SBA to propose new small business rule

The first of the redefined standards that define small businesses for federal contracting purposes may be final by the end of fiscal 2008, a senior official at the Small Business Administration said this week.

SBA officials are close to drafting proposed rules on the retail trade, accommodations and food services industries, Gary Jackson, chief of SBA's division of size standards, said at a meeting about the comprehensive review of North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

Once approved by SBA officials, the draft goes to the Office of Management and Budget for review before being published in the Federal Register.

The information technology industry, which is generally in the professional services and information sectors, will be considered next in the comprehensive review. Jackson didn't give a specific date on when that will be done, saying only that those sectors are the next on SBA list of in-depth reviews.

In addition, SBA officials are in the early stages of analyzing various sources of data for the other 19 NAICS codes as they try to get work done in advance, he said.

Although Jackson warned against tying him to specific dates "because I'm usually wrong," he did say the process will speed up after SBA finishes the first few reviews. However, other factors could also slow the process, he added. To build momentum early in the process, officials want to get the easier, non-controversial reviews out of the way. He said it will avoid bogging down the rest of the reviews.

The last major overhaul of NAICS codes of this size was in the early 1980s. Since then, the government has conducted individual, ad hoc reviews for different sectors. But in doing so, it has created a labyrinth of variations on sizes between industries and agencies, Jackson said.

Also, SBA officials want to avoid decades between future reviews. After officials finish their comprehensive review, the process should continue more regularly, he said. The government releases an economic census every five years.

The Census Bureau conducted an economic review in 2007; however the information won't be released until 2010. SBA's current review is based on 2002 economic data. When the new information is available, Jackson said the government should consider the data for any necessary changes. He added though few major changes are required in a span of five years.

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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