The small-business conundrum

Recent news reveals that federal agencies overstated their success last year in contracting with small businesses that face socioeconomic disadvantages. It turns out that the Small Business Administration’s inspector general identified over $400 million of contract actions awarded to ineligible firms, thus overstating SB goaling performance in FY13.

Download the IG report here.

While reasons for misreporting are one issue, the perennial issue of meeting SB goals persists. Some people joke that when an agency fails to meet their SB target, the response is to increase it. Does goal setting work? Everyone agrees with fundamental ideals of small entrepreneurs and businesses bringing fresh ideas, outlooks, and solutions to government and societal problems.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20141008/BLG06/310080012/The-small-business-conundrum 

Contracting officers now able to set-aside contracts of any dollar amount to WOSBs

An interim final rule published May 7, 2013 in the Federal Register and effective immediately will amend regulations to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program allowing for greater access to federal contracting opportunities for women-owned businesses as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) signed in January.

The interim final rule removes the anticipated award price of the contract thresholds for women-owned small businesses (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSB) to allow them greater access to federal contracting opportunities without limitations to the size of the contract.   The rule can be accessed at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-05-07/html/2013-10841.htm  and comments can be submitted on or before June 6, 2013, at www.regulations.gov, identified by the following RIN number:  RIN 3245-AG55.

As a result of the rule change, contracting officers will be able to set aside specific contracts for certified WOSBs and EDWOSBs at any dollar level which will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of five percent of federal contracting dollars being awarded to WOSBs. The SBA is currently working on the changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulations.

Prior to the rule change, the anticipated award price of the contract for women-owned and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses could not exceed $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts.

Every firm that wishes to participate in the WOSB program must meet the eligibility requirements and either self-certify or obtain third party certification.  There are four approved third-party certifiers that perform eligibility exams: El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Additional information and links about approved third-party certifiers are available at: http://www.sba.gov/content/contracting-opportunities-women-owned-small-businesses

To qualify as a WOSB, a firm must be at least fifty-one percent owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women.  The women must be U.S. citizens and the firm must be considered small according to SBA size standards.  To be deemed “economically disadvantaged,” a firm’s owners must meet specific financial requirements set forth in the program regulations.

The WOSB Program identifies eighty-three four-digit North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) codes where WOSBs are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented.   Contracting officers may set aside contracts in these industries if the contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price and the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs or EDWOSBs will submit offers for the contract.

For more information on the Women-Owned Federal Small Business Contract Program or to access the instructions, applications or database, please visit www.sba.gov/wosb.

Defense Act causes SBA to lift dollar limits on WOSB set-asides

Women-owned small businesses will have greater access to federal contracting opportunities as a result of changes included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program.

“This new law is a prime example of how the Obama Administration is embracing a more inclusive view of entrepreneurship, helping small businesses and America succeed,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “Today, women own 30 percent of all small businesses up from just 5 percent 40 years ago. As one of the fastest growing sectors of small business owners in the country, opening the door for women to compete for more federal contracts is a win-win.”

The NDAA removes the anticipated award price of the contract thresholds for women-owned small businesses (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSB) to allow them greater access to federal contracting opportunities without limitations to the size of the contract. Prior to the new law, the anticipated award price of the contract for women-owned and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses could not exceed $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts.

The Women’s Federal Contract Program allows contracting officers to set aside specific contracts for certified WOSBs and EDWOSBs and will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of five percent of federal contracting dollars being awarded to WOSBs.

The law also requires the SBA to conduct another study to identify and report industries underrepresented by women-owned small businesses. As a result, more eligible women-owned businesses may be able to participate in SBA’s Women’s Federal Contract Program and compete for and win federal contracts.

These changes have not yet taken effect.  The SBA is working with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy under the President’s Office of Management and Budget on the implementation including changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulations.

Every firm that wishes to participate in the WOSB program must meet the eligibility requirements and either self-certify or obtain third party certification. There are four approved third-party certifiers that perform eligibility exams: El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Additional information and links about approved third-party certifiers are available at www.sba.gov/wosb. To qualify as a WOSB, a firm must be at least fifty-one percent owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women. The women must be U.S. citizens and the firm must be considered small according to SBA size standards. To be deemed “economically disadvantaged,” a firm’s owners must meet specific financial requirements set forth in the program regulations.

