By Sean Reilly
August 30, 2010
Small businesses won a record $96.8 billion in federal prime contracts in fiscal 2009, according to the Small Business Administration, but the total still falls short of the statutory 23 percent target.
Governmentwide, small businesses won 21.89 percent of contracts, an increase over the 21.5 percent reported for fiscal 2008, according to SBA's fourth annual procurement scorecard released Friday.
"This represents real progress, but not enough," SBA Administrator Karen Mills said in a news release. "We must reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that the 23 percent goal is met and exceeded."
The scorecard also shows that, as a group, federal agencies advanced slightly toward goals in subcategories such as contracts awarded to small businesses owned by women and service-disabled veterans.
Under a new grading system, SBA awarded the overall federal government a B. The rankings of 24 individual agencies varied widely.
For example, the Energy, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs department and SBA all received an "A." The General Services Administration's performance rated it only a "C," while the Office of Personnel Management, Agency for International Development and the National Science Foundation were marked "F."
In comments accompanying the scorecard, poorly ranked agencies offered various explanations. GSA officials noted that its goal was 35.7 percent, considerably higher than the benchmark for the entire federal government. Twenty-seven percent of GSA contracts went to small businesses. USAID acknowledged that only 8.7 percent of its contract dollars went to small businesses, but attributed the outcome mostly to drug purchases required under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
The SBA figures were also challenged by the American Small Business League, a California-based organization that has previously accused the government of misrepresentation. After sampling the top 100 recipients of federal small business contracts in fiscal 2009, the league concluded that some 65 percent of the money went to large companies that in some cases were members of the Fortune 500, according to an analysis released in June. Based on that sample, the proportion of contract dollars going to small business is closer to 5 percent, the league said in a Monday news release.
"It's time to stop the diversion of federal small business contracts to large corporations," spokesman Christopher Gunn said in a phone interview.