WASHINGTON, DC, October 11, 2010 — The Small Business Administration (SBA) published in the Federal Register on October 7 the final rule for the Women’s Federal Procurement Program, a set-aside program for women-owned small businesses. The milestone capped a ten year effort that spanned three presidential administrations and three branches of government. Covington & Burling LLP played a critical role in the effort on behalf of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, handling legislative, judicial and regulatory matters at various points over the years.
The program, enacted by Congress in 2000, enables government contracting officers to award certain contracts to women-owned small businesses in 83 industries in which women-owned businesses are underrepresented. The SBA completed a draft study and proposed procedures in 2001 but withdrew the proposed final rule before final Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review. In 2003, the SBA commissioned a “study of the underrepresentation study” by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Following two more years of delay and the stated intention of the SBA Administrator never to implement the program, Covington filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the SBA’s failure to enact the program.
After securing a favorable ruling from U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, Covington’s legal efforts turned to the executive and legislative branches. The Covington team worked on the Chamber’s behalf with members of Congress, and SBA and OMB officials to secure implementation of a final proposed rule and study that would comport with the underrepresentation methodology identified by the NAS and survive potential constitutional attack.
The Covington team that handled the multidisciplinary effort was led by of counsel Linda Morgan (legislative), partner Sarah Wilson (litigation), and associate Carrie Harney (regulatory).