The WOSB Program identifies eighty-three four-digit North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) codes where WOSBs are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented. Contracting officers may set aside contracts in these industries if the contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price and the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs or EDWOSBs will submit offers for the contract.

For more information on the Women-Owned Small Business Program or to access the instructions, applications or database, please visit www.sba.gov/wosb.

COs must verify WOSB/EDWOSB status independent of SAM info

Ever since last year’s launch of the System for Award Management (SAM) — the federal database that replaced Central Contractor Registration (CCR) — there have been a myriad of problems involving system stability, data entry by vendors, access by users, and data migration from CCR to SAM.  Over time, some of these issues have been resolved.  However, new problems have arisen, and the latest one that has come to our attention could effect the eligibility of women owned businesses for federal contract set-asides.

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech has learned that SAM may not correctly display a company’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or Economically Disadvantaged Small Business (EDWOSB) designation. This means some small businesses that are legitimate WOSB/EDWOSB concerns are unable to visibly display their status in SAM at this time.   Reports indicate that the Small Business Administration (SBA) has called this latest challenge to the attention of the General Services Administration (GSA), SAM’s administrator.

While this problem is resolved, Contracting Officers are reminded that the identification of a woman-owned small business in SAM is not the authentication source required by regulations at 13 CFR 127.300(c).

The Code of Federal Regulations at 13 CFR 127.301(2) indicate that a Contracting Officer may accept a concern’s (bidder or proponent) representation as a WOSB or EDWOSB if the apparent successful offeror provides the appropriate documentation, as described in §127.300(e) at the time of initial offer.

Here are three ways a Contracting Officer can verify a WOSB/EDWOSB concern’s legitimacy:

  1. If an WOSB/EDWOSB concern has a valid certificate from one of SBA’s four approved third party certifiers (i.e., El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council), the concern can submit the certificate along with a signed copy of SBA form 2413 Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or SBA form 2414 (EDWOSB) form to the Contracting Officer to validate the concern’s eligibility status.  Furthermore, the WOSB/EDWOSB concern must have the same documentation uploaded into SBA’s WOSB Repository at the time of initial offer.  (Under no circumstances are certifications to be accepted from parties other than the four organizations approved by the SBA; in other words, state certifications or any other forms of certification are not to be considered or accepted.)
  2. The WOSB/EDWOSB concern may submit a hard copy (signed) of all the required documents mandated by in the Code of Federal Regulations 13 CFR 127.300(e) and a signed copy of SBA WOSB form 2413 or to the EDWOSB form 2414,  for verification of WOSB/EDWOSB status.  These records are to be maintained for six years in the contract file.
  3. If the WOSB/EDWOSB concern is also an SBA-certified 8(a) concern, the concern may submit a copy of the SBA 8(a) BD Participant certificate and the signed SBA WOSB form 2413 or to the EDWOSB form 2414.

In all instances, Contracting Officers are required to verify a concern’s status in SBA’s WOSB Program Repository.  It is the obligation of the WOSB or EDWOSB to provide current, accurate and complete documents to the Contracting Officer for each contract award, via the Repository.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Contracting Officer to verify WOSB/EDWOSB status.  If the Contracting Officer has information that calls into question the eligibility of a concern as an WOSB/EDWOSB, or the concern fails to provide all of the required documents to verify its eligibility, the Contracting Officer is to not award a WOSB/EDWOSB contract to that business concern.

In summary, regardless of how a business concern is listed in SAM, Contracting Officers should affirm the status of WOSB and EDWOSB concerns by checking their documentation online in the WOSB Program Repository per 13 CFR 127.300(c).  Apparent awardees can only provide access to those Contracting Officers who are registered for the WOSB Program Repository.  Contracting Officers should go to: https://eweb.sba.gov/gls/dsp_login.cfm and click on “Request SBA User ID” to establish an account.

To access a copy of the Contracting Education Academy’s presentation on various issues involving the System for Award Management (SAM), including helpful tips and work-arounds for both the vendor and acquisition communities, please click here.

Senate’s 2013 defense authorization bill would remove dollar limits on WOSB contracting

The 2013 defense authorization bill passed last week by the Senate includes a provision that would remove caps on contract set-asides for women-owned small businesses.  

The Senate-passed bill also includes an amendment approved on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 to remove current limits on the dollar value of federal contracts awarded to women-owned small businesses.   The bill also calls for the Small Business Administration to conduct a study every five years to examine disparities in the North American Industry Classification System code.

