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The SBA IG has released a report highlighting weaknesses in the data systems used to track government progress towards small business contracting goals (Sept 24, Report 14 18 Agencies Are Overstating Small Disadvantaged Business and HUBZone ).

Hidden among those findings is some practical information that is important for small businesses to know right now. Bottom line: it is the responsibility of each individual small business to make sure its profile in the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) system is visible and up-to-date. That process is a little more involved than it sounds, partly due to the aforementioned system problems.

The IG report summarized what happens if a small business, particularly a HUBZone business, doesn’t show up in the Dynamic Small Business Search system:

“When a firm enters its profile into SAM to become eligible to receive federal contracts, SAM refers small businesses to DSBS to provide a profile in order to market themselves as small businesses. The SBA also instructs small businesses to utilize DSBS in order to market themselves because agency contracting officers use DSBS to conduct market research prior to awarding small business contracts. In addition, procuring agencies’ contracting officers are required to confirm HUBZone certification through DSBS prior to awarding HUBZone contracts, and can use this system as a check prior to awarding 8(a) contracts. However, we found that DSBS is not working as intended. As a result, certain small businesses are not getting the visibility in DSBS that is needed for contracting officers to make decisions, particularly regarding HUBZone firms and may impact federal agencies in meeting their HUBZone procurement goals. Furthermore, individual HUBZone firms that successfully navigate the certification process will suffer the most because if the firm is not visible to agency contracting officers, it decreases its chance to obtain HUBZone contracts.”

So, while SBA is fixing its bigger problems, every small business out there – and particularly HUBZone firms – should take a few minutes to make sure their System for Award Management (SAM), the official U.S. Government system that consolidates the capabilities of CCR/FedReg, ORCA, and EPLS, has been updated within the past twelve months and that their updated DSBS profile is visible and accurate.

1) Make sure you have entered your data into SAM and that DSBS has created an accurate and visible profile for your firm.

2) Whenever you update your SAM make sure DSBS accurately recognizes the updates and your profile is still visible (and updated) on the DSBS system. DSBS has been having trouble recognizing SAM updates and as a result sometimes hides recently updated profiles. Double-check the DSBS after every SAM update.

SBA publishes a SAM Users Guide.  The Federal Service Desk is a great resource as well.  They have a telephone support line (real humans!) as well as an option to submit questions via a web form. I’ve never had a particularly long wait time in the telephone queue and I have yet to reach someone who didn’t know what they were doing.  You may contact the Federal Service Desk for help with:

•System for Award Management (SAM)
•Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA)
•Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System (eSRS)
•Federal Business Opportunities (FBO)
•Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS-NG)
•FFATA Subaward Reporting System (FSRS)

3) Make sure your information is updated annually. If you don’t update your SAM profile annually it expires. Once your SAM profile expires, DSBS no longer considers your business to be active and, guess what, your DSBS profile disappears.

4) Don’t rely on Pro-Net to do your updates. Pro-Net doesn’t create an audit trail and SBA doesn’t consider it a viable solution to the problem. Use SAM.

DSBS is searchable by the public and has been called the government yellow pages. See you in the system!

CFE is a WOSB providing federal business development support for environmental, engineering, energy and water firms.