SBA plans improvements to small business programs, greater oversight

The Small Business Administration is working to improve its 8(a) program by streamlining the application process, providing more technical assistance to these firms, and developing a CD-ROM training course on federal procurement, according to Linda Williams, associate administrator for government contracting at the SBA.

SBA-certified 8(a) firms are owned and operated by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The firms are eligible to receive federal contracts set aside under the SBA's 8(a) Business Development Program.

Recommendations for improving service delivery to 8(a) firms are being vetted within SBA, and the CD-ROM should be finished by August, Williams said. To streamline the 8(a) application process, the agency plans to create an online application, she said.

In addition, the SBA and the Office of Procurement Policy are working to develop a system that will automate subcontracting reporting. The two offices are now developing the business case for this IT project, Williams said.

The SBA is also working with OFPP and the Defense Department to streamline small-business size standards, Williams said.

"We have put it on a fast track, and hope to have regulations by the end of nine months," she said. The group will discuss whether standards based on revenue or employee-count are appropriate, and see if the number of size standards can be reduced.

The SBA also recently reactivated its surveillance review program, which is designed to determine how well agencies are complying with small business programs and policies. Officials hope to have 18 reviews completed by the end of the year, Williams said.

Williams spoke Wednesday in Washington at FOSE, one of the largest information technology trade shows serving the federal marketplace. FOSE is produced by Post Newsweek Tech Media, publisher of Washington Technology.

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