The Center for Individual Rights has filed suit challenging a racial set-aside program for federal government contracts. Section 8(a) allows the Small Business Administration to set aside contracts for companies owned by “socially and economically disadvantaged” individuals. The SBA presumes that companies owned by members of certain racial and ethnic groups qualify as “socially disadvantaged.”
CIR represents Ultima Services, Corp., a company owned by business woman and entrepreneur, Celeste Bennett. Ultima regularly contracts with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA recently began awarding NRCS administrative support contracts through the 8(a) program. Because Bennett is a white woman, Ultima does not qualify to compete for 8(a) set-asides.
CIR filed suit in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. It asks the court to enjoin the Small Business Administration and USDA from reserving NRCS administrative service contracts under the 8(a) program, and to declare that Section 8(a)’s presumptions violate the Fifth Amendment.