Differences Between SBA 8(a) and SBA 8(m)
In brief, there are a number of key differences between the SBA 8(a) program and the SBA 8(m) program, also referred to as the Woman Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program, which formally launches on February 4, 2011:
1. 8(a) certification allows you sole source set aside federal contracts without competition or protest; however, the SBA 8(m) program does not provide you with this same benefit. (Please note: the terms “set aside” and “sole source set aside” are different. A “sole source set aside” is for your company only without any competition. A set aside contract is set aside for a certain category of company–you compete against every other business in the same category as yours.)
2. The SBA 8(m) program is for companies within 83 discrete industry categories only; the 8(a) program, however, is for companies owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals within hundreds of different industry categories–any products or services purchased by the federal government are allowable, so to speak.
3. The SBA 8(a) program has a time limit of 9 years; the SBA 8(m) program does not have such a time limit. Your company is eligible to participate in the 8(m) program as long as it is a small business in one of the 83 approved industries, is owned and controlled by one or more women, and meets all of the other 8(m) requirements.
4. The Small Business Administration is the entity that formally certifies 8(a) companies; in contrast, 8(m) companies will be able to self-certify as Woman Owned Small Businesses by depositing documentation into an SBA-managed database instead. Contracting Officers then validate these database documents to ensure that each company represents itself honestly and accurately.
5. A woman business owner must be economically disadvantaged to participate in the SBA 8(a) program; however, a woman business owner does not need to be economically disadvantaged to participate in the SBA 8(m) program. Economically disadvantaged woman owned small businesses can be categorized as EDWOSBs within the 8(m) program; however, female small business owners who are not economically disadvantaged can still be WOSBs.
Government Certification Specialists Inc. anticipates a lot of public confusion about the SBA 8(m) program when it launches in February 2011, as this program is similar to the existing 8(a) program in numerous respects yet at the same time is also quite different from the 8(a) program. Perhaps the most prominent difference between the two SBA programs is that 8(a) companies can receive sole source awards without competition yet 8(m) WOSBs must still compete against other WOSBs for set aside contracts.