Set-aside program for women on the way, SBA says

Small Business Administration officials have proposed amending the agency's rules, and federal regulators are considering changes to governmentwide rules.

Businesswomen may get their own small-business set-aside program this year, according to one report.

Joseph Jordon, associate administrator of government contracting and business development at the Small Business Administration, told the Fed Tech BisNow newsletter that SBA may have a woman-owned small business program set up by the end of 2010.


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Officials also may approve a number of proposals, including developing a tool for procurement officials to designate contracts specifically for women-owned businesses.

In similar efforts, the Defense Acquisition Regulatory Council on Sept. 1 assigned a team of regulators, who deal with small business issues, with drafting a proposed rule for the Federal Acquisition Regulation regarding such a program, according to an official document.

The council gave the team an Oct. 13 deadline to report back, the document states.

The woman-owned small business set-aside program would be similar to the programs for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and small companies based in economically depressed regions, named Historically Underutilized Business Zones. Contracting officers have the option of having only a certain category of small business compete for federal work.

The program for women has been slow in coming. and has raised a lot of controversy along the way.

The Small Business Reauthorization Act of 2000 authorized officials to create a woman-owned small business procurement program in industries where women business owners are underrepresented. The government has studied the issue several times through the years and has put out controversial proposals.

Most recently, in March, the SBA released the latest proposal to amend its own regulations to set up a contracting program for women, while withdrawing a proposal from the Bush administration.

While there is no program, agencies are still evaluated annually by the SBA on how much money they award to women-owned small businesses, along with the other categories of small businesses. Agencies, as a whole, awarded more money to woman-owned small businesses in fiscal 2009 than in 2008, but still fell well short of the 5 percent contracting goal, the SBA reported in August.