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Agencies still miss small-business goals

By Elise Castelli
Federal Times
August 9, 2009

Agencies are slipping further and further from meeting governmentwide small-business contracting goals.

Congress requires agencies to spend 23 percent of their combined contracting money through small businesses every year, but agencies fell well short of that goal in fiscal 2008, according to a new Small Business Administration report released today.

The report shows that $93 billion — or 21.5 percent — of the $434 billion in contracts spending in 2008 was through small businesses. That's down from 22.0 percent in 2007 and down from 22.8 percent in 2006, according to SBA reports.

In recent years, SBA officials attributed the drop in small-business contracting to cleaner data, following the revelation that large companies, like Lockheed Martin and Dell, were counted as small businesses. Since 2003, SBA has worked to eliminate such anomalies by requiring agencies to certify their data is accurate. With large companies out of their calculations, agencies are reporting more accurately but, as a result, fall behind on their goals, Sandy Baruah, then-acting SBA administrator, said last year.

The same holds true this year, said Joseph Jordan, SBA's associate administrator for government contracting and business development.

Cleaning up miscodings in the government's databases, such as the Central Contractor Registry, the Dynamic Small Business Search and the Federal Procurement Data System, "has had a big impact," he said. Since 2003, more than 90,000 firms have been removed from small-business listings. In addition, since 2007 SBA has mandated that small businesses report when they grow large or are purchased by large businesses; then they no longer show up as small in the databases.

The data is more accurate than ever, but that is not the only explanation for agencies' failure to meet the contracting goals, Jordan said.

Wartime and homeland security-related contracting is a major reason for the drop in small-business spending, he said.

The Defense Department "is procuring weapons systems, Humvees and tanks," prime business contracting that small business can't play a role in, Jordan said.

Other agencies also have complex, big-ticket buys, such as advanced research and development contracts for an H1N1 flu vaccine, that also affect what can be spent through small businesses, he said.

Each year SBA negotiates agency-specific goals, which can be more or less than 23 percent, with the 25 agencies that fall under the Chief Financial Officers Act. In 2008, only 10 agencies met their goals, according to the SBA report.

Only one of the 25 agencies — the General Services Administration — met its overall small-business contracting goal in addition to four separate goals for contracting with disadvantaged businesses. Agencies are required to spend 5 percent of their contracting dollars through small disadvantaged businesses; 5 percent through women-owned businesses; 3 percent through HUBZone-certified businesses, those in historically underutilized business zones; and 3 percent through service-disabled veteran owned businesses.

Two agencies — the Agency for International Development and Office of Personnel Management — missed all five goals, according to SBA.

Source: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20090821/AGENCY03/908210301/-1/RSS



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