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When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down affirmative action programs in the college admissions context in late June, it noted that racially conscious government programs must have a “logical end point.” Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina (“SFFA”). It has been apparent for some time that the “logical end point” concept could have implications for racially conscious programs in the government contracts context, and indeed it took only three weeks after SFFA for this to manifest in a decision issued by U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Ultima Servs. Corp. v. U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Ultima, the court relied on reasoning in SFFA to conclude that regulations in the Small Business Administration’s (“SBA”) 8(a) program that establish a rebuttable presumption of social disadvantage to individuals in certain minority groups violate the Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection rights of individuals who are not members of those minority groups.
SBA’s 8(a) Program
The Small Business Act has been in place for 70 years. Section 8(a) of the Act authorizes the SBA to facilitate increased government contracting opportunities for socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses by working with procurement agencies to set aside certain procurements for 8(a) contractors—contractors who have been accepted into the 8(a) program by virtue of being socially and economically disadvantaged. Contractors who are not in the 8(a) program are ineligible to compete for 8(a) set-aside contracts (although they can participate in such procurements as subcontractors).Continue reading “The SBA’s 8(a) Program—Possible Changes after SFFA and Ultima“