small Business Administration (SBA) rule covering mentor-protégé arrangements is clear that protégé companies can't be required by agencies to meet the same evaluation criteria as their general evaluation criteria, the GAO said, also citing SBA comments reinforcing that view that had accompanied publication of the rule, as well as the agency's response when asked to weigh in on the protest.
"I think the argument that they would have been required to have the same level of experience is odd," Locaria said. "The whole point of the program is to take a mentor who has a vast amount of experience, and a protégé, who has relatively little compared to the mentor, and allow them to work together and for the mentor to coach that protégé, and bring that protégé up."
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