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Bloomberg BNA: Federal Government Meets Small Business Contracting Goal for First Time in Eight Years

By Deborah Billings, Bloomberg BNA

Aug. 1 (BNA) -- The federal government awarded $83.1 billion in prime contracts to small businesses in fiscal year 2013, exceeding its 23-percent goal for the first time in eight years, according to official statistics released Aug. 1.
However, the government fell 2 percent short of expectations that small firms receive 36 percent of subcontracted dollars.

The results of the latest Small Business Procurement Scorecard were released by Maria Contreras-Sweet, head of the Small Business Administration, and Charles Bolden, head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, at a briefing held at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Contreras-Sweet said despite a recent decline in federal spending, $459 billion in contracts were awarded to small businesses in the first five years of the Obama administration, a $62 billion increase over the previous five years. The president “since day one” has focused “like a laser” on the need to improve opportunities for small firms, she said. Contreras-Sweet took over at the SBA in early April after being picked by President Barack Obama for the job Jan. 15.

Twenty of 24 federal agencies received an ‘A’ or ‘A+’ in the SBA's annual assessment of individual agencies' small business contracting achievements, which resulted in the federal government receiving a top grade overall on the scorecard. Three agencies received a ‘B’ grade. On the other end of the scale, the Department of Energy received an ‘F’ for the third year in a row.

While Bolden said he was “especially proud” of NASA's record with respect to working with small business contractors, he stressed it “still has a ways to go.” Despite receiving A's on the scorecard for FYs 2012 and 2013, “a marked improvement” over the C rating it received three years ago, “we are not where we want to be,” Bolden said. “But we are on the way.” In FY 2013, service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses received 3.38 percent of prime contracting dollars ($12 billion), exceeding the 3 percent goal. Small disadvantaged businesses won 8.61 percent ($30.6 billion), exceeding the 5 percent target. However, the government failed to meet its 5 percent contracting goal for women-owned businesses and 3 percent goal for firms in Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZones); these companies won 4.32 percent ($15.4 billion) and 1.76 percent ($6.2 billion) respectively. Agencies awarded 22.25 percent ($89.9 billion) of their prime contracting dollars and 33.6 percent of subcontracting dollars to small businesses in FY 2012 (100 FCR 38, 7/9/13).

Increasing Goals ‘Premature'

Contreras-Sweet praised Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee who attended the briefing, for his dedication to promoting opportunities for small business. She specifically applauded his work on the Women's Small Business Procurement Parity Act (S. 2481), which would provide authority for sole source contracts for certain small business concerns owned and controlled by women. But Contreras-Sweet told Bloomberg BNA she does not agree with a recent proposal to increase small business contracting and subcontracting goals.

It would be “premature” and “too stressful” to raise the goals at this juncture, she said. “Until we get this ball rolling,” the levels should remain where they are, she said. Language added to the House-passed defense authorization bill (H.R. 4355) by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Small Business Committee, would increase the federal government's small business prime contracting goal from 23 percent to 25 percent and its subcontracting goal from 36 percent to 40 percent.

“Now that the small business contracting goal has been met, we should not relax in helping more small businesses compete; the Senate should follow the House in raising the small business goal to 25 percent, to help more small businesses grow and create jobs,” Graves said in a statement Aug. 1.

The House bill also was amended to allow women-owned small businesses to receive sole-source contracts on the same terms as contracts awarded via other small business contracting programs.