Small business contracting issues have been floating around Congress and many government agencies in 2007. For example, Alaska Native Corporations are under the gun about award fees paid on a non-competitive contract (pdf), which has Presidential-hopeful Senator Clinton upset. Small business contracting goals (the federal government is required to spend 23% of the total value of all prime contract dollars with legitimate small businesses) were nearly met in 2006 with $77.6 billion dollars (22.8%) (pdf) going to small contractors. However, those numbers have been criticized for being inflated and engineered.
This week, many people are scratching their heads about the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) efforts to protect its constituents. A Federal Times story highlights possible SBA efforts “to hide the fact that large companies are getting billions of federal contracting dollars meant for small businesses.” The American Small Business League and Eagle Eye Publishing criticized SBA for removing the names of large contractors (Lockheed, SAIC, General Dynamics and many of their subsidiaries) that commonly appear on SBA’s annual “Top 100 Small Business Government Contractors” (pdf) list. The critics argue that the agency is trying to cover up the fact that Fortune 500 companies receive a large chunk of small business contracting dollars. SBA claims that it isn’t hiding anything, but rather providing public access to small contracting data. It also asserts it can’t compare its data to data compiled by other entities because methodologies are different.
Congress is attempting (S. 2300, H.R. 1873, and H.R. 3867 [all in pdf]) to provide a level playing field for small businesses, which would likely increase competition and result in better deals for taxpayers. Those bills include anti-bundling provisions (provisions to eliminate super-sized contracts that only large contractors can bid on) as well as an annual re-certification measure that will prevent large contractors from receiving small business dollars. For example, annual re-certification (which is already required by the CCR – “You must renew your registration at least every 12 months from the date you previously registered.” [pdf, p. 6 of 22]) would provide SBA with better data and prevent the big boys from buying up a small business and receiving, for the indefinite future, the contracting benefits that are provided to that small company. Other initiatives have been discussed to prevent large contractors from miscoding goods and services to fit into specified small business categories (pdf).
Over the years, Presidential candidates and others running for political office have promoted the importance of small businesses to our economy and country. I think it’s time for someone to genuinely protect the interest of small businesses and Congress might have to lead that charge.
-- Scott Amey