Government Contracts for Your Veteran-Owned Small Business

Did you know that the U.S. government is the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world? What’s more, the federal government aims to award 23% of federal contracting dollars to small businesses each year. In short, government contracts can present a tremendous financial opportunity to your veteran-owned small business.

If you’re interested in growing your business as a federal contractor, follow these four steps to get started. 

1. Evaluate whether government contracting is a good fit for your business.

There are a few boxes every prospective government contractor needs to check. For starters: Do you have a track record of delivering quality goods and services on time and within budget? If so, your small business may be a good candidate for federal government contracts.

You should also make sure there’s demand within the federal government for your products or services. Tools like the Federal Procurement Data System and USASpending.gov offer information about existing contracts across agencies and can help you identify government purchasing trends. In truth, the government invests in products and services across a wide array of industries, so there’s a good chance there’s a niche for your business in the federal marketplace! Finally, make sure your business qualifies as “small” for government contracting purposes using the SBA’s size standards tool.

2. Gear up for the proposal bidding process.

Once you’re feeling confident that your business would be a good fit for government contracting, there are a few more steps you should take before bidding on a proposal. First, register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM) and match your products and services to a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. (Note that when you’re eventually ready to search for contracting opportunities for your business, SAM will be your go-to resource!)

Next, read up on the different types of contracts available to small businesses. Contracts your small business might be eligible for include:

  • Set-aside contracts: Contracts that are specifically designated for small businesses, which can either be competitive (open to competition) or sole-source (issued without a competitive bidding process).
  • Joint ventures: occur when two or more small businesses pool their efforts to compete for a contract award.

You can find more information about contract types – along with a breakdown of the difference between prime and subcontracting – via the SBA’s contracting guide.

3. Determine whether you qualify for a contracting assistance program.

SBA contracting assistance programs give participants an edge in the federal marketplace by offering exclusive contracting opportunities and tailored mentorship. These programs are geared toward specific subsets of business owners, including veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs).

VOSBs and SDVOSBs are eligible to pursue certain set-aside contracts, with the federal government aiming to award at least 3% of federal contracting dollars to SDVOSBs each year. In order to take advantage of contracting opportunities for VOSBs and SDVOSBs, you’ll first need to get verified through the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE).

Historically handled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), CVE’s functions will be transferred to the SBA effective January 1, 2023. If you’re currently verified by VA and you’re not up for renewal between now and the transfer date, this move won’t affect you – your status will transfer to the SBA! If you are up for renewal between now and December 2022, you should follow the steps provided by VA to recertify. For self-certified SDVOSBs, you will need to become certified (either now through VA or after the transfer through the SBA). More information is available about the CVE transfer on the SBA’s FAQ page.

The SBA’s contracting assistance program for small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs) is also undergoing changes. The federal government now aims to award at least 15% of federal contracting dollars to SDBs by FY 2025, up from 5% in past years. The government reached its FY 2022 goal of awarding 11% of federal contracting dollars to SDBs a year ahead of schedule, according to the latest government-wide scorecard.  

Learn more about the SBA’s contracting assistance program for SDBs and all other SBA contracting assistance programs here.  

4. Connect with local resource partners for personalized business assistance.

The SBA is here to help veteran entrepreneurs take advantage of the federal contracting dollars allotted for small businesses and SDVOSBs. If you’re ready to start your government contracting journey, contact VetBiz or Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). 

The experts at these resource partner organizations can help you apply for a contracting assistance program, determine which contracting opportunities are suitable for your business, fine-tune proposals, and more. Connect with your closest VBOC or PTAC via the SBA’s website.

For more federal contracting advice and for updates about the CVE transfer, follow the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

This blog was originally written by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development.