Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kerry, Akaka Seek More Veteran Business Owner Data

As the nation prepares to celebrate Veterans Day this weekend, Sens. John Kerry [D-Mass.] and Daniel Akaka [D-Hawaii, pictured] are urging the Bush administration to gather more information on veteran business owners. In a letter to the Department of Commerce, Kerry and Akaka called for more detailed surveys of veteran business owners and entrepreneurs to match surveys already conducted on minority and women business owners.

“Muddling through with blinders on is not an option I’m willing to accept,” said Sen. Kerry, chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “As our brave soldiers return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to make sure that the government is fully informed about the challenges veteran entrepreneurs face and the trends of veteran small-business ownership.

“Our heroes deserve every tool to succeed when they return. In order to make the kinds of policy decisions that will help our veterans, we need good information.”

“I proudly join Sen. Kerry in calling on the Department of Commerce to improve their data collection on veteran entrepreneurs,” said Sen. Akaka, chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “As the newest generation of servicemen and -women return from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, they deserve to have modernized structures in place that support their business aspirations. We need quality data on veteran businesses in order to provide them with greatly deserved opportunities for success.”

Earlier this year, Kerry expressed support for funding the Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons [SBO], which includes reports on veterans, minority and women entrepreneurs. Although the Senate passed legislation fully funding the survey in October, the House version of the bill eliminates this survey by cutting Census funding by $10 million dollars. The Senate and House are currently negotiating the differences.


The full text of the letter sent by Sens. Kerry and Akaka to U.S. Chamber of Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez follows:

November 9, 2007

The Honorable Carlos M. Gutierrez
U.S. Department of Commerce
Herbert Clark Hoover Building
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Secretary Gutierrez:

We are writing to urge the Department of Commerce to expand the scope of statistics gathered for veteran business owners in connection with the upcoming Survey of Business Owners [SBO], which is conducted by the Census Bureau every five years.

As you know, this survey is an important tool for understanding the characteristics of American business owners, and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship relies heavily on the SBO to make sound policy decisions. Likewise, the data collected through the survey would be very useful to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in fulfilling oversight responsibilities. Therefore, we are very disappointed in the limited information available about veteran and reservist small-business owners.

While the 2002 SBO -- which included limited veteran business owner information for the first time -- was a step in the right direction, its effectiveness was limited by the general nature of the information obtained. For instance, unlike the 2002 SBOs on minority and women business owners, the 2002 survey did not include localized data for veteran business owners. This severely limited the effectiveness of the information for research purposes.

There are currently 25 million veterans in America today -- including over one million who have left military service since Sept. 11, 2001. As the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the number of veterans -- including service-disabled veterans -- will increase, and the services that the government provides will continue to be critical in ensuring that veterans have the economic opportunities that they deserve. By learning more about the current state of veteran business ownership, economic policies can be more effectively tailored to address any deficits and more effectively assist those veterans who want to start or expand their businesses.

Please explain to us any obstacle in improving the data collection of veteran business owners, and what the agency is doing to overcome these obstacles. In addition, please explain whether reservist business-owner data or data about service-disabled veterans can be collected in the future.

This is an important issue, and we urge the Department of Commerce to address these matters as soon as possible. If there is any way that we or our staffs can be of assistance, please have your staff contact the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship at [202] 224-5175, or the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs at [202] 224- 9126.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing from you.


John F. Kerry
U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Daniel K. Akaka
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

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