New bills would boost small-biz contracting goals

House Small Business Committee Chairman Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) introduced two bills today that would put more pressure on agencies and prime contractors to send more business to small companies.

The Greater Opportunities for Small Business Act would bump the small business prime contracting goal from the current 23-percent goal to 25 percent.

In the Small Business Administration’s latest contract scorecard, the government awarded 22.3 percent of its spending to small businesses, which was roughly $90 billion.

Interestingly, according to the Small Business Dashboard, the government could reach the 23 percent goal for fiscal 2013. It has awarded $83.2 billion to small businesses, equaling 23.4 percent. The SBA hasn’t released its official scorecards for 2013 though.

Lawmakers have attempted to increase the small-business contracting goal by 2 percent in the past. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced a bill in January 2013 similar to Graves’, but it hasn’t advanced in the Senate. The Senate also disagreed with the House on raising the percentage goal, and Congress left the provision out of fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

In the same bill, Graves also wants the law to be more specific on the percentage of business that prime contractors give their subcontractors. The legislation also ensures opportunities for small businesses as subcontractors, with a goal of awarding 40 percent of all subcontracted dollars to small businesses—an increase from the current goal of 35.9 percent. Graves’ new proposal would require at least 40 percent.

Graves is also pushing agencies to help businesses with better data on bundled and consolidated contracts. The Contracting Data and Bundling Accountability Act would have SBA develop and then implement a plan to improve the quality of data reported on such contracts.

Departments have upset small companies and their advocates when they bundle several smaller contracts into one large contract and consolidate contracts. Smaller firms often cannot handle the workload, which then leaves them out of the running for federal business.

The plan would include consequences for failing to identify a contract as bundled and also establish the requirements for periodic and statistically valid data verification and validation. The plan would be in place by fiscal 2017.

"By increasing the federal-wide goal for contracts to small businesses, and requiring greater accuracy, transparency and accountability in contract bundling and consolidation, we make it easier for small businesses to enter this marketplace and compete for contracts,” Graves said in a statement.

The bills have been sent to their respective House committees for further consideration.

About the Author

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

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