There are a number of socioeconomic programs administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that provide Government contracting preferences to qualified firms. There is the "8(a)" business development program, the Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) Program, the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Program, and the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program for example.
Back in 2010, the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 made it clear that there is no order of precedence among the small business socioeconomic contracting programs. All of these programs are on par with one another. No firm can argue that its socioeconomic standing has preference over another. Contracting officers have the authority to exercise discretion when determining whether an acquisition will be restricted to small businesses participating in these programs but once that decision has been made, all firms in these SBA programs are "socioeconomic equals"
The rules governing these contracting programs are generally located in FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) Parts 13 and 19. At the risk of oversimplifying things, acquisitions between $3 thousand and $150 thousand are reserved for small business concerns including 8(a), HUBZone, SDVOSB, and WOSB participants. For acquisitions above $150 thousand, the contracting officer must first consider whether one of the small business socioeconomic programs can do the work. In making such a determination, the contracting officer considers the results of market research that was done to determine if there are socioeconomic firms capable of satisfying the agency's requirements.