Advocates for women in contracting had for nearly a decade argued that the cap of $4 million for goods and services contracts and $6.5 million on manufacturing contracts discouraged contracting officers from taking the trouble to solicit women-owned businesses.

Women-owned biz bill slashes dollar limit on contracts

The Fairness in Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Act of 2012 was introduced on March 7, 2012 by seven senators in a bipartisan effort to eliminate dollar-amount restrictions on contracts that WOSBs can compete for.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), speaking to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said the purpose of the bill is to remove inequities that exist in the women-owned small business contracting program, when compared to other socio-economic programs.

Sen. Snowe co-sponored the bill with senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

The proposed legislation would remove contract-award limitations as well as provide tools women need to compete fairly in the federal contracting arena by allowing for non-competitive contracts, when circumstances allow, the Congressional Record said.

“Women-owned small businesses have yet to receive their fair share of the federal marketplace,” said Sen. Snowe. “In fact, our government has never achieved its goal of five percent of contracts going to WOSBs, achieving only 4.04 percent in fiscal year 2010. Our bill would greatly assist federal agencies in achieving the small business goaling requirement for WOSBs,” she added.

The proposed legislation has received letters of support from the National Association of Women Business Owners, Women Impacting Public Policy and the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.

“Women make this country run as business owners, entrepreneurs, politicians, mothers and more, but women-owned small businesses have yet to receive their fair share of federal contracting dollars,” Sen. Mikulski said.

In 2010, the Small Business Administration rolled out the WOSB Procurement Program, but the sponsoring senators and many women’s groups say it doesn’t go far enough.

The biggest complaint is that it still contains barriers that prevent women-owned businesses from fully developing.

“For 11 very long years, we urged the Congress and the federal agencies to put the WOSB program into place. Now that it has been implemented, our work has turned to improving the program and making it a vehicle for business growth for women business owners,” said Barbara Kasoff, president of WIPP, a national nonpartisan public-policy organization that advocates on behalf of nearly one million women-owned businesses.

“Women-owned small businesses are the fastest growing segment of our economy but they remain woefully underrepresented in small business contracting,” added. Sen. Bennet.

The senators proposed the bill to coincide with National Women’s History Month.

It also comes out on the heels of the House Small Business Committee clearing the way for six pro-contractors bills.

About the Author: Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology. This article appeared on Mar. 9, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/03/09/2012-wosb-bill-introduced.aspx?s=wtdaily_120312.

Small Business panel advances six pro-contractor bills

A package of six bills designed to steer more federal contract opportunities toward small businesses cleared the House Small Business Committee last Wednesday (3/7/2012), amid bipartisan frustration at the Obama administration’s approach to helping what all parties see as a key sector for creating jobs.

The marked-up bills would raise the percentage of federal contracts that should go to small businesses, elevate agency Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization offices, crack down on large firms hiding behind small business fronts to win contracts, and require agencies that insource previously contracted work to publish their rationale online and give contractors more of an opportunity to protest.

Other bills would clarify the eligibility of small businesses for multiple award contracts, bring in small businesses at an earlier stage of the bidding process, give priority to small firms in areas with high unemployment, open up more General Services Administration contracts for commercial purchases to small businesses, and provide more training for Small Business Administration-based procurement center representatives.

Noting that the government spends $500 billion annually in contracting, committee Chairman Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., said, “improving small business opportunities is a triple play — small businesses win more contracts; workers win as the small businesses create jobs; and taxpayers win because small businesses bring competition, innovation and lower prices to save the government money.”

Perhaps the most far-reaching bill is the chairman’s own (H.R. 3850), the Government Efficiency Through Small Business Contracting Act, which would raise the governmentwide small business contracting goal from 23 percent to 25 percent. Graves estimated it would provide $11 billion in new work for small business. It also would raise the current goal of giving 35.9 percent of subcontracting to small businesses to 40 percent. The other bills are the Small Business Advocate Act (H.R. 3851), Subcontracting Transparency and Reliability Act (H.R. 3893), Small Business Opportunity Act (H.R. 3980), Early Stage Small Business Contracting Act (H.R. 4121) and Small Business Procurement Improvement Act (H.R. 4118).

