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Committee Urged to Attach Small Business Contracting Bills to DOD Annual Authorization » Contracting Bills

Committee Urged to Attach Small Business Contracting Bills to DOD Annual Authorization » Contracting Bills
By Deborah Billings, Bloomberg Government

Members of the House Small Business Committee April 9 made a case to the House Armed Services Committee for using the annual defense authorization bill to increase small firms' access to federal contracting programs.

Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) was joined by Reps. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) in asking that several recently reported bills be included in the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

They also asked for room in the defense bill for changes to the Comprehensive Subcontracting Test Program (CSP) if agreement can be reached on legislative improvements to better gauge the status of small business subcontractors.

The Small Business Committee-passed bills that were pitched to the HASC are the:

• Greater Opportunities for Small Business Act (H.R. 4093), which would increase the small business prime contracting goal from 23 percent to 25 percent and small business subcontracting goal from 36 percent to 40 percent;

• Commonsense Construction Contracting Act (H.R. 2751), sponsored Hanna, to prohibit use of reverse auctions when a construction services contract is suitable for award to small businesses, or when the procurement is made using a small business program;

• Improving Opportunities for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Act (H.R. 2882), sponsored by Coffman, to transfer responsibility for verifying the status of service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses from the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Small Business Administration;

• Security in Bonding Act (H.R. 776), also sponsored by Hanna, to increase access of small construction companies to surety bonds; and

• Women's Procurement Program Equalization Act (H.R. 2452), sponsored by ranking member Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), to standardize sole-source authorities among the SBA's procurement programs in order to promote parity.

The bills were approved with bipartisan support and reported out of committee March 5.

The HASC is scheduled to mark up the defense authorization bill May 7.

Combatting Fraud in Contracting Programs

In a related development, Maria Contreras-Sweet, the new SBA administrator, spent part of her second day on the job testifying before the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee on the FY 2015 agency budget request.

Contreras-Sweet said she is committed to fighting fraud and abuse in small business contracting programs, particularly size misrepresentation schemes to fraudulently win government work reserved for small firms.

Since 2008, the SBA has suspended and debarred more companies and individuals for abusing SBA programs than in the previous 10 years combined, she said. “Under my leadership, we will have a zero-tolerance policy for these types of abuses.”

Procurement fraud allowing large firms to obtain small business awards is among the significant challenges facing the SBA, Peggy Gustafson, the agency inspector general, told the committee. Gustafson said her office had 88 open government contracting cases, with potential losses of over $2 billion based on the dollar value of the contracts, pending at the end of FY 2013.

The FY 2015 IG budget request will allow the office to continue investigating abuse of SBA contracting assistance programs and join qui tam False Claims Act lawsuits filed by private sector parties alleging fraud in those programs, she said.

The SBA's proposed fiscal year 2015 budget is close to $865 million.