Senators push for bigger small-business goals
But with agencies missing current goals, is the proposals realistic?
- By Matthew Weigelt
- May 24, 2012
More lawmakers want higher goals for awarding federal contracts to small businesses, an effort that the Obama administration considers “laudable but overly ambitious.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), along with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairwoman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, introduced the Small Business Goaling Act (S. 3213) on May 22. It would raise the annual prime contracting goal by 2 percentage points, from 23 percent of contract dollars spent with small businesses to 25 percent. It also would raise agency subcontracting goals for small businesses from 35.9 percent to 40 percent.
The bill would also put the onus for reaching the goals on the senior executives at an agency. Evaluators would have to consider in their performance how they did in meeting the contracting goals. The goals would become another factor in evaluations, along with productivity, efficiency and meeting affirmative action goals.
Cardin said it's obvious that the government needs to use small firms, since they create so many of the new jobs in the country.
“With millions of small businesses out there in every conceivable industry, it makes sense to ensure that we are using and employing their proven expertise in making the federal government more efficient,” he said in a statement.
However, agencies have been unable to meet the existing goals. In fiscal 2010 the government awarded 22.7 percent of its prime contracting dollars to small companies, compared to 21.9 percent the previous year. Agencies awarded $97.9 billion to small businesses in 2010, compared with $96.8 billion in 2009. .
The Obama administration has resisted efforts to increase in the contracting goals that House included in its version of the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310). The House passed the bill May 18. The Senate’s version is still under consideration.
Administration officials said the increased goals are praiseworthy, although agencies would struggle to meet them.
The increase “would establish a laudable but overly ambitious governmentwide small business procurement goal and unrealistic individual agency goals that could undermine the goals process and take away the government’s ability to focus its efforts where opportunities for small business contractors are greatest,” officials wrote May 15 in a policy statement about the defense bill.
Cardin’s bill has been sent to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee for further review.
Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.