Though most of the markup action appeared bipartisan, some Democrats were uneasy with the insourcing transparency requirement. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., the panel’s ranking member, said it might encourage costly litigation and clog the Government Accountability Office with protests instead of creating jobs. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., said businesses that lose contracts already have resources to challenge the decisions and noted insourcing of inherently governmental activities has been codified twice in Defense authorization acts.

There also was disagreement over set-asides for economically and socially disadvantaged businesses. An amendment Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., offered would have raised the set-aside from 5 percent of the total value of a prime contract to 7.5 percent. It was withdrawn pending further negotiations before floor action.

“I’ve tried not to favor one group of small businesses over another — I don’t want to pick winners and losers, I want to help all small businesses compete,” Graves said. “Right now, we have one small business goal, and four subcategory goals — women, service-disabled veterans, [Historically Underutilized Business Zone] firms and small disadvantaged businesses. Each of the subcategories of small businesses can compete for small business contracts, so they all win when we increase the overall small business goal,” he added. “However, when we increase the small disadvantaged business goal, only about 9,200 firms benefit, instead of the 350,000 small businesses currently seeking to do business with the government.”

The hearing began with approval of the committee’s comments on President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget request for SBA. No one from the administration appeared to discuss it. Members of both parties complained the budget avoids tough choices, fails to cut duplicative programs and funds pilot projects not authorized by Congress.

A spokeswoman said SBA worked hard with the committee to lock down a hearing date on short notice, but could not make it on the one day that worked for the panel. Agency officials have, however, briefed congressional staff members and made an effort to answer all their questions about the fiscal 2013 budget, she said.

SBA declined to comment on the contractor legislation. The committee is scheduled to consider more contracting bills in the coming weeks.

Before the markup, the Professional Services Council, a contractors trade group, sent a letter backing most of the bills, but opposing some provisions. “We’re particularly pleased to see legislation that would protect small businesses from improper insourcing activities, ensure that no small business is deemed ineligible for small business programs because of SBA’s improper approach to calculating industry category size standards, and elevate the role of small business advocates in the contracting process,” President and Chief Executive Officer Stan Soloway said.

But he added, “Congress should not raise the small business prime contracting or subcontracting goals until it has accurate data about total small business participation in the federal marketplace at both the prime and subcontract levels.”


– by Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, March 8, 2012 at http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2012/03/small-business-panel-advances-six-pro-contractor-bills/41414

OFPP’s Gordon stresses future continuity as he prepares to leave

As Dan Gordon prepares to leave after two years as the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, his message to the acquisition community is simple and clear: continuity.

Gordon, who announced Nov. 2 he is leaving to become the associate dean for government contracts law at the George Washington University Law School, said the ongoing initiatives under the three-pronged approach started by the administration to improve the acquisition process will stay on course toward their goals.

“You are going to see my successors and the wonderful staff at OFPP continuing our efforts,” Gordon said from his office in Washington during an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio. “We’ve been working with the Hill, with the appropriators and others, to ensure there is adequate funding for the acquisition workforce at the agencies. We will continue to do that. We are going into challenging times, but we will be focused on strengthening and protecting the acquisition workforce.”

During his two-year tenure, Gordon focused on three areas: strengthening the aforementioned acquisition workforce, as well as improving how agencies acquire goods and services and oversee contractors and re-balancing the federal-contractor workforce.

Gordon said he will be working on these areas up until Dec. 31 when he walks out of the Old Executive Office Building for the last time.

“I am at this point almost entirely focused on OFPP and our work here at OMB,” he said. “I will work here full steam ahead until I move on at the end of December.”

Not done yet

And he still has a lot to do. Just this summer, OFPP began pressing agencies to use suspension and debarment tools more often. Then OMB Director Jack Lew issued a memo requiring their use.

Gordon also will play a big role in finalizing the fiscal 2013 budget request and the remaining 2012 spending bill Congress still must pass. All of this comes in the light of expected budget cuts and the failure of the super committee to reach a deal.

“One of the hallmarks of my work has been listening to the various communities, that’s both within the agencies, and in the vendor communities as well as on the Hill,” he said. “I know there is nervousness in industry as well as at the agencies and disappointment at the failure of the Congressional super committee to reach an agreement. That said, the fact is under the law, Congress has until January 2013 to deal with the problems and as a result in the near term I would not expect any impact.”

Gordon added more broadly, the acquisition community understands the pressure to reduce spending and take advantage of the government’s buying power.

That is why Gordon pointed to the strategic sourcing initiative as one of the highlights of his tenure.

