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Subcommittee Conducts Oversight of Government Programs for Women-Owned Federal Contracting Firms

Washington, May 20, 2019

Washington, D.C.— Last Thursday, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure under Chairman Jared Golden (D-ME) convened officials from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) to probe the SBA’s implementation of reforms to its Women-Owned Small Business federal contracting program (WOSB) as required under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. 

“Much like the delayed implementation of the Women-Owned Small Business Program, we have seen yet again the SBA taking an, if we want to be generous, overly deliberative process to implement the very clear intent of the legislative branch,” said Rep. Golden. “In light of these implementation delays, in 2017, the Members of this Committee requested GAO to review the program. And today’s hearing gives us the opportunity to discuss their findings and recommendations.”

According to 2018 projections, women own 12.3 million companies, employ more than 9.2 million people, and generate 1.7 trillion in revenue. Despite, their significant role in the economy, they are at a substantial disadvantage in the federal procurement marketplace. 

Congress created the Woman-Owned Small Business Program in 2000 in response to challenges that women-owned government contracting firms were facing. The WOSB program seeks to level the competitive playing field by restricting federal contracts to women-owned small businesses that meet specific criteria and operate in industries where women have been traditionally underrepresented. To receive a WOSB contract, a business must provide proper documentation and be certified.

The 2015 NDAA amended multiple sections of the Small Business Act that governed the WOSB Program. Specifically, it authorized the SBA to implement sole-source authority; eliminate the possibility of businesses to self-certify eligibility to the WOSB Program and; allowed SBA to put in place a new certification process. In 2019, the GAO published the results of a study, petitioned by Chairwoman Velázquez, on the implementation of these changes and found that the SBA had only instituted sole-source authority. 

After years of delay, the hearing allowed the Subcommittee to examine the GAO report and press SBA officials on their plan to implement an internal WSOB certification process and eliminate the self-certification option.  

“As of early May 2019, SBA had implemented one of the three changes that the 2015 NDAA made to the WOSB program—sole-source authority,” said Bill Shear, Director of Financial Markets and Community Investment at GAO. “The two other changes—authorizing SBA to implement its own certification process for WOSBs and requiring SBA to eliminate the WOSB self-certification option—had not been implemented.”

“By having a unified processing system, we will increase efficiency across all of the certification without sacrificing our main objective,” said Mr. Wong, Associate Administrator of the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development at the SBA. “We must assure the public that when a contract is awarded to an SBA certified company through a set-aside, that company is eligible to receive it.”

“Women entrepreneurs and the business they own have been, and will continue to be, a driving force in our economy,” said Rep. Golden. “Competing in the federal marketplace is an integral part of the role they play.  As we seek ways to improve this program, we look forward to working with SBA to ensure that these and future reforms are implemented.”

 

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