Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee under Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) conducted oversight of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Field Operations (OFO). The OFO oversees SBA regional and district offices that are the point of delivery for most SBA initiatives and serve as the agency’s “boots on the ground.”
“SBA’s field team serves on the front line of the effort to deliver high-quality services to small businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “Simply put, a well-functioning field team is vital to the success of SBA’s mission. It is, therefore, imperative that district offices receive the resources they need to succeed; that SBA’s field operation is structured logically; and that SBA headquarters communicates its goals and policies to the field team clearly.”
The SBA relies on a network of 68 district and ten regional offices throughout the United States to deliver entrepreneurial counseling, facilitate access to capital, provide disaster assistance, and promote federal contracting. These field offices serve as a vital link between the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and local economies and entrepreneurs.
During the hearing, members probed the head of OFO, Associate Administrator Michael A. Vallante, about recent concerns that have arisen regarding the office. Members covered issues like the lack of customer feedback included in performance evaluations of district offices, insufficient implementation of the SBA’s Historically Black College and University outreach plan, and the decreasing number of full-time employees working at the OFO. The hearing gave members the chance to review the challenges that SBA field offices face and discuss ways that OFO can improve program service delivery.
During his testimony, Vallante emphasized the steps OFO was taking to make improvements to its operating procedure.
“The Office of Field Operations is leading efforts to provide a modern, streamlined, and responsive customer experience for small businesses,” said Michael A. Vallante, Associate Administrator of the Office of Field Operations at the SBA. “SBA is identifying opportunities to more effectively collect customer data and collaborating with internal as well as external partners to integrate leading practices in managing customer experience and improving service delivery.”
“We cannot effectively facilitate access to capital in underserved markets, provide counseling to small businesses in emerging areas, help rural small businesses export their products around the world, or deliver SBA’s other important programs without a robust field operation on the ground,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “Today, we’ve heard about the many challenges facing OFO, and this Committee will continue to work to ensure SBA leadership addresses these challenges. But I want to again applaud SBA’s field staff for their diligent work on behalf of American small businesses.”