Tuesday Insight – November 14th, 2023: DoD Mentor-Protégé Program Solidified under Proposed Rule

Nov 21, 2023

On October 25, 2023, the Department of Defense (DoD) published a Proposed Rule amending the Department of Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) and permanently authorizing the DoD Mentor-Protégé Program (DoD MP Program). In addition, the Proposed Rule makes several changes to the program—the most prominent of which include (a) lowering barriers to entry and (b) adding additional benefits for prospective mentors and protégés. Before we dive in to the Proposed Rule, a brief history of the DoD MP Program is in order.

As established in 1991, the DoD MP Program began as the first operational federal MP program. Unlike the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) MP Program, this agency-specific program was designed to grow the defense industrial base (DIB) by assisting small businesses and other entities in obtaining, performing, and serving as suppliers under DoD contracts and subcontracts. Since its inception, the DoD MP Program has been in a continuous pilot stage, requiring extensions through congressional reauthorizationmost recently in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2020—that allowed new MP agreements to be formed through FY 2024 and permitted the reimbursement of incurred costs under existing agreements through FY 2026. That pilot program is over.

On December 23, 2022, Christmas came early for the DoD MP Program when Congress passed legislation permanently authorizing the program in the NDAA for FY 2023. That authorization was informed by an earlier assessment in 2022 of the DoD MP Program by the DoD Defense Business Board. That study found that while the number of DOD contract obligations to small businesses increased from FY 2011 to FY 2020, “the number of small businesses contracting with DoD declined.” The study also found that the overall pool of small and other than small businesses that do business with DoD declined, and as a result, “lower[s] the diversity of the U.S. [Defense Industrial Base] DIB and could lead to resourcing and readiness problems in the future.” A primary challenge the study identified was the DoD MP Program’s inability to draw optimal participation due to its lack of permanency…

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