He said the focus by agencies already is paying off in terms of millions in savings from changing the way agencies pay for package delivery.

“The contract is set up so that when you order delivery you can decide whether you want to pay extra to get whatever you are sending delivered the next day or whether you want to save money and have it delivered by ground delivery,” Gordon said. “It’s the same thing that we face when we are ordering from private companies on the Web where most of us when we are on the screen asking if we want to pay extra for delivery tomorrow morning. Most of us say ‘It’s not worth that extra money.’ In the olden days, way too often we were automatically paying that high extra fee to get delivery the next morning. Now, the latest data I see, and I get very frequent reports on this, most of the time we are satisfied with ground delivery, which is an enormous savings to our taxpayers. We were spending money for no purpose. We now are savings those dollars.”

Gordon said the next areas for strategic sourcing are in the technology area and are led by the General Services Administration. He said GSA issued two blanket purchase agreements in the recent months, one for print management services and one for wireless devices and plans.

“These are areas we are working very closely with the E-Gov office,” he said. “Agencies spent an enormous amount of money and there is a lot of low-hanging fruit. There are way too many situations where agencies — and that means taxpayers — are paying monthly fees for wireless plans, for cell phones or BlackBerrys or other devices that aren’t used. There is no one using them, and yet we are paying a monthly fee. We can save an enormous amount by doing a good inventory and getting on top of what we are buying.”

Workforce improvements

Gordon said all the strategic sourcing and better buying activities can only be so effective if the acquisition workforce isn’t well equipped to use the contracts.

This is one of several reasons why he spent so much of his tenure trying to grow the number of contracting officers, contracting officer representatives and others in the acquisition workforce.

Gordon said agencies have reversed the downward trend of the acquisition workforce with modest increases. And just as important, Gordon said agency-wide and government-wide training has been improved.

“We are focused on making our training better, more useful, more timely and more current for our employees,” he said.

For instance, when OFPP and the Federal Acquisition Regulations Council issue a new rule there is training ready to go at the Federal Acquisition Institute and the Defense Acquisition University.

“A good example is the new rule for women-owned small businesses,” Gordon said. “We got the training ready so when the rule came out. The training was available — a very important thing. We don’t want our people to be faced with a new rule without the tools to use it.”

He said another example of strengthening the acquisition workforce is the new contracting officer’s representative’s standards and certification requirements. OFPP issued a policy in September.

“That is really correcting a weakness that has been out there for a couple of decades,” he said. “That is a particularly important where we have made real progress.”

Gordon said through the AcqStat sessions OFPP is keeping tabs on how agencies are increasing the number of and training of contracting officers and the CORs.

“What we are hearing is, they are really paying attention for the first time, in terms of getting their people certified, and being sure they have qualified people managing those contracts,” Gordon said. “It is a bright light of progress in what has been prior to this administration a pretty bleak picture.”

During the review sessions, OFPP asks agencies how many contracting officers and CORs they have and how many are certified to ensure agencies are making progress.

Insourcing met its goals

Gordon received a lot of praise for his work to strengthen the acquisition workforce.

Another initiative to rebalance the federal workforce was the insourcing initiative. Many thought it was a reaction to the Bush administration’s outsourcing initiative. But Gordon said it not only wasn’t a reaction to outsourcing, but the goal was never to bring back large numbers of employees.

Gordon said he didn’t agree with the perception that insourcing didn’t work.

“What we said was we will be sure inherently governmental functions are done by government employees,” he said. “But closely associated functions and critical functions can be done by contractors as long as the government does its job in terms of contract management, checking to be sure, in terms of management controls, that federal employees are in charge and that federal employees are ensuring that contractors stay in their appropriate roles. Insourcing has been limited, targeted and focused and in my opinion has been successful in doing exactly what we promised it would do.”

Gordon said insourcing was never designed to be used to save money, but rather rebalancing the federal employee and contractor relationship or to better manage contracts.

As for the future, Gordon will teach and help improve the curriculum of the procurement lessons for the law school.

“It’s always a challenge to decide when to move,” he said. “The position at George Washington was a very tempting one. It is a terrific position as associate dean for government contracts law. With very mixed emotions, I accepted their offer of the position.”

Gordon said the associate dean position is a new one and a huge honor to be named the first one.

Gordon said his current staff Lesley Field, Matthew Blum and others will continue down the same path the administration has been pursing across the three focus areas.

