Agencies fall short on VETS contracting goal

Fiscal 2006 contracting data shows that agencies have sent more contracting dollars to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses than in past years, but they're still falling short of the mark, an SBA official told a House subcommittee July 12.

"The preliminary data suggests significant efforts toward an improvement in achieving the 3 percent goal," said William Elmore, associate administrator of the Small Business Administration's Office of Veterans Business Development. "It also demonstrates the increasing ability of [service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses] in pursuing contracting opportunities and in securing contracts."

The 2006 data, which SBA is reviewing, may be released by the end of the month.

Agencies have a long way to go in spending 3 percent of their contracting dollars with service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. Last year, only two agencies ? SBA and the Veterans Affairs Department ? met the mark. Most agencies lag well behind, officials told the House Veterans Affairs Committee's Economic Opportunity Subcommittee.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) requested a list of agencies with the lowest percentages. Elmore said a soon-to-come electronic score card rating agencies may be effective in urging agencies to meet the 3 percent goal. The score card will list the details of contracting dollars in real time.

Paul Denett, administrator of Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said contracts to small businesses owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans increased to $1.9 billion, up from $1.2 billion in 2004.

But a major problem is good data, the officials agreed.

"The challenge we have is making sure everything we buy is getting reported," said Scott Denniston, director of VA's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

Denett said he is on a personal crusade to get accurate data from agencies.

Without it, "you don't know what legislation to do; we don't know what to do on the executive [branch] side; the individual departments are in a quandary. If we don't have accurate data, none of us can do our job," he said.

Matthew Weigelt writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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