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This issue generates a lot of confusion among government contractors who wonder if they can leverage their designation as a small or disadvantaged business to win a set-aside award and then simply pass most or all of the work through to a subcontractor who is larger and more experienced.
The regulatory definition of what qualifies as a “small business” eligible for certain assistance and preferences, including set-aside contracts, depends largely on the nature of the firm’s work.
Casual observers of the federal contracting process often refer to the term “8(a)” as shorthand for a variety of different set-aside categories. But in reality, the 8(a) designation really only comprises a subset of the types of historically disadvantaged firms that can benefit from set-asides.