Gordon said the success of his office came because of his approach that focused on his knowledge of acquisition, his ability to listen, two-way communication with agencies, industry and the Hill and ideas not driven by ideology, but making real change.

“We let people know what we are doing, we don’t surprise people and we don’t ambush people,” he said. “That has been very much appreciated by all these communities. We are very reality focused. We want to improve the reality on the ground. We don’t propose things that are unrealistic and we don’t push things that are unrealistic. We are worried about what will really help our acquisitions and protect the taxpayer’s interest as we go forward.”

— by Jason Miller, Federal News Radio, Nov. 29, 2011 at http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?nid=65&sid=2648327.

Small-biz set-asides may harm firms, expert says

There may already be too many set-aside categories for small businesses, according to at least one expert. The sheer number of categories, and the targets set for agencies to award certain numbers of contracts to each, has the unintended consequence of squeezing some small businesses out of the game, he said.

The plethora of small business programs “has disenfranchised many of those who are not eligible to the extent that they no longer back the very programs they once were glad to support,” Scott Bellows, a program manager at the South Carolina Procurement Technical Assistance Center in Columbia, S.C., said Nov. 7.

And yet, the government is now considering creating yet another category, for businesses that employ military veterans.

During a hearing, Bellows told the House Small Business Committee’s Contracting and Workforce Subcommittee that the small-business programs, such as those helping companies owned by service-disabled veteran and women, and the 8(a) companies, don’t do as much as most people think to help small businesses at large.

Many of the same contractors tend to get the work over and over. That makes it hard for other small companies to break into the market, he said.

To break in, business owners “soon realize that it’s a long, uphill battle,” he said.

Bellows said the government, along with the Small Business Administration’s annual small business score card, should take a different look at the awarded set-aside contracts.

“If one asks how many ‘unique’ vendor contracts were awarded during a certain period of time, you might just come away with a different impression of how these programs are promoting small business development and helping to revitalize our economy,” he said.

The score card gave the government overall a B in awarding contracts to small businesses in fiscal 2010. The government has a goal to award 23 percent of contracts to small companies. In 2010, it reached 22.7 percent. It missed many of its goals for the specific categories of small businesses.

President Barack Obama’s Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development has recommended the government should consider giving companies with at least 35 percent of its employees as veterans a special status in federal contracting. They likened the new category to the Historically Underutilized Business Zone small business program. For HUBZone status, 35 percent of a small firm’s employees must live in an economically depressed zone.

The task force said the new small-business category would not take too much regulatory efforts. The task force wants the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, as well as SBA and the Office of Management and Budget, to further explore the idea.

The task force is interested in the hiring aspect of creating the new category.

About the Author: Matthew Weigelt is a senior writer covering acquisition and procurement at Federal Computer Week. Published Nov. 9, 2011 at http://fcw.com/articles/2011/11/09/set-aside-small-business-programs-other-small-business-effects.aspx.

SBA planning to add vets, women and HUBZone firms to mentor-protégé program

The Small Business Administration will expand the reach of it mentor-protégé programs it was announced during testimony on Sept. 15 during the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce.

At a hearing titled “Helping Small Businesses Compete: Challenges Within Programs Designed to Assist Small Contractors,” Joseph Jordan, SBA’s associate administrator for government contracting and business development, testified that the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 gave the SBA authority to implement additional mentor-protégé programs for HUBZone, women-owned, and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

In the past the SBA’s program was only open to disadvantaged businesses that participated in the 8(a) business development program.

“We are in process of implementing these new programs,” Jordan said at the hearing. “We conducted robust public outreach via a 13-city Small Business Jobs Act Tour and have held several meetings with various agency and public stakeholders to collect input and feedback on the implementation of these programs.”

SBA is now drafting proposed regulations for public comment.

The mentor-protégé programs arranges relationships between experienced contractors and inexperienced small businesses to provide them business development assistance. The program provides incentives for mentor participation, such as credit toward subcontracting goals.

This hearing reviewed three recent Government Accountability Office reports including one that criticized the mentor-protégé programs for not tracking the results of the mentor-protégé relationships after they are formed.

About the Author: Alysha Sideman is an online content producer with 1105 Government Information Group. Published by Washington Technology on Sept. 16, 2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/09/16/sba-to-expand-mentor-protege-program.aspx?s=wtdaily_190911.