Tuesday, October 30, 2007

House Approves Bill to Improve Contracting Opportunities for Small Firms

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Small Business Contracting Program Improvements Act [H.R. 3867] by a margin of 334 to 80. Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez [D-N.Y.] gave the following opening statement:

"In recent years, the federal marketplace has seen phenomenal growth. However, while procurement opportunities are increasing, agencies are failing to meet their small-business-, women-, service-disabled veterans-, minority- and low-income contracting goals. This has not only cost small businesses billions in lost opportunities, but deprives the government of a valuable supplier.

"Our nation’s entrepreneurs play an important role in the procurement system, providing diversity, competition, and ensuring we get the best value for the taxpayer dollar. To help them get a start, there is an array of contracting programs offering technical assistance, purchasing flexibility, and targeted benefits.

"Unfortunately, due to legislative neglect, underfunding and mismanagement by several administrations, the programs have fallen far short of their full potential, leaving many small businesses outside of the federal marketplace. The Small Business Contracting Program Improvements Act, introduced by myself and Rep. Mary Fallin [R-Okla.], will change that by making important improvements to women, minority, HUBZone, and service-disabled veteran contracting programs.

"H.R. 3867 will immediately implement the Women’s Procurement Program that has languished in the current administration’s endless delays. It also updates the economic criteria for the 8[a] program, reflecting current fiscal realities. The last time Congress addressed the 8[a] program was almost 20 years ago, when a gallon of gas was 90 cents and the average cost of a home was less than $90,000. For too long, we have forced minority businesses to operate under antiquated financial standards that, in many cases, were simply setting them up to fail.

"Most importantly, this legislation will give our service-disabled veterans top priority when it comes to contracting opportunities. For those men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan -- many with life-altering injuries -- this bill will provide the tools to start a new endeavor and begin a new life. These changes will go a long way to addressing many of the program shortcomings that have frustrated our nation’s small-business owners.

"H.R. 3867 also fights fraud in the federal marketplace. Contracting opportunities are a privilege, not a right; the Small Business Contracting Improvements Act makes that clear. For the first time, we are imposing a business code of conduct on all participants, requiring the federal government to verify that individuals are who they claim, and empower small firms to police their own programs. This will restore integrity to these critical programs.

"Through modernizing programs and increasing accountability, H.R. 3867 brings SBA’s contracting programs into the 21st century. It is for this reason that this legislation has attracted remarkably broad support -- including the National Federation of Independent Business, Associated General Contractors, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Black Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, International Franchise Association, as well as the National Defense Industrial Association and the Aerospace Industries Association.

"This is a measured approach that balances the need to give program flexibility within the realities of current agency buying strategies. It is good for small business, good for the agencies and, most importantly, good for the taxpayers."

GoodBiz113's take: Thank you, Reps. Velázquez and Fallin, for leading House efforts to level the playing field for all small businesses and holding agencies accountable for how, exactly, federal procurement dollars are spent. This bipartisan legislation offers great promise to any of our nation's small businesses -- 26.8 million and counting -- that choose to play the government contracting game and spread the win-win-win wealth.

Source: GovTrack.us, PBS [file photo], U.S. House Small Business Committee

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