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Graves seeks to boost small-business contracting

Graves seeks to boost small-business contracting

By Austin Wright, Politico

In his latest bid to boost the federal government’s work with small businesses, Rep. Sam Graves is seeking to hitch a measure to an upcoming must-pass defense policy bill.

The chairman of the House Small Business Committee wants to raise the government’s target percentage for prime contracts awarded to small businesses from 23 percent to 25 percent, or the equivalent of $10 billion in annual new work for small businesses, according to his office.

And he’s asking the House Armed Services Committee to include his measure in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, according to testimony the Missouri Republican submitted to the committee. The annual defense bill — passed each year for more than half a century — is set to be unveiled later this month.

His measure would also increase the goal for the percentage of subcontracting dollars that go to small businesses to 40 percent from 35.9 percent — but only once subcontracting provisions in last year’s defense authorization bill are carried out.

“Given that the federal government spends over half a trillion dollars each year through contracts, the federal procurement market is incredibly important for small businesses,” Graves said in his testimony.

The numbers remain goals, and the government has regularly come up short in meeting them. Still, the federal government appears to be on track to hit its target for fiscal 2013, The Washington Post reported in February. An official tally is expected later this year.

According to government procurement records, the majority of federal contracts last fiscal year were awarded by the Defense Department, and the top five recipients of federal contracts were defense companies: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Science Applications International.

Graves’s proposal, which could cut into the revenues of larger companies, was in the House version of last year’s defense authorization bill but was stripped out in conference committee. Instead, a watered-down version, meant to better enforce existing subcontracting goals, was included.

The bipartisan measure, cosponsored by Reps. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), is among several small-business provisions Graves is pushing to include in the upcoming defense bill. Another proposal is intended to cut down on contract bundling and ensure those that remain are properly labeled.

“This is one of the most important areas where we can work if we want to help small businesses compete and save taxpayers money,” Graves said.