The Supreme Court’s decision in “Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States,” clarified the importance of the “Rule of Two” in government contracting for veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs). Following the decision, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) embarked on a rulemaking process to adapt their regulations. Central to this process was the collection of public input, which plays a crucial role in shaping federal rules and regulations. This blog explores the public input received in response to the VA and SBA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs) and evaluates its impact on the final rule.
Public Input and Its Importance
Public input is a cornerstone of the democratic regulatory process. It ensures that government actions and regulations align with the interests and needs of the public. Both the VA and SBA recognized the importance of public engagement in shaping rules that would have a significant impact on VOSBs and SDVOSBs. They invited comments from various stakeholders, including veterans, veteran advocacy groups, small business owners, and industry associations.
The public input process provides an opportunity for diverse perspectives to be considered, identifies potential issues, and helps agencies make informed decisions. In the case of VA and SBA Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)s post-“Kingdomware,” the comments submitted by the public were extensive, covering a wide range of topics and concerns.
Key Themes from Public Input
Several key themes emerged from the public input in response to the Kingdomware NPRMs:
Clarity and Guidance: Many commenters stressed the importance of clear and detailed guidance in implementing the Rule of Two. They sought specific instructions on how contracting officers should evaluate the availability of VOSBs and SDVOSBs and how to apply the rule consistently.
Access to Opportunities: Veteran-owned businesses and their advocates emphasized the need for equal access to contracting opportunities. They called for safeguards to prevent instances where VOSBs or SDVOSBs were unfairly excluded from competing for contracts. Some comments highlighted the broader implications of increased opportunities for VOSBs and SDVOSBs, such as the potential to create jobs for veterans and stimulate local economies.
Safeguards and Compliance: Commenters also raised concerns about the potential for abuse or fraud in VOSB and SDVOSB certification. They called for robust safeguards to ensure that businesses claiming veteran ownership met the necessary requirements.
Impact on the Final Rule
Public input is a powerful tool to ensure that government regulations are well-informed, responsive to the needs of the public, and not overly burdensome. In the case of the VA and SBA NPRMs post-“Kingdomware,” the agencies took the input they received seriously, resulting in a substantial impact on the final rule.
Both agencies revised their regulations to address many of the concerns and suggestions raised by the public. They provided clearer guidance on implementing the Rule of Two, developed measures to prevent abuse, and emphasized the need for fairness and transparency in contracting processes
The final rule also incorporated changes aimed at increasing access to contracting opportunities for VOSBs and SDVOSBs. This alignment with the “Kingdomware” decision was evident in the increased emphasis on setting aside contracts for these businesses and improving compliance and accountability.
In summary, public input played a pivotal role in shaping the final rule for the VA and SBA in response to the “Kingdomware” decision. The agencies recognized the importance of considering the perspectives and concerns of stakeholders, leading to significant revisions in their regulations. By responding to the public input and incorporating key themes and suggestions, the VA and SBA demonstrated a commitment to creating a more equitable and effective regulatory environment for veteran-owned small businesses.
The “Kingdomware” decision, combined with active public participation, has led to meaningful changes in the rulemaking process, ultimately benefiting veterans, small business owners, and the broader public. It showcases the vital role that public engagement plays in ensuring that federal regulations are both fair and effective, and that the voice of the people shapes the policies that impact their lives.