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What is an SBA size protest?

A size protest is a formal objection lodged with the Small Business Administration (SBA) regarding the size status of a business competing for a contract reserved for small businesses. This administrative action enables small business entities to challenge the size classification of a competing bidder, as seen in the case of Harmonia Holdings Grp., LLC v. United States, 999 F.3d 1397. The SBA allows a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations to file a size protest when a procurement is designated for small businesses only, as highlighted in the SIZE APPEAL OF: Ross Aviation, Inc., Appellant; concerning USA Jet Airlines, Inc. Such protests must be specific to a given procurement and substantiated with concrete facts, as demonstrated in the SIZE APPEAL OF: Emergency Beacon Corporation, Appellant. Upon receiving a size protest, the SBA informs the contracting officer, the business under scrutiny, and the protesting party as outlined in § 121.1008 concerning the procedural steps following the receipt of a size protest or a formal size determination request. Protests should be submitted within five business days following the notification by the contracting officer of the prospective winner's identity, exemplified in the SIZE APPEAL OF: Glacier Technologies, LLC, Appellant against Dynamo Technologies, LLC; based on Size Determination No. 2-2023-013. Notably, SBA regulations accommodate the submission of size protests both "before or after" the awarding of a contract, as seen in the SIZE APPEAL OF: Red River Computer Co., Inc. Appellant; from Size Determination No. 1-SD-2013-12. In the context of long-term task or delivery order contracts, a size protest can be lodged under three specific circumstances: following the initial award of the long-term contract, post-exercise of an option, or upon a contracting officer's request for size re-certification for a specific order, as in the case of SIZE APPEAL OF: Odyssey Systems Consulting Group, Ltd. Appellant; against Millennium Engineering and Integration LLC; from Size Determination No. 2-2021-051-052. Should a protest be dismissed due to lack of specificity, an appeal may be pursued within fifteen days from the size determination receipt, as was the situation in the SIZE APPEAL OF: AOC Connect, LLC Appellant; against By Light Professional IT Services, LLC; based on Size Determination No. 02-2019-076. The process for determining size involves the SBA's Office of Government Contracting, which solicits information from the questioned business for evaluation, as seen in the SIZE APPEAL OF: Advanced Management Technology, Inc., Appellant.

Size Protest

What is an SBA status protest?

A status protest initiates when either an interested party or the Small Business Administration (SBA) itself questions a business's eligibility for a certain program or contract. This formal objection needs to be documented in writing, outlining all the distinct reasons for the challenge. For example, such a protest might question if a business is truly at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women who are U.S. citizens, or it might dispute the extent to which a prime contractor depends on a smaller subcontractor that doesn't meet the criteria of being a similarly-situated entity under the Women-Owned Small Business Program regulations. The SBA is empowered to scrutinize a business's credentials anytime, seek further details, and may infer negatively if there's no response to their inquiries. The goal in resolving a status protest is to confirm whether the business in question met the eligibility criteria both at the time of their bid or offer submission and at the contract award moment. The adjudication of such protests falls under the purview of the SBA's Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA), which handles cases including, but not limited to, protests about Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) status for contracts issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Status Protest


Why take a protest to the SBA OHA?

Businesses often turn to the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) for crucial adjudications, particularly when it comes to protests regarding the status of Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs). The OHA is empowered under specific statutes, notably 15 U.S.C. § 657f and 13 C.F.R. part 134 subpart J, to resolve disputes, as seen in cases like the protest by Protection Strategies, Inc. against ANASEC, Inc. for a U.S. Customs and Border Protection solicitation, and the joint protest by Beshenich Muir & Associates, LLC & ELB Services LLC against YKJY LLC related to a U.S. Department of the Air Force solicitation.

Moreover, the OHA's authority extends to reviewing SDVO status decisions as per 13 C.F.R. Part 125, exemplified in the appeal by Airborne Construction Services, LLC regarding a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs solicitation. The OHA also holds the pivotal role of hearing appeals on size determinations, where its ruling stands as the SBA's final word unless overturned by the OHA itself, underlining the immediacy and permanence of its decisions as guided by § 121.1009 on size determination procedures.

It's pivotal to recognize that neglecting to present a case to the OHA not only misses a chance to rectify potential oversights by the agency but also deprives the parties involved—and potentially the courts—of the OHA's considerable expertise and experience. This oversight can lead to an insufficient record for judicial review, a scenario highlighted in Team Waste Gulf Coast, LLC v. United States, emphasizing the critical nature of engaging with the OHA's processes.

OHA hearings

Common SBA Size and Status Protest FAQs

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As the firm’s leader, Joe manages, directs, consults, and acts as an advisor to his practice group leaders Joe’s areas of specialty include government procurement and international business transactions.

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Tim Turner

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Along with leading the Government Contracting practice area, Tim manages labor and employment cases for the firm. He centers his practice in the Health and Safety sector, defending clients against MSHA and OSHA regulatory enforcement actions.

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Dilyn Loveless

Senior Attorney

Dilyn spent 14 years as a Staff Officer with the United States Department of Defense. She has extensive experience with investigations involving the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, United States Federal Bureau of Investigations, Department of Commerce, and Department of State. Dilyn brings a wealth of experience in trade law, trade compliance, and government and defense contracting.

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William Selinsky

Senior Attorney

For more than 20 years, William worked as an attorney in a private practice law firm concentrating on insurance coverage and defense, general practice, personal injury, litigation, business, zoning, and municipal law.

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Anne Lanteigne

Senior Attorney

With more than 35 years of professional legal experience, Anne brings a broad range of knowledge on intellectual property (IP), government contracts, and patent law. She knows the intricacies of federal procurement actions, from requesting proposals and evaluating offers/bids from contractors to administering contracts and negotiating dispute settlements with contractors, giving her a unique insight into the government contracts world.

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Jonathan Perrone


Jon counsels and represents government contractors in healthcare, construction, manufacturing, defense, information technology, and service industries. He specializes in representation in both pre-contract and contract-administration phases.

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Josh Sather

Associate Attorney

Josh helps clients successfully navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of government contracting. He advises clients on compliance with government regulations, helps them navigate the contracting process, and negotiates contracts. Additionally, he represents clients in disputes, such as bid protests, claims, and appeals.

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